Bullfighting with horses - Rejoneo
Horses are an integral part of bullfighting. In the First stage of a bullfight a trumpet signals the entrance of the picadors, mounted on heavily padded and blindfolded horses, they provoke the bull to attack them. The aim is to plunge their lance into the bull's neck thus weakening its strong neck muscles.
Rejoneo is bullfighting on horseback. This requires enormous skill and great horsemanship. Look out for the word "rejoneo" on the bullfighting poster and artwork of a horseman.
The ceremony of testing the young bulls involves letting the young bulls run wild and the horsemen test their bravery by trying to toss them with long poles. Those young bulls that pass the test continue to be raised on the farm until, at three years' old, they are selected for a bullfight. Those that don't reach the standard, will be sold at market.
This practice is not open to the public as such, but if you happen to come across it on a back road on your way to Jerez. Many ranches are very hospitable and will allow interested parties to watch.
Bullfighting would not be the same without the presence of the picadors, or even more importantly, the rejoneadors. No literature brings their role alive more graphically than Ambits Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon.
First, the horses must be tried out. "The picadors arrive the day before the fight at the corrals of the bullring to choose and test the horses they are to ride," he writes. "There is a piece of iron set in the stone wall of the corral that marks the minimum height at the shoulder that a horse must have to be accepted. A picador has the big saddle put on a horse, mounts, tests whether the horse minds bit and spur, backs, wheels and riding towards the corral wall drives against it with the shaft of a pic to see if the horse is sound and solid on its feet."
Then he describes what horses are best for the fight. "To be useful in the bullring, a horse must be either old or well-tired. It is as much to tire the horses as to provide transportation for the picadors that the animals are ridden from the ring into town to the picadors' boarding house and back. The role of the horse has become that of providing something the bull will charge, so that his neck muscles will be tired and of supporting the man who receives the charge and places his pic in such a manner as to force the bull to tire those muscles. His duty is to tire the bull rather than to weaken him by wounds. The wound made by the pic is an incident rather than an end. Whenever it becomes an end, it is censurable.
"Used for this purpose, the worst horses possible, that is those past any other usefulness, but which are solid on their feet and moderately manageable, are the best. I have seen thoroughbreds killed in their prime in other places than the bullring and it is always a sad and disturbing business. The bullring is a death's business for horses and the worse horses they are, the better.