June 10th, 2012
Can you have too much of a good thing in Spain?
Can there be such a thing as too much horsing around?
Can you, as with sticky toffee pudding, tuck in to too many fairs in Spain?
No, don”t be silly. Of course you can’t.
I met up at the Granada feria with a lady who travels much of Spain, my friend and former resident of Barcelona, Molly. She is a convert to Granada.
Molly had just come back from attending the famous feria in Jerez de la Frontera. In what turned out to be record May temperatures for that classy city.
She was full of praise for how organised the feria there was. How the horses stick to their areas to parade and how the public have designated pavements, so ensuring humans and horse flesh do not come into close contact.
No such formality at the Granada feria. Here i always enjoy the challenge of not bumping into a horse. You mingle with these fine creatures up close and personal. Those up above in the fine leather saddles may be young or old, male or female, sober or slightly the worse for alcohol.
It is as close as i get in Spain to living in the fast lane!
I love Andalusian horses, and so do those who look after these magnificent animals. To see them strutting their stuff is wonderous. To see the horses performing dressage is a revelation. Admire their footwork. How they are turned out.
It is funny when they recognise certain tunes blasting out from the casetas which serve some of the finest food on offer in the fabulous city of Granada. Because the horses often perform to these tunes at shows around Spain, when they hear the music they automatically go into performance mode. That can lead to the person in the saddle spilling their drink.
It comes naturally to the horses. Dancing and prancing is what they have been trained to do. Indeed they were born with this in bred talent. Do go to see Andalusian horses perform in a display or an organised show.
And Granada is a great city in which to loiter for a few days. Horses are never far away from you. The city is famous for the Andalusian horse.
But if you really want to see them close up, then a feria such as the annual one at Granada is for you. You needs eyes in the back of your head some of the time. You will see more horses in one area than you will have ever seen before. They are coming at you from all directions.
Why not find a seat in the shade and simply wait for them all to pass you. They will do sooner or later and more than once. This is showing off time. Something the good ladies and men in the saddle love to do. And they dress their horses up in a manner that catches your eye.
And they are not alone. The ladies of Granada know a nice frock when they see one, as evidenced below.
Like me, Molly has never ridden a horse. And while i never trusted the beasts in years gone by, my constant close contact with Andalusian horses in Spain has led me to realise that these horses are much cleverer than me. They see me coming long before i see them. You would not want to get a kick from one, and accidents can happen. But, providing you keep a safe distance, you can stand back and be amazed by what you see.
Molly said to me: “In Jerez the horses have much wider avenues to parade down and they are separated from the public. People have their own paths to walk on and you are not walking among the horses as you are at the Granada feria. It’s fun either way but those who are a little timid around horses will find it a bit scary at the showground located just outside Granada, near the bus station.”
I have seen some of these boys and girls grow up. From young children into teenagers and beyond. This year i saw one of the finest young horsemen in Andalusia with, for the first time, a girlfriend. She was sat with him on the horse, riding in the traditional side saddle fashion, and wearing a partly backless dress.
And i once again bumped into one of the best, and most serious of girls who performs at horse shows throughout Spain. Ana was actually born in England but has been brought up in Granada since she was young. I recall first seeing her at a horse show in the city seven years ago when she was displaying her skills at driving a horse and carriage around an arena, and weaving her way around some obstacles.
This year Ana put on a great show in front of a restaurant. In time to the music they were playing to their hungry customers. Her horse performed wonderfully and the footwork was amazing to watch. Although the horse did knock down an umbrella that was providing shade for a woman selling hot potatoes. The air was full of exchanges. None of the friendly type. A case of spud you did not like!
Personally, i would not pick an argument with an Andalusian horse.
If formality is more your thing then you can see horse shows in which you sit in the audience, rather than be walking among them.
If you find yourself in Jerez de la Frontera you can always go to the Royal Andalusian School and Museum of Equestrian Art in the avenue Duque de Abrantes. Here a regular and very formal show will give you a good introduction at how disciplined these horses are. And how skillful those in the saddle can be.
It is very much a choreographed show and is one of those must not miss attractions in Andalusia. Sadly they do not allow you to take photographs of the show. Which is short sighted on the part of the organisers.
Taking photos is not an issue at the Yeguda de la Cartuja centre located on the old estate of Fuente del Suero just outside the city of Jerez de la Frontera. You should seek out this less well known tourist attraction.
Here the atmosphere is more laid back and interactive. You are allowed to meet the horses face to face in their stables and thereafter watch them perform. The display is memorable and seemingly more natural.
The show at Yeguda de la Cartuja was also more fun and relaxed for one and all. The opening action was spectacular and took me by surprise. The display as a whole felt much less stuffy and serious. It was pure entertainment at a centre where the horses are clearly loved and cared for.
Back in Granada there is much more going on than the Feria. There is always something to see or hear in this city. There is always a new show on at the very imaginative Science Park and, in them summer months, some stupendous music and dance shows take place in locations such as the Don Carlos Palace or the Generalife Gardens at the Alhambra Palace.
But come the Corpus Cristi week of celebrations, or the October equestrian show, it is horse flesh that dominates. I do know a gardener who goes each year not just to admire the horses, but also so that she can come home with the freshest of manure for her garden in Spain.
You see, you truly cannot have enough of a good thing. Even if it smells.