Andalucia Sunshine Tour
by Saskia Mier
8th February - 27 March 2022
Pre-Sunshine Tour - 20 to 30 Jan 2022
The Sunshine Tour was created in the early nineties and has become the biggest equestrian winter competition in all of Europe. Its official name was the Circuito Hípico del Sol changed in 2022 to become the Andalucia Sunshine Tour as the regional tourist board became the main sponsors.
The inaugural Sunshine Tour was held in 1995, the first competition of its kind, and it has since become a template for other competitions of the same style. The idea was to create a major event with several disciplines during the winter months when the weather is usually bad in the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, etc. Riders, horses and their teams could travel to the Montenmedio complex and compete in far better weather conditions in preparation for the spring/summer season.
An arena was built at the Montenmedio Golf and Country Club in 2002 and it has since become a vast complex covering a total of 15,600 square metres. The complex has state-of-the-art facilities including 17 arenas of different sizes, stables, veterinary and blacksmith installations, driving tracks and a cross country course, not forgetting four restaurants. A large covered area provides the perfect space for competitions regardless of the weather, with neither intense rain nor blazing sun interfering with events. Olympic qualifying events are included among the many scheduled competitions at this prestigious venue.
During the months of February and March riders from all over the world come to compete on the Sunshine Tour in driving, jumping, dressage and three-day eventing. They are set up as an extensive series of equine events held at a single venue in order to reduce travelling arrangements for the participating horses - as they come from over 20 countries. Once there, however, they are able to settle in, relax and usually enjoy the excellent weather conditions.
An event known as Circuito de Otoño (Autumn Tour) is a more recent event and is held from October to November, but dates vary each year, the same as for the Sunshine Tour. It is therefore best to consult the dates of events before visiting.
The Montenmedio complex is located about 10 kilometres south ( N-340 km 41.3 ) of Vejer de la Frontera, in Cádiz province, which is home to a vast stretch of Mediterranean coastline known as the Costa de la Luz - thanks to the tremendous quality of light in this part of the region. The climate is also ideal for year-round outdoor activities, with facilities such as Montenmedio in Vejer designed to cope with hot Iberian summers. However, Atlantic breezes do temper the heat in this part of Spain.
The Sunshine Tour is open to spectators, and there is plenty of parking and free admission. The dedicated entrance is located on the N-340 km 41.3 a few hundred metres west (in direction of Vejer) of the Montenmedio estate entrance.
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Andalucia Sunshine Tour Event Report 2022
World class horses along with some of the best riders have been arriving non-stop from all corners of the world, especially from Central Europe, to compete at the highest level at Montenmedio. The stables are bursting with activity as teams arrive to the state-of-the-art complex, with a total of 3,500 horses and their entourage of approximately 9,000 people expected to pass through the facilities during the 2 month period. More than 50 nationalities will be represented over the weeks with over 750 riders registered to compete in driving, jumping, dressage and three-day eventing. This year there are over 300 classes, with 42 classes scoring for the FEI Longines ranking, qualifiers for the World Championships, and more than €2,000,000 in prizes.
Despite the complex being known for its warm weather during this time of year, there can be days of rain and wind. The major innovation of the Andalucia Sunshine Tour is the 90x62m removable roof covering 5,850 square metres, making it the largest removable roof in the world. The structure cost €750,000 and covers 19 arenas. One can say that it is these modern facilities and buzzing atmosphere that make the Andalucia Sunshine Tour a great attraction for those involved in equestrian sports.
What to watch?
A great fun favourite is the Jump&Drive Class, sponsored by Suzuki, which will inaugurate the show-jumping events. This class is made up of two sections, and is against the clock. Riders jump a small course of fences set at 1.10m, dismount and run, themselves jumping a fence on foot, to a waiting Suzuki car. They then have to negotiate a short course set between cones as fast as they can without incurring penalties. The class is designed to be great fun for both the riders and spectators. Anyone may enter the class, and adding to the atmosphere there will be free beer provided to spectators, by Cervezas Victoria, who is also sponsoring the event.