Horses and humans have a history which stretches back over thousands of years. Over this time, humans and their equine friends have developed a unique bond, which can become so deep that horses have slowly become integrated into use in human therapy. Since the early 1950s, horses have a been involved in physical therapy, helping people to improve their strength, balance and flexibility. Since then, it has become an important part of psychological therapy too. Being with horses has helped many patients to regain confidence, improve their communication and social skills, and learn to trust.
Horse lovers will be in their element on this volunteer program, surrounded by nature and working to care for horses and people alike. This project was founded to provide therapy and opportunities for those who have faced challenges in life, combining horses and nature as part of a way to increase confidence and opportunities.
Duration: 1 – 12 weeks
Dates: See dates and availability
Arrival day: Sunday
Return day: Saturday
Eligibility: General level of fitness required.
- Live in the heart of Porto, a UNESCO world heritage site famed for port and delicious food
- Horse riding in the stunning forests and hills close to Porto
- Surround yourself with beautiful scenery and your favourite animals as you help others
- Live in a small hostel with other international volunteers and travellers alike
- Head upriver into the beautiful Douro Valley, dotted with some of Portugal’s finest vineyards and scenery
This program in Portugal was founded to use the relationship between horse and human as a force for good. Based in the rural valleys outside of Porto, the project was established in a deprived community where many have had limited chances in life. It has opened its doors to locals, disadvantaged people, those with emotional and physical scars and has introduced them to its horses, providing therapy and education to improve quality of life.
Working with local staff and the local youth community, participants help on the volunteer project in various ways:
- patrol the forest on horseback to help prevent fires (summer months only)
- assist in the horse therapy and education classes
- reforest and maintain local habitats (with the horses as your means of transport!)
- care for the horses with mucking out, grooming and leading them in the lessons
- look after the other farm animals on site including pigs and goats
- help out in the on-site vegetable garden
- supervise kids on their educational camps and visits
- environmental protection work with litter picks and clearing alien vegetation
No, not at all! Indeed this is an excellent opportunity to learn to ride, as the the project is able to give you lessons. 5 days of lessons costs £150 and most new riders take out two weeks of lessons. Initially the lessons last for 20 – 30 minutes so that you become used to using different muscles, and these will build up to 45 minutes in duration.
That being said, it could be beneficial to have had some experience around horses to make the most of this project. Some people can find horses quite intimidating if they have not been around them much before. At times there are rescue horses on site, and these can be a little jumpy.
- Shared dormitory room in a hostel in the centre of Porto
- Share a room and bathroom with up to 5 other volunteers
- WiFi available throughout the house
- You will receive three meals per day
- Breakfast consists of fruit, breads and spreads, cereals, toast, tea and coffee
- Typical Portuguese food is served
- Provision can be made for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free diets and lactose-free diets
Airport: Porto (OPO)
Arrival day: Sunday. You will be collected from the airport and transferred to the accommodation
Departure day: Saturday
- Access to your own personal ‘My Oyster’ account – our online portal where you can find out much more about the program and manage your booking
- Dedicated contact time with an experienced destination manager to discuss the project, answer any of your questions and for us to find out more about you
- Help and advice from our UK office before arrival and whilst you are away
- In-country support
- Pre-departure information covering medical, safety and project advice
- Financial protection: ATOL (if we book your flights); IPP (if we don’t book your flights)
- Thorough orientation on arrival
- Accommodation (see the ‘accommodation’ section above for details)
- Advice on visa requirements
- Oyster plants a tree in Africa with TreeAid to help reduce the impact of global carbon emissions
- Airport collection and transfer to your accommodation
- Three meals per day
- 2 hour guided tour of Porto
- Linen and towels
- Oyster Worldwide volunteer t-shirt
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
- Flights – as an ATOL bonded company, Oyster can book flights for you
- You need a valid passport that meets the requirements of the country you will be travelling to
- Insurance (covering your time with Oyster and any planned independent travel)
- Any costs associated with changing your return flight date if you need to
- Independent travel costs
- Home country travel costs
- Spending money for additional trips, food and entertainment
- Transport to your project (budget 4 euros per day)
- Return costs to the airport
This project has been adapted to ensure participant safe guarding measures are in place. Depending on when you are due to travel and the current global policies at this time, you may find that these measurements have become obsolete. We advise however that for time being, it is imperative that you prepare for possible ongoing requirements:
- All volunteers must bring masks, gloves and hand sanitiser
- All volunteers must be able to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test (taken within 72 hours before departure)
- Dormitory capacity at project sites will be reduced to allow for social distancing
- Social distancing overall will be implemented within the accommodation and at the project
- Prepare for a thorough orientation on arrival regarding health and safety measures at your project and in your country destination
- Employees will have been trained to issue guidance and instruction in order to help you and others stay safe
- Protocol is, and will continue to be, followed with the aim to minimise risk to staff and volunteers
In order to fly home, your government may require you present a negative PCR test taken a maximum of 72 hours before your flight. This may not apply to you, however please make sure that you aware of the situation between the country you are returning from and returning home to. Oyster Worldwide will support you with this process but it is your responsibility.
Below are details of getting a PCR test from this project site:
- The closest testing site is just a few minutes walk from the accommodation
- The costs associated with getting the PCR test are at your own expense. At the time of writing, the test costs 100EUR.
The project runs Monday – Friday. Your first day is spent on an induction in Porto, and you will join the project on the Tuesday to meet the staff and receive your project orientation and an introduction to horsemanship.
Days can vary depending on the project requirements and the seasons. An example itinerary is:
09:00 Volunteering opportunities with horses begin
13:00 Lunch break and end of the volunteer day
14:00 Free time to explore the city, local area, learn Portuguese or simply relax
21:00 Dinner with other volunteers and travellers at the accommodation
- Willing to work hard
- Positive attitude
- Proactive, motivated and flexible – tasks are not necessarily allocated to you, you have to ask and offer
- No previous experience is required, as you can be trained on-site
- Able to speak and understand English
- Willing to learn some Portuguese
- Comfortable around horses and an active interest in animal care
Oyster assesses projects carefully to ensure that they offer high standards of animal welfare and environmental practice. We also check that volunteers understand key points of good practice before working with animals. To find out more, see our animal welfare policy.
- Enjoy the sights of Porto
- Explore the Douro valley and its wine and heritage
- Try the local food and port
- Go horseriding, hiking, snorkelling and take on some adventure sports
- Learn Portuguese
- Take a day trip to do wine tasting, caving, city tours and more!
- You will have either your afternoons, evenings and weekends free
Whilst late-availability is possible, we would advise booking as soon as you can to guarantee your ideal dates. Our projects are very popular and spaces can fill up several months in advance, especially for the months of June to September.
- Porto enjoys on average 300 days of sunshine per year
- The wettest months are October – February
- Temperatures from November – February are about 9 – 15 degrees celsius
- Temperatures from March – October are about 15 – 30 degrees celsius
We would recommend budgeting approximately £50 a week for free time activities.
There are cash machines located all over Porto, and there is one just a few minutes walk from the volunteer house. You should take at least two cards with you, and let your bank know that you will be going away.
Typically you won’t need a visa for stays up to 3 months. You should make sure your passport is valid for the duration of your stay.
Most of our volunteers are independent travellers and you will become part of a group of people from around the world here. It is fine to travel with friends or as part of a small group too however- more the merrier!
The simple answer to this question is, yes absolutely!
It is important to bear in mind however that this may not be like other holidays that you have taken. Remember that you are volunteering in Portugal, and this means that you will be put to work! This sort of holiday is a world away from sun loungers and cocktails, with our volunteers often heading home tired but immensely satisfied. If you think that you will need a bit of relaxing time on your trip too, do make sure to factor this in when your time on the project is complete.
You should visit your doctor or travel nurse to find out what vaccinations you will need. Your routine vaccinations will need to be up to date. You should follow your doctor’s advice.
Doctors, pharmacies and hospitals are located within 5 – 20 minutes of the accommodation.
Portugal has been listed as the third safest country in the world. You will be living in the heart of the thriving city of Poro. There are similar crime levels in Porto to any city in the world, and you should keep an eye on your belongings when you are out and about.
You will be working with local volunteers at all times.
There is free wifi provided at the volunteer house. You will receive a free local SIM card on arrival if you would like to use 3G. Make sure that your phone is unlocked before arrival so that you can use the local SIM card.
We would suggest that you download the App Whatsapp prior to arrival so that you can be added into the volunteer group once you are in Porto.
There is good phone reception in Porto and at the project site.
You will need a European plug.
Portugal is on the same time zone as the UK and Ireland – GMT and BST.
Supervision will be fairly intensive during the first few days, when you will receive a thorough induction and work-related training. Once you are comfortable with things, you might not always have a supervisor working alongside you, but there will always be staff and other volunteers around to help, and you will always be accompanied for any high risk activities.
Staff at Oyster’s head office and in-country will be responsible for your safety and welfare while you are at the project. This will start from the moment you are picked up from the airport until the end of your project. Before and after these times, you will be outside Oyster’s responsibility and should make sure that you act safely and avoid risk. This is also true if you choose to leave the project during your time off. We will give you plenty of guidance and advice about this.