May is an excellent time of the year to visit Spain. Jerez de la Frontera is a lovely town, homeland of Flamenco art, the famous wines of Sherry, Formula 1, and also a real capital of the Andalusian horse.
Let´s start with Jerez de la Frontera. A mid-size town (more than 200,000 inhabitants) located in the province of Cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera is one hour’s drive south from Seville.
The horse fair in Jerez takes place after the Feria de Abril in Seville and lasts between 7 and 9 days.
The fair dates back to the middle ages. Many cattle fairs were organized in the middle ages all over Spain and in Europe. In the case of Jerez, Alfonso X the Wise granted the town the faculty to hold two fairs each year; in May and one in September. This happened after Jerez was reconquered from Moor rule. These fairs aimed at developing trade with merchants from Europe, mainly England and today´s Netherlands. Wine and horses were of utmost importance and special tax rules were put in place
Most cattle fairs disappeared, but horses are essential in the history and present economy of Jerez. Jerez de la Frontera is home of the Royal Andalusian School of equestrian art, and also home for the Spanish stud farm, la yeguada military de Jerez de la Frontera.
During the days of the fair, visitors can enjoy many activities: horse riding, horse shows, and competitions. Similar to the case of the April fair in Seville, the Jerez horse fair boasts many booths (above 200). Along with horse shows, there is, as you may anticipate, sherry wine, flamenco shows, and food. One of the main differences of this fair in Jerez, if compared to other Andalusian fairs, is that booths are opened to the public (in other fairs, like the April Seville fair, most booths are private booths). These booths (casetas) offer sherry wine and food. The fair is huge, though of smaller size if compared to the Feria de Abril (with over 1,000 booths every year). It is however important to mention once more that at the Sevilla fair most booths are private.
The fair takes place at the Parque Gonzalez Hontoria and, as in other festivals, lights are essential. There are 2 fairs: the day fair and the night fair. During the day fair, most horse-related activities take place. At night, lights are on and the Calle del Infierno (Hell street) is packed with families that bring their children to the attractions.
For any lover of horses, this is a must-visit. Horse and carriages are found during the day in the streets of Jerez. Pure bred Andalusian horses march smartly guided by their riders. Flamenco music sounds, a group of dancers starts a “sevillana” and glasses are filled with rebujitos (7up and sherry wine) and fino wine.
You will get caught by the traditional costumes (flamenco costumes but also the horse riding costumes) Everybody look really smart at the Fair! And we do not just refer to the dancers opr riders, but also all jerezanos, that wear their best clothes to enjoy the fair. Something that is really pleasant in Jerez at the time of the fair is the shades and fresh air offered by the trees in Parque Gonzalez Hontoria.
Why is the fair worth-visiting? Visitors from all over the world arrive to Jerez to enjoy superb shows of doma vaquera and doma classica. There are also riding competitions, polo (Jerez de la Frontera has had a very strong british influence throughout its history), and carriage driving. Besides flamenco, there is also bullfighting at the time of the fair.
In case you are however not able to make it to Jerez around those days you will always have the possibility to enjoy both Flamenco shows and horse riding shows in Jerez. The famous show by the Royal Andalusian school of equestrian art is organised every week. Under the name, how the Andalusian horses dance, this show offers a good way to get introduced to the art of la doma.