Baroque Passion and Spirit in Andalusia, Spain

Hilary Moore Hebert explores this hotbed of equestrian activity.
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Credit: Hilary Moore Hebert The view of the Spanish countryside. The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Jerez.

Credit: Hilary Moore Hebert The view of the Spanish countryside. The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Jerez.

Andalusia, Spain

My husband and I arrived in Madrid, Spain, the Monday after our wedding. Exhausted from the overnight flight, we found our way through the underground train system and made it to our destination just before the siesta. As we stepped into the April sun of Cordoba, the city embraced us with perfume from the countless blooms of orange trees. 

As we followed the road into the older part of Cordoba, we passed the entrance to the royal stables. Of course, I paused when I saw a poster of a stunning dressage horse performing capriole. The words Pasión y Duende “passion and spirit” were written below. This would be our experience of Andalusia.

Credit: Hilary Moore Hebert

Credit: Hilary Moore Hebert

For two weeks, we traveled by train and car to Seville, Cadiz, Malaga, Granada, Ronda, Jerez de la Frontera and many small places in between. The gorgeous architecture and rolling landscapes were the perfect backdrop for lazy afternoons eating tapas and midnight strolls by streetlight. We watched flamenco in Seville and visited the great Alhambra palace in Granada, but some of my favorite afternoons were spent walking the grounds of the renowned equestrian stables. 

I will never forget the grand gardens of the world-famous equestrian school in Jerez de la Frontera. In the outdoor arena, equestrians schooled four-in-hand around an unfazed horse and rider training piaffe under the supervision of an instructor. 

In Cordoba, I was fascinated by how an assistant trainer delicately wrapped his horse’s tail for in-hand work after dragging the arena on a four-wheeler at break-neck speeds. The horses were kept in a modern, airy shed row, while the original standing stalls stood empty—serving only as a museum to times past.

Credit: Hilary Moore Hebert In Jerez, you can enjoy a traditional sherry-tasting with local snacks.

Credit: Hilary Moore Hebert In Jerez, you can enjoy a traditional sherry-tasting with local snacks.

Whether it was catching a glimpse of a jumper in competition from the window of our train or trying on riding boots in a downtown shop, I couldn’t help but notice that the equestrian spirit and passion were woven throughout Andalusia. Though charmingly foreign in so many ways, it felt wonderfully like home.

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