Country Quest Portugal – A good place for horses and people


Some four years ago, my partner Daniel and I still lived in the UK, we both had well paid jobs with good prospects, enjoyed traveling, going to the theatre and eating out. All the normal city life activities! You could say we had a good life. But we weren’t happy, in fact almost the opposite. Traffic, deadlines, strikes, bills, stress….. The rat race hardly makes for happy people!

In search of my happiness I started riding again. I had been with horses all my younger life, but since living in the cities I let it slide. Then one day, I was browsing the real estate section of a horse magazine and saw a multimillion equestrian property for sale in France. It was way out of our league, but as a joke I showed it to Daniel.

“Hey, how about we buy this and move to France and start a horse business?”

He shrugged and said “ Why France, lets do it in Portugal instead.” He is Portuguese so the choice was fairly obvious.

As simple as that, the seed was planted…. A few weeks later, UK voted for Brexit and after feeling the imminent change in the atmosphere towards us as Europeans, we decided to do it; Move to Portugal and start a horse business.

It has been a very eventful journey so far! We have 11 beautiful mares, they are the absolute heart and soul of what we do. Our ethos and vision has evolved and developed through these years we have been with them and they have taught us so much, we are on a mission to pass their great knowledge on.

We were always going to the place where horses had a good life and they were treated as animals and not working machines, but with every passing day the horses teach us more and more about their abilities to heal and calm people. Every day our ethos of no force, no violence, no punishment grows stronger and stronger. These mares are our team, they deserve to have a great time working with us too! Our basic foundation is that whatever we do, has to be fun for both people and horses. It simply would not fit in with our mindset to do something simply for the amusement of people, at the expense of the horses.

Initially we offered bitless horseriding, but soon the decision was made to stop the rides all together. It just didnt fit with our ideology, and it was definitely the right decision.

Now we offer in hand walks, where the horses enjoy having a patch of grass here and there as we wander along, they are curious about their surroundings and pay attention to it. People enjoy the company of the horses as we stroll along on the trails.

Since I discovered clicker training with our horses it was obvious that this was going to be the way forward. The way the horses responded to training with the clicker was magnificent to see.

Many of our horses have very tough and abusive backgrounds and initially they were not very keen on the idea of having to work for me. With clicker training their outlook in life has changed and they are very keen and excited about everything we do together. It’s been fascinating to see some of our nervous horses become curious and inquisitive horses even outside training situations.

Through these 4 years we have been together with our herd, we have created a relationship based on communication and mutual trust. Our horses know that they are always listened to and they have a right to an opinion. It has given the horses so much confidence and positive attitude.

They are willing to try and explore new things and trust us to keep them safe, even if the situation is worrying for them to start with.

Since we started spending so much time with our horses we soon felt the way they calmed us down if we were stressed and how being in their presence simply felt really good. This was definitely one of the things we want to show our clients; to enjoy horses is so much more than riding!

It’s sitting together, breathing together, snoozing together. It’s supporting each other and helping each other. The same way I can help my horses calm if they are anxious, they can do it to me too. They are my best therapists!

Now we have a small place in the south of Portugal, border of Spain, in a town called Alcoutim. Our horses live a natural lifestyle barefoot and are always treated with utmost respect. We offer mindfulness with horses, I teach people how to get started on clicker training, we occasionally take small children out riding but our main focus on showing people the amazing experiences you can have with horses without riding.

We welcome guests with open arms and are very proud to be the horse place with a difference. The journey here has been long and eventful, and we still have a long way to go to build Country Quest Portugal into a business that can support the horses and us. Slowly does it!

We are confident and happy to be on this journey with the horses and both Daniel and I know that this is where we belong. In the country side, living every day surrounded by horses and nature, delivering the message of horses as the great beings they are. This is our mission

You can find us on the internet and Instagram and Facebook as Country Quest Portugal.

You can contact us by email on

We look forward to meeting all of you who are putting the horses first!

Photo by Nina Laiho

Pia Saari is the founder and owner of Country Quest Portugal. Throughout her life she has gathered extensive experience with horses in many different ways. She has worked with horses professionally in riding schools, livery yards and racing stables. She has worked in horse rescue and helped numerous horses recover from severe physical and mental negligence. She has studied equine ethology and psychology, learning theory and many other subjects relating to horses. Country Quest Portugal has a mission and a vision to make the world a better place for horses - sharing knowledge by an online course is a very important part of this mission. The course is priced low to make it accessible for everyone who wants to learn how to better care for their horses.