Fantastic Friday - 'How the Andalusian Horses Dance'

Hello, my name is Joy and I’m addicted to horsey videos on Youtube …

(Keron Psillas)

I’d never heard of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art Foundation – what a mouthful – until I spotted a video about them on Youtube. 

Established in 1973, the school is fairly new, and is based in Jerez de la Frontera, in the province of Cadiz in southern Spain, Andalusian country.  It was in 1973 that the Crown Prince of Spain (who would become King Juan Carlos I) awarded the most prestigious equestrian trophy in Spain – the ‘Caballo de Oro’ (Golden Horse) – to Don Alvaro Domecq Romero.  The trophy is an annual award, given in recognition of dedication to, and work carried out in favour of the horse.

In 1986, the Governing Body took over the stables of Don Pedro Domecq de la Riva, which consisted of 35 Spanish breed horses and 19 historically valuable horse-drawn carriages; some of the carriages and their harnesses dated back to 1730.  Included in the inventory were historical saddles and embroidered cloths for horses and coachmen.

In 1987, King Juan Carlos I accepted the post of honorary President and conferred the title of ‘Royal School’ to the institution.  In 2003, the Governing Body became the Foundation, making it a legal entity.

Although the Institution’s show, ‘How the Andalusian Horses Dance’, is the epitome of its work, it is also known for its training of Haute École riders, the preservation and promotion of ‘Doma Vaquera’ or Classical and Country Dressage, maintaining the prestige of the Andalusian horse, and the Spanish tradition and culture. 

The show itself is an equestrian ballet featuring Spanish music and 18th century style costumes.  The ‘ Doma Vaquera’ demonstrates the skills which were originally used in traditional cattle herding, with the rider controlling his horse with just the one hand, changing the rhythm from trot to pirouettes and ‘ arreones’ (breaking into a gallop). 

Classical Dressage is made up of well-known exercises including ‘Airs above the ground’ and ‘Pas de Deux’.  Carriage Driving is also part of the show, and classical harness is used .  ‘Work in Hand’ shows the classical Haute École dressage exercises and demonstrates how the horse obeys its rider even when he is not in the saddle.  The finale is the  Carousel, with a group of horses and riders performing advanced equestrian exercises in unison.

I guess one could say that this is very similar to what the Spanish Riding School in Vienna does with the Lipizzaner so what’s the big deal?  I love both, but, for me, the Andalusian horse show has more of a wild element in it.  Maybe it’s the movements that were used in cattle herding, the long poles the riders use, the costumes … Yet another place to go on my travel itinerary.