I had the most amazing and colourful experience recently at the Feria de Jerez, also known as Feria del Caballo (Horse Fair) in Spain. This is one of the most important celebrations in Jerez de la Frontera, only comparable to Easter religious celebrations.
Its origin is from the medieval ages when, for over one week, farmers gathered to sell and buy beautiful animals, although in Jerez mainly beautiful horses and usually drinking to celebrate the deals. Nowadays at the Feria de Jerez most of the Casetas are open to the public, so anyone can just walk in and enjoy the food, drinks, and dancing.
Nowadays it is celebrated in the González Hontoria Park in Jerez. Combining good food, wine and horses is the recipe for the Spanish Horse Feria in Jerez. In the evening there is a sort of “roof” of pretty decorative lights lighting this little “village” like area, which allows the party to last till dawn.
The Feria is divided into two parts: one is a small village, with streets that have bars and restaurants on both sides (these restaurants are called Casetas). The other is a Theme Park and carnival-style area where kids and grownups can have fun on different rides such as roller coasters, bumper cars etc…
The park is also host to major events – superb displays of horsemanship in all its forms taking centre stage. Here you will witness doma vaquero and doma classica cowboy and classical dressage, riding competitions, polo and fabulous displays of carriage driving.
The streets of Jerez are taken over during the festival by parades of horses, both official and completely unofficial. You’ll be bewitched by horses strolling elegantly along the streets ridden by immaculately clad aristocratic-looking men, with beautifully dressed women behind them, in full flamenco style, managing to look poised and sophisticated sitting on a horse’s rump. At the same time, there will be English, Hungarian, Russian and Spanish-style carriages, all exquisitely decorated, parading effortlessly through the cobbled streets of the old centre of town. Jerez Horse Festival offers Andalusian Chic at its most beguiling.
Then, at night, the colours and flavours change as the guitar rhythms accelerate and the wine flows more freely, horses’ hoofs are replaced by stomping flamencos and the parties last well into the early hours.
A visit to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art is another thing not to be missed and the horse show is at 12 noon most days throughout the Feria. It’s also possible to tour the stables and the museums, where there are displays of carriages, tack and harnesses, blacksmithing and equestrian art – all in the beautiful setting of the historic nineteenth-century Palacio de las Cadenas, with its delightfully cool gardens.
Just to lend even more appeal to the visit, the School is right next door to the Sandeman Bodega which offers a really good sherry tasting tour!
One of the most aesthetically pleasing aspects of attending the Horse Fair is seeing the locals and Spaniards from nearby towns dressed in traditional costumes. Women wear the stunning flamenco dresses known as trajes de gitanas (gypsy dresses) and the men wear short-cropped riding jackets and flat, broad-rimmed hats.
Jerez’s Horse Feria is one of the most colourful celebrations in all of Spain. With the pristine white of the horses, the brightly coloured flamenco-dressed ladies, lush palm trees towering over the bright yellow sand and the deep, clear blue of an Andalusian sky.
Jerez Horse Feria takes place the first or second week of May every year. I forgot to mention it is free to get in but if you want to watch the competitions and dressage displays, there is a small fee of 6 euros.
Dates for 2024
4-11 May 2024 Jerez Horse Fair
Read our Equestrian Travel guide to Spain CHECK HERE