“Best in Show” Andalusian Style

The warm up corral before the show

The warm up corral before the show

In the planning for this trip, I wanted to include a visit to the Fundacion Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestra, more simply known as the Royal School of Equestrian Arts, located in Jerez de la Frontera. I was fortunate that our schedule landed on one of the days when they were performing (note that it isn’t daily).

This is an active school, highly selective and steeped in tradition. As we wandered the grounds before the show, we saw that each horse had two trainers, one clearly older than the other. As they went through their moves, there was a real sense of time and patience in teaching both the student and the horse. While we were not allowed to take photos of the actual show, it was amazing. The symbiotic nature of the rider with their horse to perform in time with the music was truly remarkable. I’m also happy to report that we saw several women trainers and one in the performance, so while tradition continues they have adapted to modern times. [Side note: At intermission they had a zamboni-like vehicle to clean up after the horses 🙂 I’ll admit I’m easily amused…]

Inside the Royal School of Equestrian Arts

Inside the Royal School of Equestrian Arts

We were to experience this tradition of horse breeding later in the week when we visited Cordoba. Initially drawn to the laughter of a crowd inside a small archway, we soon realized this was a competition for horses. I came to think of it as the equine version of “Best in Show”.

Putting the horse through specific movements while the judges looked on

Putting the horse through specific movements while the judges looked on

In reality it was part of the annual Cordoba Horse Fair and we enjoyed watching the trainers in their traditional outfits put the horses through their required paces.

Judges making notes at the Cordoba Horse Fair

Judges making notes at the Cordoba Horse Fair

I’m glad I wasn’t a judge because they all looked beautiful to me. Now I have a better sense of why they are so proud of this wonderful tradition.

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