Imagine sipping a glass of fine Sherry wine while riding a beautiful Andalusian stallion and witnessing a parade with some of the most stunning horses in the world, right under the palm trees and sunshine of Andalusia. This is what you can expect at The Feria de Jerez, also known as “Feria del Caballo” (Jerez Horse Fair), a colorful event that would take any horse lover’s breath away.
After being canceled due to the pandemic in 2020 for the first time since the 1938 Spanish Civil War, the Jerez Horse Fair is back on this year- and while ongoing restrictions have dampened the festivities, one thing is for sure: the Spanish horse aficionados are eager to get the celebrations going!
This annual event is traditionally hosted each year in the first or second week of May, during which the City of Jerez transforms into a playground for hosting celebrations that highlight the magic of the Spanish culture and showcases the nobility of the P.R.E breed “Pura Raza Española”. During the day, the González Hontoria Park, located in the center of the City of Jerez, fills with hundreds of riders (known as “jinetes”) and horse-drawn carriages, parading their incredible Andalusian horses. The main path consists of a broad, sanded alley bordered with flowers, trees and individual booths “casetas” where celebrations, including drinking, flamenco dancing, and singing take place until the early morning hours.
The Jerez Horse Fair is one of the oldest equine traditions in the world, first dating back to 1284. During the Medieval Ages, what we know today as the Jerez Horse Fair started as a gathering place where merchants and farmers traded horses and livestock. As it evolved throughout the centuries, today, it is an event that gathers thousands of people each year and hosts numerous horse-related activities and competitions, including P.R.E morphology contests, Traditional Working Equitation known as “Doma Vaquera”, and Carriage-driving competitions.
The horses are, without a doubt, the stars of the event. These spectacular Andalusian horses are prepared, pampered, and braided by their proud “caballeros” before wandering the streets of Jerez. Esthetically flawless, the incredible docile nature and calm temperaments of this breed makes the P.R.Es the perfect companions for these celebrations, as they remain patient while their riders socialize, sip their refreshing rebujitos (a mix of white wine, soda and mint leaves), sing, play guitar, and hop from one caseta to the next.
During that week, some of the most prestigious Spanish Horse Breeding Farms “ganaderías” showcase their stallions, mares and yearlings with the purest bloodlines and compete for each year’s prizes. To win the morphology contest at the Jerez Horse Fair is regarded as a great honor and accomplishment.
Tradition and Outfits:
Being one of the most colorful and vibrant festivals in Spain, the costumes play an important role in this tradition. In fact, Flamenco Fashion is a whole world of its own, and Spanish women take great pride in displaying new trends and ways to accessorize their stunning flamenco dresses “trajes de flamenca” each year. The men also wear a distinctive riding suit called “traje corto”, consisting of a closely-fitted waist-length jacket and trousers, along with a broad-brimmed hat “sombrero de alanche” – a discreet and elegant uniform traditionally worn by herdsmen.
Traditionally, men ride while the women wearing long dresses sit sideways behind the saddle on a sheep skin pad laid out on the horse’s croup. Nowadays, as more women take up the pleasure of riding, you can see many female riders – refered to as amazonas– wear the traditional traje corto with a feminine touch. Kids take part in the festivities too, as many of them start riding before they even learn to walk.
Don’t miss next year’s event!
While the Feria de Jerez is open to the public, certain events will require buying tickets in advance. this isn’t a place where you usually find a lot of tourists. If you are headed to the South of Spain in May next year, make sure to stop by for a Sherry wine or rebujito at the Jerez Horse Fair and admire the show. While you are in Jerez, don’t forget to pay a visit to the Royal School of Equestrian Art, where you can book seats in advance to the world-renowned show “How the Andalusian horses dance”.