More than a mere horse show, the Réal Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre in Jerez de la Frontera is a combination of riding school and entertainment wonder. If you can pronounce the name, you are ahead of the game.
Housed in a building that alone makes a visit worthwhile, the famed dancing stallions will do more than amaze. They will transform your idea of what these magnificent creatures can do.
While still outside, take time to admire the outstanding domes and extraordinary carvings on this delightful mixture of Moorish and Spanish Renaissance, the Recreo de las Cadenas Palace. Then travel up the short series of steps and be prepared to have all your expectations overturned.
Arrive early to spend time enjoying the fine gardens and other features while you watch the horses and trainers casually warm up behind the arena.
Take a stroll through the Horse Carriage Museum, housed in 7,000 square meters of what used to be a Permartin sherry warehouse. Drink in the sights and aromas of bougainvillea and orange blossom as you walk along the specially maintained albero sand.
Within this section are a dozen carriages that were drawn by the forbears of the awe-inspiring animals that will soon perform. Each transport served a special purpose. There was the Milord, the Phaeton and many others used for different occasions. Alongside are displays of harnesses and other equipment that served both a functional and decorative purpose. Some is Andalucian in origin, others hail from as far away as Russia.
Next, move on to the washing area to see some of the horses being cleaned for a later performance. Multimedia displays all around explain the role of the ritual, very similar to how it has been done for thousands of years.
Ahead are the stables where the carriage horses have their beds. Visitors are allowed to stroke their necks and interact with these gentle creatures. Next along the way is the area where the horses are harnessed and prepared to pull the carriages.
Coming full circle, guests arrive back at the forecourt and exit through another sherry warehouse called Bodega 1810, after the date it was first erected. The aroma of the former winery is still very much present.
Nearby is the Museum of Equestrian Arts, very much a part of the show. Housing living Przewalski horses (descendants from a breed over 12,000 years old), a harness workshop and more, the museum is a must-see part of the total experience.
Here one can see scale models of the Cadenas Palace that houses the facilities. There are numerous interactive displays explaining the evolution of the Andalucian horse and world championship equestrian events. Others discuss the history of the school, dressage and provide explanations of the horses’ ability to ‘dance’.
One of the highlights of the objects on display is an actual harness dating from the 7th century BC, discovered in the lower section of the Guadalquivir River. There are also Iberian and Punican coins thousands of years old stamped with images of horses.
Then it’s on to the live dancing stallion show where visitors will see behavior that is scarcely believable to anyone who has never seen it live. Here horses and trainers show how in tune they are by executing moves as if they were in telepathic communication. So precise are the movements, they might easily be called an actual ballet.
Visit the Réal Escuela and see for yourself.