“Do you know how famous this place is for horse riding?” I exclaimed to Juan Carlos after having a look at what was in the town. I had come here to visit him and didn’t expect to see a lot as far as tourist sites go. A look through travel websites made me realise that this place is considered the city of horses, complete with two Andalusian riding schools and a huge horse festival. Though I missed the festival, which is in May, I managed to get to one riding school for the “How the Andalusian horses dance” show. I dragged Juan Carlos along as well to show him how glorious the city he lives in is.
We made it to the Real Escuela Andaluza Del Arte Ecuestre an hour early to check out the gardens, buildings and horses. The ticket was just for the show, though it allowed us in to the gardens and to view the training arena. The gardens are perfect and manicured, though it is filled with non native plants which was a little bit of a disappointment. The training was good to see as it showed how these high level dressage horses come to be. The training was all rather consistent, though some trainers were definitely far better. One rider had his horses head tied in to keep it’s head down, which was clearly making it develop muscles incorrectly and making it quite irritable, with several displays of attempting to rear. Others were far nicer to watch and more beautiful in their muscle structure. It was amazing to see how many horses they had here training at a very high level of dressage.
The arena filled up with people from all over the world, though we were probably the youngest people there. The music and introductions started and were in four languages – Spanish, English, German and French. After a lot of suspense the horses came out and displayed all of the high school dressage movements, with the pirouettes and flying changes being crowd favourites. I forgot how often English/Australian people clap, at everything. The highlight for me was the in hand work where the horses would jump in the air and kick out, as well as some exercises with rearing.
Although I was clearly excited the most by the horses in Jerez, there was some other really cool stuff to see. The Alcazar was another highlight and was very well preserved. It contains a really interesting pharmacy and some good viewing areas to see the city and surrounding hills. The old town was also nice, small and quiet compared to the more touristic places I have been in Spain. We came across a few rehearsals for the Semana Santa festival, which consisted of about thirty people carrying a display down narrow streets. It was a bit of a strange site seeing them all slowly shuffling along with a huge display on their shoulders.
This little city has managed to escape most of the tourists in Spain, however I think more people should make an effort to get here. It is only about an hour from Sevilla and really is a must for anyone who loves horses.