The city of Jerez is renowned for a host of cultural attractions but dancing horses? Even at the Royal Andalucían School of Equestrian Art this sounded an implausible feat so it was with great interest that we headed to the school to see How The Andalucían Horses Dance.
There’s a swish of white as a horse and it’s smartly suited rider form a determined arc to the right, passing within inches of another curving to the left as they both thunder to the front of the arena.
Sailing through a sharp bend they tip-toe, crossing their legs one in front of the other like prima ballerinas performing a breezy allegro. Then they turn and with hypnotic grace glide into another formation.
We’d already been treated to a display of horse acrobatics – the animals rearing and jumping to show off powerful haunches and well-groomed tums, and now we were struck by the wonder of this equine ballet. The dancing horses revealing outstanding elegance as they met their riders’ gently persuasive yet barely there instructions.
Before the performance we had taken in the school’s Las Cadenas Palace – a spectacular 19th century Baroque building with as many beautiful details as quirky features such as a mirror that gives no reflection. From there we headed into the first of two museums on the site the Museum of Equestrian Art (the second being a fascinating display of carriages). Here interactive displays explained the unparalleled horsemanship needed to produce the dancing horses show.
The school itself teaches traditional and Andalucían country dressage and the museum details the history and traditions on which each are based.
During the interval we headed backstage to wander the grand saddle room and peek at riders in fine pinstripe suits with fancy corded buttons ensuring their presentation was as precise as their horses’ footwork, before donning rounded black hats as they enter the arena. The horsemen train for years honing their skills with the same animals, before they can take part in the dancing horses show.
We watched as a powerful young stallion with all the delicacy and grace of a catwalk model sashayed around the practise area, stretching and extending its legs, then placing its feet with surprising definition. It was here, up close to the animals and riders, that we saw what the school prides itself on most – the unity between the two. And we understood – the horsemen didn’t need to dominate the animals or tug at their reins with forceful instructions – there seemed a special connection between horse and rider.
Taking our seats for the second half of the show we were treated to a 10 dancing horse formation. White and grey dappled steeds with their smartly-suited riders in the saddle marched into the arena to a crescendo of classical music, then slipped in and out of line, danced daintily across the floor and spun circles on the spot. We were memorised by this 14-minute spectacle, hypnotised into peaceful relaxation and swept along by the wonderment of it all. The horses and their riders moving as one – perfect partners in a delightful dance.
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We visited The Royal Andalucían School of Equestrian Art while staying at Arcos Gardens.