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A Guide to Experiencing Spain’s Equestrian Culture

Horses have played a significant role in Spanish culture for many centuries, with wild horses making an appearance in cave paintings dating back thousands of years and polo flourishing here in the early 1900s when clubs were established across Spain – in recent years, after a decline in the mid-1900s, the nation has found a renewed appreciation for the sport. Perhaps the most notable equestrian connection here is the nation’s prestigious Andalusian horse, a breed that became sought after many centuries ago for its power, athleticism and elegance. Owing to the international renown of this unique breed, Andalusia is the region that’s most closely associated with horseback riding, but with horses woven into the entire country’s culture this is a side to Spain that’s worth experiencing hand-in-hand with the diversity of its scenery. We take a look at the best places to go for an insight into this part of Spain’s cultural identity.

Almeria

Many people come to this rural part of Andalusia to see the traditional side to the culturally rich region and explore some of this unique countryside. The area has several stables offering lessons, short trail rides and multi-day horseback riding excursions. These include the family-owned equestrian center Hipica Aguamarga, which sits within Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park. It’s from here in the desert landscape near the small fishing village of Agua Amarga that you can set out on guided trail rides through the natural park and to Cala de Enmedio beach. These trail-rides last between one and three hours. hipicaaguamarga.com

Ibiza

Explore the peaceful northern side of this Balearic island by paying a visit to Ibiza Horse Valley, a stables and rehabilitation center for rescued horses. Led by David Capdevielle and Monique Tjon, the center endeavors to bring abandoned horses back to peak health while enabling them to live as freely as possible in the valley. All year round full- and half-day rides take you through the mountains and to the beach, with custom trips available on request. ibizahorsevalley.com

Ibiza Polo Club lies 15 minutes from the Old Town, Marine and Port in San Lorenzo. In 2010, the club inaugurated the Ibiza Beach Polo Cup, bringing esteemed players from across the world to take part. As well as hosting tournaments, the club incorporates a polo school and polo clinic, and visitors are welcomed as well as members. ibizapoloclub.es

Jerez

The annual Feria del Caballo is one of the three major festivals in Jerez. The horse fair is a tradition that reflects the local connection to horse culture, dating back a number of decades and now attracting visitors from across the world each year. The event incorporates cowboy and classic dressage, riding competitions, polo, parades and carriage displays. This is one of the best ways to see Andalusian horse culture first-hand, with all the traditions and events bought together for the occasion. andalucia.com

It’s also in Jerez that you’ll find the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. This impressive equestrian center encompasses a 19th-century Charles Garnier-designed palace, botanical garden, exercise rings and an arena for events, stable complex and museums on equestrian art and horse carriages. You can buy tickets to the center and join tours or coincide your visit with one of the venue’s equestrian events. realescuela.org

Madrid

For horseback treks into the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range outside Madrid, you can set off on trail-rides from Jarahonda, which sits in the scenic region’s foothills. The stables here offer half- and full-day trips, as well as multi-day trips for riders of all levels. These trails take in historic sites as well as the surrounding natural beauty – highlights include La Granja Palace and the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. rutasacaballomadrid.es

Mallorca

Drawing on its landscape of mountains, sand dunes and beach, Mallorca is home to a number of stables offering horseback riding excursions. Set out on a trail passing through the Tramuntana Mountains, follow the sandy paths and forest trails over the bay of Alcudia and join a ride passing through the Randa Valley. A number of stables offer excursions throughout the warmer months (March to November) for all ages and riding abilities. A recent addition to the island’s equestrian scene is VMG Horse Ranch, a 100-acre estate where private lessons are held. vmghorseranch.com

Tenerife

With Spain’s highest peak, Mount Teide, in the island’s national park of the same name, stretches of beach and expanses of landscape ranging from desert to lush greenery, Tenerife is ideal for a horseback adventure. The stables Horse Riding in Tenerife offers trail riding excursions and lessons to riders of all levels. Located near Playa de las Americas, Playa de los Cristianos, Costa Adeje, Golf del Sur, El Medano, Playa Paraiso and Callao Salvaje, the opportunities for exploration abound. horseridingtenerife.com

The Pyrenees

Another of Spain’s most picturesque places to ride is the network of trails within the Pyrenees. Many of these tend to be longer trips. Les Ecuries du Biros offers two-, three- and five-day horseback treks, which range from shorter treks to the mountain pastures to longer treks to the canton of Castillon and its surroundings, taking you between a diversity of mid- and high-elevation landscape. ariege.com

Images: Fundación Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre and Instagram @ibizapoloclub

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