in one week
by Carl Adamson (England)
my recent trip to Spain, I travelled through most of Andalucia in
just one week with my son, Andrew. We went there for several reasons;
to view some equestrian properties for sale, to learn more about
Doma Vaquera and to find some interesting information for this,
our first DomaVaquera.Info e-Newsletter. Well, we managed to complete
our mission, with the grand finale being our meeting with Manuel
Rodriguez Gonzalez, the current Doma Vaquera champion of Spain
and Working Equitation (Doma de Trabajo) Gold Medallist, 2000.
landing at Malaga, we picked up our hire car and began the drive
to Seville, the heart of Doma Vaquera in Spain. We experienced just
how natural the Spanish are with their horses just outside Malaga
airport. As we drove through an industrial area we stopped to watch
a man enjoying the cool of the evening sunset, casually exercising
his Andalusian stallion, which was pulling a homemade carriage.
Nothing really amazing about that, you might say but this guy was
working right next to the busy Malaga-Sevilla highway and the carriage
was made from the rear end of a car! Traditionally hand painted
in Andalusian green and white with detailed pictures of horses and
garrochistas on the sides, it was truly a magnificent rig. With
the occasional burst of the horn of a passing lorry or the toot
of a car horn, the passing drivers acknowledged the man and his
horse and the man returned this with a nod of his head or a casual
wave. He obviously lived close by but there were no houses in sight,
just factories and warehouses and motorway. He was quite relaxed
about us watching him. It must have been usual for admirers to stop
and watch. Not out of amazement but out of appreciation.
this time, it was quite late so we stayed overnight in Mollina,
near the historic and picturesque town of Antequera. The next morning,
after a continental breakfast, we continued our journey, arriving
in Seville mid morning. We had a property to view while we were
there and I wanted to find out more about the Sevillanos and how
Doma Vaquera fitted into their lifestyles, after all, this could
become our new neighbourhood. Doma Vaquera and stallions are not
really appreciated in England (to say the least) so I wanted to
be sure that things were going to be different here.
We went to Cantillana,
an agricultural town about 25 minutes drive from the centre of Seville.
Unlike England where you meet people that are interested in horses,
here, everyone is Doma Vaquera mad and I mean everyone! It seemed
that wherever you looked, there was someone with a very passionate
interest in Doma Vaquera, not just as a sport but as a way of life.
Knowledge and experience is passed down from father to son. In the
same way that many fathers around the world present their children
with a bicycle, here they give their children a Doma Vaquera horse
and maybe a garrocha. Oh, to be young again!
We met a Vaquero
working on his ranch, sheltering from the midday sun on his horse
under a eucalyptus tree. He had several hundred cattle to look after,
some of which were fighting bulls. I remember thinking that he must
have the best job in the whole world. Imagine, being paid to ride
Doma Vaquera every day.
went into a local bar for refreshments. Upon announcing our interest
in Doma Vaquera, out came all the photographs and trophies that
the barman had acquired over the years on his horses. We were then
introduced to other people in the bar who were sitting discussing
the finer points of Doma Vaquera over a glass of Manzanilla and
tapas. Occasionally, you would hear raised voices, then someone
would stand up and demonstrate a half pass or a canter pirouette
with an imaginary horse. All of this was done with great passion
and mutual respect. We were introduced to some elderly gentlemen
who were treated as local heroes, well respected due to their performances
as rejoneadors and matadors during their younger years.
are very genuine and friendly people. We went to a small Venta (a
country inn) by the roadside just outside Seville. It was run by
Gitanos, Spanish Gypsies. After finishing our meal, my son Andrew
and I were watching the owner of the bar and some other people playing
some traditional bar games by drawing lines on the bar with chalk
and rubbing them out with a licked finger. When they noticed us
watching, they invited us to join in. There was no money at stake,
this was just for fun. Communicating with them was difficult because
they spoke a language or dialect that I couldn't understand. My
Spanish is strictly phrase book and this was beyond me. However,
they took the time to teach us the rules of this game, which for
all we know, was inherited and passed down from the Moors. We became
quite good at this game in no time. So good, in fact, that we noticed
them cheating in order to win. That was half the fun of it though.
It wasn't the winning it was the playing that mattered. We were
foreigners that couldn't even speak their dialect and even so, we
were welcomed in and treated as friends. A reassuring experience
and one, which would be hard to find elsewhere.
We were introduced
to two excellent Doma Vaquera riders, Antonio and Paulo, whom I
believe just took 3rd place in the local qualifying competitions
which lead up to the finals later this year. We watched them put
their horses through their paces and were then invited to join in.
To sit on a competition level horse is a thrilling experience. It's
a bit like sitting behind the wheel of a high performance sports
car. The horse is always listening to your every command and it
wants to be told what you want as if he finds reassurance in knowing
what's coming next. The contact on the bit is light but positive.
Once a command is given, say to change from walk or halt to canter,
the horse will continue until told otherwise.
you ask for you get, providing that you ask positively and correctly.
Skid stops, canter pirouettes, figures of 8 with normal canter and
counter canter. Although my Spanish is very poor and neither Antonio
or Paulo spoke English, I learnt an awful lot from them. Fortunately,
I already knew the Spanish names for most of the competition movements
by watching the many Doma Vaquera training videos that I have purchased
over the years. Antonio was very good at explaining things and demonstrating
how Doma Vaquera should be done. He was quick to point out what
I was doing wrong and also quick to give praise for what I was doing
right. Some of the finer but most important points of Doma Vaquera
were demonstrated, such as the correct way to mount the Doma Vaquera
horse and how to hold the reins were the first lessons. These were
things that I had taken for granted and thought that I already knew.
My son, Andrew
wasn't left out either, he was riding another highly trained Doma
Vaquera horse with Antonio's son, Antonio. Andrew enjoyed riding
in Spain more than in England (even though we were out in the midday
riding well into the afternoon, we went to the local guarnicioneria
(saddle maker/tack shop) because there were a few items that I need
to buy. I was introduced to the saddle maker who upon hearing about
my interest in Doma Vaquera, took me to the rear of the shop and
through to the workshop and showed me photographs of him and his
horses receiving various trophies at competitions over the years.
I wasn't surprised to meet yet another champion. By then I was sure
that if I met the local postman, milkman or taxi driver, they too
would have Doma Vaquera horses and also be champions.
He then showed
me around the workshop, explaining how they make the Doma Vaquera
saddles, with many in varying stages of completion. Some of them
were works of art with personalized logos and breeders brands embroidered
into the leatherwork. Hundreds of Vaquera saddles, bridles and bootware,
all hand made. It was almost too much to take in at once. I felt
like a child in a sweetshop. I purchased some vaquera bits, some
extra two-ring seretas for training my younger horses and Sebastian
Fernandez' latest video, Iniciacion a la garrocha. More about
that another time.
children learn to ride from an early age and usually on their
a refreshing experience. To be amongst so many people that have
the same interest and yet have mutual respect for one another is
something that is perhaps is unique to Spain. If you ever find yourself
lost in Seville, just mention Doma Vaquera and you will have an
instant crowd of friends!
Perhaps he wants it to remain that way!
3 days in Seville, we drove on down to Jerez De La Frontera, the
home of the Royal School of Equestrian Art which was founded by
"El Rejoneador", Don Alvaro Domecq Romero. In Jerez, Doma
Clasica rules the equestrian scene but not to the exclusion of Doma
Vaquera. The Royal School has a major influence over people's preferred
riding style here and it attracts visitors and people looking to
purchase pure bred Spanish horses from all over the world. Unfortunately,
our schedule didn't allow us any time to visit the Royal School.
Something that we will do next time.
tornado picked up this table.
We spent a few
days viewing properties in Jerez, one of which was the former home
of Juan Belmonte, the famous Spanish bullfighter and a close friend
of Ernest Hemmingway. I liked this property very much and you could
almost feel the presence of one of the most respected men in Spain
as you entered what was once his bedroom. As we stepped out onto
his private balcony, overlooking the courtyard, a mini tornado suddenly
picked up the horses' drinking buckets from the ornate well in the
centre of the courtyard and also a table and chairs and spun them
across into the corner of the courtyard. Our guides were quite surprised
at this as there was no breeze that day and the courtyard is obviously
sheltered. It was as if Don Juan was there himself, stirring up
a wind by swirling his cape at an oncoming bull. Maybe he was.
drove on to Arcos De La Frontera, where we were introduced to Manuel
Rodriguez Gonzalez, the current Doma Vaquera champion of Spain
and Working Equitation (Doma De Trabajo) Gold Medallist. What an
honour to meet this man. Upon hearing our interest in Doma Vaquera
he welcomed us into his home and provided a spectacular demonstration
of his riding skills on no less than six different horses. Something
that I will always be grateful for and will never forget. Thank
route took us on to the old Moorish City of Cadiz. A fabulous place
which is carefully, preserved and as a result the old town hasn't
changed much since the Moors left. Many of the streets reminded
me of Italy and in particular, Venice. Unlike England, all the shops
are closed on a Saturday afternoon and this allowed us to enjoy
the atmosphere of the place without the hustle and bustle caused
by other tourists. The commercial parts of the City are impressive
and very modern, boosted by the trading of this busy port.
journeyed on to Tarifa on the South West Atlantic coast of Spain.
It is constantly buffered by two conflicting winds: the levante
from the east and the poniente from the west. This is the most southern
tip of the European Continent. It is well known for its windsurfing.
The wind being quite strong at times and enough to take your mind
off the searing heat of the African sun. It's long sandy beaches
overlooking the coast of Morocco, are just 30km across the Straits
of Gibraltar, it's so close you could almost touch it.
back to Malaga via Algeciras, Estepona and Torremolinos. Andalucia
in one week? Not quite. There is so much that we missed. Granada
for one. Andalucia is a place that cannot be rushed. Oh well, we
will have to go back again soon and continue our journey.
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