The elite and cut-throat equestrian dressage circuit in Europe is a long way from an avocado farm in Barham, a small, but vibrant, town in New South Wales' Riverina district. It is even geographically further away from the Sturt Street school district of Ballarat.
Yet, this highly competitive environment is where Sarah Furtado, raised on the farm and educated in Ballarat, found herself in 2014 in her journey to fulfil an Olympic dream.
From relatively humble beginnings, Mrs Furtado had grandiose hopes of competing at the Rio games of 2016, magnificent Lusitano horse in tow.
Having completed her secondary education in 2003 in Ballarat, Mrs Furtado undertook further study, gaining a Bachelor of Arts/Commerce degree at tertiary level.
An ability to engage with people and the capacity to write saw her awarded a cadetship at The Herald and Weekly Times, and she headed off to pursue a career in journalism. However, the newspaper game was not Mrs Furtado's calling.
"I enjoyed journalism very much, but my love of horses and horse riding I had since I was very little was still very strong," Mrs Furtado said.
"I decided to head to Europe and see if I could make it as a professional rider and compete internationally in dressage."
Mrs Furtado fell in love with one country in the the far-flung continent in particular, Portugal, spending the next 10 years there.
"Portugal is a country rich in culture and history," Mrs Furtado said.
"It was once one of the world's greatest empires.
"The weather is amazing and the food and wine are very special.
"The language is complex and you can know a lot about someone just from the way they speak, the way they refer to you, the grammar they use.
Mrs Furtado started competing on horseback internationally, operating in the second-highest level of dressage on the continent. Spain, France, and Portugal were some of the locations visited.
"I was competing in the small tour, the one before (the Grand Prix)," she said.
"I wanted to start Grand Prix the year after.
"The small tour is best to start for international competition so the horse has experience when it reaches the Grand Prix."
Mrs Furtado had few illusions as to how hard the dressage contests were in Europe.
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"(It was) very competitive, but that helps you to be better," Mrs Furtado said.
"I think to be at the top of any sport, it's good to be amongst the best."
Despite being her maiden experience, Mrs Furtado performed admirably and was on track to excel.
"It was my beginning season, but it was clear the horse had potential," she said.
"I got invited by probably the best trainer in the world to go and train with her in England, Kyra Kyrklund, at the end of the year."
However, as can happen with aspiring athletes, the promising equestrian career was curtailed by crippling injury.
Concerning physical signs were apparent at the end of 2014 season and the pain became worse during training early 2015.
The spinning of Mrs Furtado's powerful and agile, yet slightly unhinged, horse would have a cumulative effect on its mistress' body.
"Often, a lot of the top horses have characteristics," Mrs Furtado said.
"Normally, they're quite powerful, but also a little bit crazy. A top horse is hard to find. When you do get a good one, you stick with it, even if it is a bit crazy.
"I kept trying to ride again. Every time I'd ride, (the injury) kept getting more inflamed. I had to stop for an extended period of time."
During this stage of uncertainty with her riding, Mrs Furtado turned back to her other talent, writing.
She contributed to the Eurodressage website, blogged on her own website, aussieinportugal.com, had articles featured in Hoofbeats magazine, and even wrote and published a book, Classical Training.
Further positive developments were on the horizon as Mrs Furtado met her husband-to-be, Andre. The couple married in 2019 and, in 2020, Mrs Furtado gave birth to their first child, Madalena. A second child is on the way.
Given Mrs Furtado's grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, and cousins all attended the same school as she did in Ballarat, it was destiny she would return, now based on a property at Miners Rest.
The departure from Portugal was well-timed with the pandemic hitting there hard.
"They did really well in the beginning," Mrs Furtado said, speaking of her once-adopted home and the rise of COVID-19.
"It wasn't until Christmas of 2020. (People from) South Africa, Brazil, and England have a lot of family in Portugal. They all came over for Christmas. After that, it just blew up.
"They had a really bad couple of months where there were ambulances in lines at the hospitals.
"There was a period when the health system was under immense stress."
The strong bonds with those back home could not be denied.
"We returned to Ballarat as a family earlier this year for many reasons, but mainly to be near family," Mrs Furtado said.
"My sister and cousins all have, or are having, kids and Andre and I wanted our daughter (soon to be daughters) to grow up with cousins and loud Christmas parties.
"Mum has a horse farm so we decided that was a good place to make a base and see how we go settling back into life in Australia."
Whilst climatically different to the temperate Portugal, Ballarat has much to offer for the growing Furtado family.
"I think Ballarat is a good size and beautiful city," she said.
"It allows access to all the essentials of urban areas without the hassle of the huge crowds and traffic jams that the bigger cities face.
"We are looking forward to spring and summer and hopefully a Christmas surrounded by family."
A simple philosophy, shaped within the cauldron of competitive dressage, embraced by Mrs Furtado remains a worthwhile one back in regional Victoria.
"If I'm happy, I'm already winning," she said.
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