Brief History of the Feria del Caballo
The history of the Feria del Caballo dates back to the medieval times when Jerez used to hold two fairs each year, one of which was dedicated to the buying and selling of livestock. Over the years, this fair evolved and became more about having fun than simply earning money or buying resources.
At the start of the 20th century, the first three blocks of the Real de la Feria houses were built, inhabited by rich locals who owned the wineries in and around the city of Jerez. As the festival moved further away from the commercial aspect and became more of a leisure-focused event, locals would get together to decorate these three blocks with different colored light bulbs and lanterns. Owners would also dress up their horses in colorful clothing and decorations before riding them through the blocks in lively parades, marking the start of the fair.
Some traditions have remained the same over the years, whilst some have been improved upon and others have been dropped altogether. Even though we’re in a completely different era today, the essence behind the Feria del Caballo remains the same – to have fun and enjoy time together.
The Feria del Caballo literally translates into “Fair of the Horse” and takes place each spring in May, one week after the Feria del Abril in Seville. The festival stretches across seven days, bursting with equestrian-themed events, as well as plenty of local wine tasting and Flamenco dancing. The Feria del Caballo is one of the most important annual events in Andalucia’s equestrian calendar, making it a must-see if you’re in Jerez when it’s taking place.
The fair is held in Parque González Hontoria and divided into two very distinct sections. One section resembles a small village with blocks lined with bars and restaurants known locally as Casetas. The other section of the fair is similar to a fairground or theme park and features all sorts of rides and attractions, such as roller-coasters and bumper cars.
The Feria del Caballo program is packed with all sorts of family-friendly events and attractions suitable for everyone to enjoy, whatever your interests. Here is a selection of some of the best things the fair has to offer:
The Feria del Caballo starts and ends with two amazing firework displays. The Spanish are known for going overboard when it comes to pyrotechnics and they certainly don’t skimp when it comes to the opening and closing ceremonies of this traditional festival. Even if you’ve seen hundreds of firework displays in your life, make a special effort to catch either the opening or closing firework display at Feria del Caballo – you won’t be disappointed.
Whether or not you’re into horses, you’re sure to be amazed by the horse exhibitions at the Feria del Caballo. During these events, trainers get dressed up in authentic Andalucian clothes – colorful, flamboyant Flamenco dresses for the señoritas and smart, clean-cut black suits for the señores – and show off their horses. The horses don’t get left out – they’re dressed up, too, with brightly colored reigns and flowers decorating their bodies.
Each of the horses is eager to demonstrate its own unique set of skills and talents, making each performance strikingly different to the rest and guaranteeing you’ll never get bored.
Horse Riding Competitions
In addition to the exhibitions, the Feria del Caballo also boasts numerous horse competitions which hundreds of locals and visitors alike gather together to watch. The competitions range from international show jumping contests with strict judging rules to carriage competitions with ostentatious costumes and decorations.
Jerez is known for three things – horses, sherry and Flamenco. Whilst the horses certainly take center stage during the Feria del Caballo, Flamenco also works its way into the festival in the form of Sevillana dance competitions. These contests see black suit-wearing hombres take colorful spotted dress-wearing señoritas by the hand onto the dance floor to compete for first prize. Locals are incredible passionate about their heritage, history and culture, a trait which clearly shows in the effort they put into their performing and dancing.
Wine and Sherry Tasting
With more than 10000 hectares of vineyards, it’s no wonder Jerez is one of Spain’s most prominent wine and sherry regions. Stalls selling locally-produced wines and Sherries are almost obligatory during this type of festival and the Feria del Caballo is no exception. Whether you prefer a fruity white wine or a dry, full-bodied sherry, you’ll find it all in the many Casetas which line the blocks in the fair.
Whilst it might not be strictly authentic, the funfair at the Feria del Caballo is a great place to spend a few hours. Whether or not you’re travelling with kids, you’re sure to have a great time here, soaring through the air on roller-coasters, bashing into others in bumper cars and trying your luck at the game stalls. One thing that is authentic about the funfair is the food. Make sure you go on an empty stomach if you really want to appreciate the delicious funfair treats, ranging from traditional tapas dishes and hearty stews to sweet churros and locally-made cookies.
In the final days of the festival, several award ceremonies are held to honor the riders, trainers, breeders and horses who won the various competitions and contests held throughout the event. These ceremonies are usually quite formal affairs and, with such a huge number of medals and certificates to award, can go on some time, making them more suitable for adults than families with small children.
Whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple, a family or a group, taking part in the Feria del Caballo in Jerez, Spain is a great way to soak up the local culture whilst creating amazing memories you’ll never forget.