El Caballo Camina Pa’lante: A Horse-Lover’s Guide to Andalucía

Andalusia, Spain’s southernmost region, is synonymous with many things: flamenco, sun and sand tourism and bullfighting. It’s also the breeding grounds for the Andalusian horse, a strong and powerful race favored by Moorish kings and thought to have evolved from the Portuguese breed. It’s common to see horses in Southern Spain used for sport – rejoneos, hunting and plain old riding – as well for work.

When my mother came to visit in June, she had one thing on the brain (and the tongue, as it’s the only word she could say in Spanish): caballos.

I took my pony-loving parent on a tour of Andalusia’s most famous horse sites, including a visit to the Novio’s farm, which is recognized as an ANCEE Andalusian breed farm.

Horse crazy? Andalucía is a great destination if your brain is more focused on the equine world than tapas.

Jerez de la Frontera

The largest city in the Cádiz province, Jerez is famous for its dry sherries and horse breeding farms, called yeguadas. Jerez is just less than an hour away from Seville by car and makes a great day trip, as you can hit all of its sites and catch a show at the world-famous Andalusian horse training grounds.

Real Escuela Ecuestre de Jerez

Andalusian horses are world-famous for their agility, and the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art is home to the show, ‘How the Andalusian Horses Dance.’ I took my mother to this 90-minute spectacle, similar to the Lipizzaners in Vienna, and I was mesmerized by their abilities to jump, side step and control their stops. Even at its steep price, sitting in the front row was worth it.

If you happen to be in town on a no-show day, you are still able to walk the grounds, watch the practice, and visiting the museums on-site. From the center, it’s a 10-minute walk to the compound. Shows are held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and select Saturdays at noon. For more info: http://www.realescuela.org/ing/home.htm

Feria del Caballo

Jerez’s version of the Feria is just as brightly colored and fun as Seville’s, just not as pretentious – all the tents are free to enter, you won’t get run over by a horse carriage because the streets are wider and there’s even Mexican food and hard rock tents. What’s more, it’s a living horse show, and the Andalusia giant is put on display. There are workshops, shows, contests and carriage parades all week-long. The fair typically falls in May, about a month after Seville’s annual Feria de Abril. 2014′s dates are May 11th to 18th.

Sevilla

Seville resonates with the clip-clop of hooves in the city center. Horses are everywhere in the bustling Andalusian capital, used mainly for horse carriages, mounted policemen and in bullfights. The annual Feria de Sevilla is full of carriage exhibitions and parades, but this horse-friendly city offers more.

Museo de Carruajes

This small museum right off of Plaza de Cuba opened 15 years ago to house intricate horse carriages in an old nunnery. While the space is used primarily for events and weddings, the exhibitions can be visited for free on Tuesdays. The foundation also puts on the horse carriage parade in the bull ring during the Sunday prior to the Alumbrado of the Feria. (You can visit Monday-Friday from 9:00 – 14:00 and in the afternoons from 17:00 – 19:30 for 3,60€)

Horse Carriage ride

Horse carriages are one of the city’s most romantic rides – it’s impossible to drive near the city center or María Luisa park without giving yield to one of the open-top buggies. While I’ve never done it, you can hire a driver near the cathedral or park and take in the sights, regardless of the weather. A 45-minute trip will run you about 40€, plus a tip for the driver. There is an official rate for the city, displayed on signs near the official pick-up points, so be sure to negotiate the price with the driver.

SICAB

The Salon International del Caballo is an annual horse show and fair held in Seville, typically in November, and considered one of he city’s biggest tourist draws. You’ll find breeders and designers with booths in the Palacio de Congresos dedicated to the Pura Raza Española, and the equestrian championship is also held during the event. Thoroughbreds are displayed in an exhibition hall for purchase – almost like a throwback to the origins of the Feria.

The Novio’s family gets free tickets each year for being an ANCEE-approved farm, but I usually just go in the hopes that I’ll see the Duquesa de Alba. (This year’s even will be held the 3-8th of December).

Doñana/Huelva

Not everyone adds Huelva to their list of musts while in Andalucia (even though you should!), but there are horse-friendly things to do in the province wedged between Sevilla and Portugal.

Saca de las Yeguas

I would have loved to take my mother to the annual Saca a las Yeguas, when the wild horses in The Doñana swamps are rounded up, blessed in front of the majestic chapel at El Rocío, and then driven to nearby Almonte to be sold. For the last 500 years, this festival has been held on June 26th to commemorate Saint Peter. During the five days that follow, the horses are trained, shown off and sometimes bought, with special attention towards the foals. Almonte is only an hour away from Seville and reachable by Damas bus or car.

Rutas Ecuestres in Doñana National Park

It’s also common to see trail groups riding between the pine trees and over the sand dunes of Doñana, a wildlife reserve in the southeast corner of the province. My mom and I got a groupon for Rutas Ecuestres Mazagón for a 90 minute ride, which included a bit on horse care and the topography of Doñana. Getting back in the saddle again after so many years was fun, though I think my mother was bored out of her mind! For more: http://rutasecuestresmazagon.com

Are you a horse lover? What are your favorite equine events or activities in Spain?

 

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

Comments

  1. I didn’t know that the novio was a horseman. You are experiencing Spain from so many different angles, Cat. Equestrian tourism is a fascinating addition to a visit to southern Spain.

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      The Novio does many things, Susan! But, yes, I’ve grown up with horses, so it’s only fitting to be with someone whose second biggest ambition was to be an equine doctor if the pilot thing didn’t work out!

  2. MJ Liggan says:

    Great article, always wanted to visit the races at Sanlucar de Barrameda

  3. Christine says:

    Ohhh to be at the feria admiring the horses,sipping sherry and chatting(aka straining to hear) with the Duquesa. I thought I was the only guiri obsessed with her. lol!

  4. Pedro Meca says:

    hahaha Pa’lante! i can’t help smile with it! Spaniards may be so lazy at speaking that we do shorten that type of words, even three words may become just one!… it’s too hard and dense sometimes to say word by word….shortening rules!..well..well..unless you address the king!

    it’s clear Cat that your command and knowledge of Castilian is quite good if you are aware of that type of speaking, not many “foreigners” know them..

    oh by the way i do love horses, above all Los Mesteños o Mestizos, Spanish horses that were introduced in North America by the Spaniards since the 16th century, i think that you call them Mustangs in the Midwest,

  5. what beautiful photos – I want to be there with you!
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  6. These photos are like a breath of fresh air. Inspiring animals!
    Lillie – @WorldLillie recently posted..Hilarious Pic: Flexing My Abs Makes a Pregnant Triangle!My Profile

  7. Never been on a horse before but would love to try horseback riding someday :)
    Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com recently posted..Backpacking India in 3 WeeksMy Profile

  8. When we were in Spain, we stayed near the valley in Nerja. We loved watching people ride their horses around the rural roads, though we even saw horses and riders in the main part of town occasionally. Our son, who is eight, even got to try a proper horse riding lesson at the Donkey Sanctuary in Nerja, and he loved it. Your photos are lovely, they really capture that beautiful Andalucian sunshine and the spirit of the caballos. ;)
    The Barefoot Nomad recently posted..Capturing Precious Fall Moments with the Canon EOS Rebel SL1My Profile

  9. That is some fancy tail braiding! I know a very special 12 year old girl who would love Andalucia and all of the beautiful horses.
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  10. Such a beautiful place.Seeing those picture,i really want to go there and visit myself.
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  11. I havent tried riding a horse yet! Would love to try one of these days ;D
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  12. Dale says:

    These are some incredible looking horses and I can see why so many people want to travel from all across the world in order to see them all. Such magnificent creatures.
    Dale recently posted..Reunited (Finally) With A Camera In BerlinMy Profile

  13. Tiana Kai says:

    What an amazing post! I love how in-depth you are and informative, kudos to you!! I’m going to share this with my aunt who’s such a horse lover!!
    Tiana Kai recently posted..Vintage Fiat tour in Florence with sassy PaolaMy Profile

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