Jerez May Horse Fair
Feria de Caballo Jerez
9th to 16th May 2020
(Traditional dates, should be confirmed in Sept 2019)
by Saskier Mier
The Jerez Horse Fair, known as the Feria del Caballo, is traditionally held during the first or second week in May. It is an exciting and lively event that brings the entire city to the González Hontoria fairground, which covers an area of 52,000 square meters, giving ample space for the finest horses of Jerez, as synonymous with the city as sherry and flamenco, to show off to the crowds.
The fairground, known as the recinto, was opened in 1903, and in the same year it was agreed that individuals and societies could build their own casetas. There are almost 200 casetas that make up the fairground, beautifully decorated with colourful paper lanterns, known as farolillos. Unlike the Feria de Abril in Seville where most of the casetas are private, with access by invitation only, those in Jerez are mainly public for everyone to enjoy.
Already during the day the Feria is a world of senses but as soon as the sun sets the fairground takes on a whole new dimension with a total of 1,360,000 lights, including 206 archways, 100 metal halide projectors, 60 double portals, 12 grouped motifs and hundreds of garlands.
The history of the Feria del Caballo goes back over 500 years, to the commercial livestock fairs that were established during the months of April and September, when Jerez was just a small town during the reign of Alfonso X El Sabio.
An official agreement was signed by various participating merchants in 1491. The event slowly gained momentum as a form of entertainment and social networking, with local wine producers setting up stands to market their products and a children's amusement park was added, until the fair took on its present day form.
It was during the 1955 Feria, when the Domecq Sherry family initiated the idea of celebrating the working horse, used widely throughout cattle farms in the area.
The recinto was opened in 1903, and in the same year it was agreed that individuals and societies could build their own casetas.To the outsider, this fair is similar to the Seville fair, with portada and casetas , but it has its own special equine flavour, and takes place in an entirely different venue – what is, essentially, a park. It is known for its refined air, due to the many aristocratic sherry families in the city with their beautiful horses. Each year this Feria has a different theme.
What makes the Feria del Caballo so special is its great equestrian tradition and entirely different venue - what is, essentially, a park. It is known for its refined atmosphere, due to the many aristocratic sherry families in the city which circulate the avenues with their beautiful horses. It is interesting to note that each year this Feria has a different theme.
A programme is designed with various equine events taking place throughout the week such as in-hand showing, carriage driving, doma vaquera (traditional working horse discipline) and acoso y derribo (rounding up of cattle).
A highlight is to watch the informal horse and carriage procession which takes place every day within the fairground from 13.00 hrs to 19.30 hrs. At about 19.00 the horses leave the fairground. You will see hundreds of riders and carriages of all styles parade the grounds in a composition of elegance and majesticness.
The Jerez Horse fair is open to the public. No tickets are required except for the equestrian events. The centre of activity is in the Parque González Hontoria in the north of the city located on Avenida Alvero Domeq by the intersection with Paseo la Roseleda. Here is a plan of the Casetas in 2019.
Jerez city's horse and carriage tours relocate from the city centre to the fairground for carriage processions mentioned above, and so are available to hire for a circuit. They are waiting near the park entrances. Bring your own sherry and glass. At the weekend many tour busses from the towns and villages of Andalucia visit the feria. The locals in their finery tend to visit the feria slightly later in the day than the visitors and not in the full heat of the day.