Spain's world famous sherry producing town, Jerez de la Frontera, plays host to the most prestigious equine heritage event in the whole of Europe, the 'feria del caballo'.
The annual horse fair began as a livestock show in 1284 and is now a magnet for horse lovers. It attracts many thousands of visitors each year who come not just to witness, but to participate in one of the biggest street parties in Spain.
The opening of the feria is an official event initiated by the Mayor of Jerez. As the crowd gathers at dusk, they are treated to a spectacular massive firework display which is followed by the big switch on of the impressive feria lights.
Usually the mornings host all kinds of horse related activities such as high school dressage, carriage competitons, accoso y arriba, international show-jumping competitions, vaulting, select livestock exhibitions and auctions. However, the highlight of the Jerez Horse Fair is undoubtedly the "Como Bailan los Caballos Andaluces " or the 'Dancing Andalusian Horses' performed by the world famous Royal Equestrian School of Art
From lunchtime onwards, the González de Hontoria park begins to fill with beautifully decorated carriages that parade the show ground. Everyone gets involved and both horse and riders are dressed a la Andaluz, a spectacle well worth seeing.
The 'casetas' are structures that range from small tents to large pavilions, from plain to elaborate, serving up food that ranges from the simplest tapas to full-scale restaurant fare, and drinks (lots of sherry of course). Many of the casitas are sponsored by various groups of families, local businesses, bodegas, clubs, trade unions and political parties. Each tent is decorated with its own theme and most of them compete for the 1st prize award. The municipal caseta is usually the largest and offers a fantastic programme of free entertainment.
People eat, drink and dance sevillanas, rumbas, bulerias and other traditional dances in one of the beautifully decorated casitas (small bars) until the early hours of the morning with an incredible, enjoyable atmosphere that seems to transform the park into one big flamenco fiesta.
A busy street market open day and night, a huge funfair which attracts both adults and children, bullfights, sevillana dance competitions and more fireworks are other festive activities that complete the programme of the Fair.
A trip to 'The annual Jerez Horse Fair' should certainly be on the agenda not only of all horse lovers but also for anyone who wants to sample a taste of rural Spain at its very best. Organising ferias is one thing that the Spanish, and the Andalusians in particular excel at and the Feria de Caballo de Jerez is certainly no exception.