Home from my Spanish sojourn and I can’t but help returning to the various encounters I had with horses. Am I becoming one of those mad old bats who prefers animals (especially horses) to people?
My first foray into the horse world was in Jerez. A beautiful town in its own right which actually SMELLS of sherry and reminds me of my parents drinking tio pepe out of tiny crystal glasses at lunch time (sometimes quite shortly after elevenses actually). “Will, just give me another tinsy thimbleful dear..”
The Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre puts on a show of classical dressage and driving. This is an utterly Spanish, deadly serious, male dominated event.
Knowing how difficult it was to get our Lighty, the family pony in Scotland, to arch her neck, canter in a circle, let alone with the outside leg leading, not to mention working in tandem with another horse, performing complicated movements across the arena, prancing, dancing, turning on a sixpence and so forth, I can pretty well assure my readers that Lighty Mitchell was not a PRE (pura raza española – Pure Spanish Horse) nor were we the great trainers we wanted to be.
There seemed to be an invisible string between the trainer and his horse. It was magnificent.
My only feeling of ambivalence was when they made the horses rear up and walk on their back legs. This felt like circus skills and I thought it humiliating for the horses to be exposing their tummies. I think horses like a little privacy when it comes to their underbellies. I met an English woman in the loo who totally agreed with me.
Off on my solitary road trip to the hinterland of Andalucía I spend a night with my Scottish friend JR.
Would you like to ride? Asks J
Yes! Squeak I !!
Thinking, my God I want to ride so badly I’m prepared to risk broken bones, ruined holiday, medical fees, brain damage and possible death. I want to get on that pretty Andalusian horse. I have probably ridden twice in the last 30 years. I’m terrified. I have to put the stirrup down to the bottom hole and heave myself up very nearly capsizing over the other side. Gammy knee protesting! Tormenta is far too engrossed with the juicy green grass to pay the slightest attention to this heffalump presence. We do nothing brave. We walk round and around in circles and that’s about it. I’m in heaven. I have fallen in love with Tormenta like I fell in love with my grandchildren. I spend hours grooming her and nuzzling her and telling her she’s a grand beauty and she mustn’t roll in the mud.
The Asociación Córdoba Ecuestre performs their amazing show mostly focused on a flamenco dancer interacting with the dancing horses. This takes place in the Caballerizas Reales de Córdoba which was commissioned by Felipe ll in 1567. A cross-vaulted roof supports on sandstone columns which divide the circumference into a series of small stalls. Our ticket allows us entry half an hour early with not a nod or a wink to health and safety we are allowed to go into the stalls and pet the horses.
The enactment is performed with passion and duende (not an easy word to translate) and I leave the stable seriously contemplating applying to be a stable hand at the very least although my age and sex might just make it an unrealistic dream – I guess it’ll have to be added to the “next life” list and perhaps I’ll raise my aspirations either to being a flamenco dancer or better still and Andalusian horse.
Bonito the Albino:
Bonito is a tourist pony in El Puerto de Santa María. He pulls a cart and Jesús, his very talkative owner drives the tourists round the town pointing out places and people of interest. I have never done such a thing before but we blame Roxy (aged 2) who falls asleep as soon as we clamber on to the cart; we relax into the whole delightful experience and stop worrying about who might see us. Jesús tells us that Bonito is puro Sangue Lusitano (pure blooded Lusitano) from Portugal and highly intelligent. For those who don’t know, an apparently white horse is always referred to as “grey” unless, of course, they are albino, in which case you can call them white. Bonito is charmingly friendly, very handsome, and clearly quite happy about his boss and his job description.