by Saskia Mier
Raid Kaliber celebrated its popular first edition in 2006, gathering national and international riders who not only participated in an exceptional sporting event but, in turn, discovered the beauty of Andalucia and its people. The president and creator of the competition, José Manuel Soto, stressed that the six stages that run through protected Andalusian enclaves make the Raid Kaliber "a unique test known by horse lovers as the equestrian Dakar, becoming the most demanding equestrian resistance test in the world".
Over 42 riders (mostly Spaniards, but also many French and other Europeans) participate in the seven-day endurance race of 500 kilometres. Each of the six stages is 60 kilometres, divided into two phases of 30 kilometres each, including a veterinary control and 45-minute break.
From 2 to 9 April 2011, the Raid Kaliber celebrated its sixth and last edition of the annual horse trial (previously known as "Tierras de Al-andalus"). The event started from El Rocío (Almonte, Huelva) and finished in Andújar (Jaén), riding through El Rocio, Carmona, Ecija, Cordoba, Villafranca, Cardena and Montoro, plus an urban day in Seville.
This event became the leader in horse endurance racing and the Kaliber Endurance Race was the world's longest horse race.
In 2012, the Kaliber Raid was due to celebrate its seventh edition but, due to lack of support and finance, the race did not take place. Instead, the president wrote a closing letter to explain that it would no longer be held. They organised a special last event to celebrate the great race, but since then nothing of its kind has been held in Spain.
Many of you are asking me about this year's raid, and I think it's time to give you an explanation. In 2012, due to the difficult economic situation we are going through, we cannot celebrate the Raid Kaliber-Andalucia.
For several years we have been working our way through the longest and toughest horse race in the world despite facing many difficulties of all kinds, facing them with hope and enthusiasm, but this year we have lost all the support we had and we cannot continue.
You can imagine the shame of this happening to all of us who have fought so hard over the years to continue this dream, but circumstances force us to adapt. Our intention is to not lose the tradition of holding a great race every spring in Andalusia, and especially not to lose the tradition of meeting and sharing what most unites us: our love for horses.
Therefore, I propose a great weekend of horses and friendship in the village of El Rocío coinciding with Easter. We cannot offer big prizes, or write great reports as before, but we can share good times and compete healthily with our horses, which are also our passion.
The idea is to hold three races of 80 kilometres each, in two stages a day, starting and finishing in the village of El Rocío, and riding through the incomparable sandy landscapes, covered with pines, Doñana and its beaches.
I think this is a much more affordable adventure from every point of view, although not lacking durability and competitiveness for those who want to participate in all phases. The horse that is best classified over all stages will be awarded the "Ironhorse" prize of the year. And that, precisely, is the name of this new race: "Al-Andalus Ironhorse".
I encourage everyone to join us for fellowship and to convince your friends, family and acquaintances to come and enjoy a few days together, and some healthy rivalry, and once again showcase this beautiful sport.
Many thanks to everyone and my best wishes for the New Year.
José Manuel Soto
President of the Organising Committee"