Caballerizas Reales de Cordoba and The Andalusian Horses of Spain

We took the “slow” train from Seville to Córdoba for under €14 and a less than ninety-minute journey through flat, mostly rural countryside, lushly green from the recent rains. We’re not sure why Córdoba hadn’t popped up on our radar well before our last trip to Spain but once we started reading about the city and its history, it rapidly rose to the top of our places-to-go list.  Not to say that we don’t usually do a little preparation before traveling to a new place but this time we were unusually prepared with a two-page list of things to see, including a place we’d run across only in passing; described as a “hidden treasure.”  Located next to the Alcázar of Córdoba, we could see the Royal Stables (aka the Caballerizas Reales de Córdoba ) from vantage points atop the Alcázar’s walkways along the old walls as well as a lone horse and rider practicing a series of moves in a small arena.

view from the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, Cordoba, SpainThe Caballerizas Reales date from 1570 when King Felipe II, described in many accounts as “a great lover of horses,” commissioned Diego López de Haro y Sotomayor to build the royal stables where he hoped to breed thoroughbred Spanish horses.  Not that we’ve visited many stables but we can safely say that these will be among the grandest we’ll ever see and why these stables deserve a place as one of Córdoba’s historic monuments.  The stable area is massive, almost cathedral-like in atmosphere, with a long center hallway and horse stalls on either side.  Sandstone columns support a cross-vaulted ceiling and numerous, small windows light the space in addition to suspended lanterns.  A new stable houses the royal horses while the old stable contains many elegant coaches and conveyances once used by the royals and other elites.Caballerizas Reales de Cordoba, Spain
Old royal stables, Cordoba, Spain

 

Old royal stables, Cordoba, SpainAnd here in the royal stables, according to a decree by King Felipe II which laid out formalized standards, the pure Spanish thoroughbred, known as the Andalusian horse, was officially documented as a breed.  From the very beginning, the horse was incredibly popular among European royalty and became a symbol of the Spanish empire.  The horse carried the conquistadores to the New World and its reputation as a prized war horses almost led to the demise of the breed in the Iberian Peninsula when Napoleon invaded Spain in the 1800’s and seized them for his own invasion.  Luckily a small herd was sequestered at a monastery in Cartuja near Granada and the breed recovered.  Today the Andalusian horses number over 185,000.

Andalusian Horse, Cordoba, Spain

 

Andalusian Horse, Cordoba, Spain

 

Andalusian Horse, Cordoba, SpainQuite by serendipity and even before we visited the stables, the Hostal La Fuente where we stayed told us about the equestrian show, “The Passion and Spirit of the Andalusian Horse.” Purchasing the tickets (a great value at €15 for an hour’s performance) also allowed us to visit the arena during a rehearsal.

The Passion and Spirit of the Andalusian HorseThe program was a terrific chance to see these magnificent creatures display their intelligence and beauty. Far from knowledgeable about horses in general, we didn’t have to be die-hard horse lovers to be completely captivated by the graceful and magical performance.

The Passion and Spirit of the Andalusian Horse, Cordoba, Spain

 

The Passion and Spirit of the Andalusian Horse, Cordoba, Spain

 

The Passion and Spirit of the Andalusian HorseFor those who wanted to get more show for their money, there were several dances featuring a flamenco dancer and some wonderful Spanish guitar in the background which added to the ambience.  For us, the flamenco dancer was extraneous and rather a distraction from the real stars of the show.

For those who wanted to get more show for their money, there were several dances featuring a flamenco dancer and some wonderful Spanish guitar in the background which added to the ambience. For us, the flamenco dancer was extraneous and rather a distraction from the real stars of the show.

 

For those who wanted to get more show for their money, there were several dances featuring a flamenco dancer and some wonderful Spanish guitar in the background which added to the ambience. For us, the flamenco dancer was extraneous and rather a distraction from the real stars of the show.

We were captivated with the intricate footwork, stylized gaits and beauty of the whole performance.  At times, it was almost as though as invisible string could be seen between the rider and horse as they seemed to communicate intuitively.  Obviously, the training involves hundreds of hours with a very skilled trainer and/or rider and an incredibly intelligent horse.

The Passion and Spirit of the Andalusian Horse

 

The Passion and Spirit of the Andalusian Horse, Cordoba, Spain

 

The Passion and Spirit of the Andalusian Horse, Cordoba, SpainInformation:  The show is every Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays at 20:00 and Sundays beginning at 12:00. Entrance to The Caballerizas Reales is free for visiting, from Tuesday to Saturday during the morning hours from 11:00 to 13:30 and afternoon hours from 16:00 to 20:00.

Special thanks to our friend, Kiki Bridges, who generously shared her photos for our post.

By Anita Oliver and Richard Nash

The Passion and Spirit of the Andalusian Horse, Cordoba, Spain

48 comments

  • My husband and I have been to Europe twice and loved it. I so enjoyed reading of your adventures. And by the way thank you so much for acknowledging my poetry on “poetry and then some” DiAnne

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  • Gosh how wonderful! Horses are as you say highly intelligent and I can only imagine how amazing it must have been to see this. Beautiful photos of it all.
    Peta

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    • Thanks Peta. Both the show and rehearsals would be something you’d love! One thing that really astonished us was the communication between the riders and horses. Obviously the horses are highly trained but at times you could almost see both the horse and rider working together with an invisible telepathic thread linking them. We were dazzled!

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  • What a wonderful treat! We had the good fortune of seeing a similar equestrian show several years ago and loved it. As for those stables, I have never seen anything so elaborate. Loved this post Anita.

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    • The stables are something else, aren’t they LuAnn? Surroundings fit for a king, so-to-speak and it’s easy to see that these horses were/are highly appreciated as they’re beautiful and very intelligent. This is the first time we’ve seen an equestrian show but we’ll be on the lookout for more (Cadiz and Jerez de La Frontera to name a couple of cities) when we return for more travels in Spain. The show was one of the highpoints in a city that did its best to impress us! Anita

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  • Love each new discovery of yours as it makes our ‘must see’ list a bit longer with each of your posts. Such interesting history in this one and the photos were spectacular. (I wrote you two an email with the latest residency permit update and it keeps coming back undeliverable, so I must have the wrong address for you. If you get a chance could you resend it to travelnwrite at msn dot com?) Happy weekend!

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  • WOW! Your adventures get more adventurous! Given the climate change in the US, your notes are inspiring and awesome. Keep well, with love, Maida

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    • Thanks Maida and we’re so glad we can do a little bit to lift your spirits. We follow the news closely and it’s a difficult time for so many in the US and around the world. Although we love our life as expats, we love the US too and never has the word global been more true as the impact of the election and inauguration are being felt worldwide. Please keep your optimism and your smile!

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  • It was a terrific show and really added another level to our visit to Cordoba. Having the opportunity to visit the stables during rehearsals makes the evening show even more special. We had a wonderful time visiting Cordoba with both of you and Kiki. We haven’t seen any hoses here in Ecuador yet other than a few from the bus.

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    • We’ll be planning more adventures and road trips ahead (in both Portugal and Spain) with you all so no chance of getting bored when you return! 🙂 I remember seeing horses during our time in Ecuador but there were plenty of wild donkeys alongside the roads,too. I’ll bet you’re enjoying the warmer weather and we’re looking forward to hearing what your first impressions are of the coast. Miss you!

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  • Had a trip to Spain so long … long time ago but did not have chance to see equestrian show like this cause of busy schedule n limited time. What a pity! 😦

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  • Magnificent horses! Being a horse lover from way back, I envy you the chance to see them in action. Where is the next “where to?” destination?

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    • I remember reading your stories of growing up in Southern California before the massive urbanization began and I imagine you had many opportunities to ride, Patricia. The Andalusian horses were beautiful and, if you’d like, type in “Andalusian Horses” on your browser and there are a few videos online that you can watch to see them in action for yourself, complete with traditional music. As for, “Where next?” we’re trying to answer that question ourselves and rough out a plan and a bit of direction for 2017. Besides exploring more in Portugal with day and overnight trips, we’re hoping to visit several countries in Europe this year (France and Italy for sure as well as a few in Eastern Europe during the summer) and Egypt keeps popping up on the radar screen as well. Fingers crossed! 🙂

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  • On my last trip to Spain, we missed the Alcázar of Córdoba. We had to cut somewhere, and that was where. I will be visiting again this year and you have enticed me with the information about the Royal Stables and Andalusian horse performances being right next door. What a combo!

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    • Cordoba is a lovely city and how great, Carole that you’ll be returning to visit more of its sights. The Royal Stables and the Andalusian horses are well worth your time and hopefully we’ll give you a few more ideas on things to see when publish our next post. I definitely understand that feeling of trying to cram too many sights into too little time but Cordoba is a wonderful place to make a return visit to catch what you missed!

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  • I can’t even say “Caballerizas Reales” nor can I remember visiting Córdoba, but I think I did. You lucked into seeing that performance and what a great deal, not only the show, but the train ride from Seville. You are so fortunate being based in Europe. You’re so close to so many things.

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    • Ah, but you can speak French, Jan so you’re ahead of us! 🙂 Although we were far from fluent in Spanish during our time in Latin America, we did learn the pronunciation rules of the language and, compared to Portuguese, they make a lot more sense. And don’t think we aren’t appreciating our proximity to so much of what Europe has to offer as well as the financial savings in getting around without the time constraints placed by the Schengen visa. Our decision to base ourselves in Portugal has been and is proving to be one of the best things we’ve done since we started traveling!

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  • Isn’t it always the case that some of the most intriguing things we see in our travels happen by serendipity? This describes so many of the attractions and events we’ve come across, too. Thanks for another great post, and keep ’em coming!

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    • We agree, Mariah and By and one of the things we find the most fun about travel is how often we happen to stumble across some interesting sight or activity. As meticulous planners in our past lives, we’ve learned to value flexibility as travelers, turning off on a side road at a whim or, like the Caballerizas Reales, following up on the chance to see the famed Andalusian horses perform. The anticipation of the next thing around the bend makes our lives infinitely richer!

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  • Those Andalusian horses are beautiful, and your friend’s pictures are too! The royal stables (is that what caballerizas reales means?) look positively luxurious!

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    • The horses really are magnificent and easy to appreciate Rachel, even for non-horse people like us. We’re so glad you liked Kiki’s photos – sharp and clear where our point-and-shoot cameras left us with pics that were a sad, grainy blur. And yes – caballerizas reales translates to stables royal. The stables really were luxurious and the thought occurred to us that the horses probably lived in finer lodgings than most of the populace over the centuries!

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  • These are beautiful animals and more than impressive in their training. Another must see destination to add to our ever-growing list! For my recent birthday birthday I was given a book titled, “Driving Over Lemons” by Christ Stewart and it’s the story of a family making a life in southern Spain. I’m very much looking forward to the read and learning more about Spain, a country with so many stories!

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    • As soon as you mentioned the book, Patti, I had to check it out and I quickly put it on our Kindle wish list for our next book shop-a-thon. It sounds like a fun read and, since we’ve driven through the Sierra Nevada mountains around Granada, we can even picture the area. While we love Portugal and are having a great time settling in to the area, it’s an amazing bonus to have Spain so close by to explore a few cities each visit. Kind of like unwrapping birthday presents, one-at-a-time!

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  • We did this too on a very cold evening in November. We don’t consider ourselves to be great horse fans but loved this show. Cordoba is a fabulous place.

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  • Great report! Now those have to be the most gorgeous stables in the world!. Another place being added to our bucket list!
    Thanks for sharing!

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    • Sounds like your bucket list is similar to ours. We are adding things on much faster than crossing them off! What was funny about our visit to the Caballerizas Reales de Córdoba was that it was kind of an “if we have the time” thing and we hadn’t thought about attending the horse show at all. It’s always great when travel throws some unexpected opportunities your way. Luckily we grabbed the chance to attend the show and, as you can see, were glad we did!

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  • The horses are always my favorite part of the Feria. They are so graceful. We didn’t see the show at the royal stables but they have them during Feria week. So glad you guys loved Cordoba like we did. A very special place indeed.

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    • Your descriptions of your visit to Cordoba piqued our interest and yes, we fell in love with the city and have more to write about. I’m glad you mentioned the Seville Feria and we’ll have to think about a return visit in the Spring. And we definitely wouldn’t turn down to a chance to see more horses and the beautiful carriages. The rides are rather spendy but it would be fun!

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  • Caballerizas Reales looks interesting. The old carriages are so elegant. The horses are beautiful. But seeing a show has to be the best part!

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    • I think we like anything old 🙂 but the carriages and carts are beautifully preserved and were an unexpected treat. Of course, the horses were the stars and, even though we know next to nothing about horses, their grace and elegance were something we truly enjoyed. Watching them during their practice gave us an even better appreciation for the hundreds of hours that go into their training as well as the link between the horse and rider.

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  • Beautiful horses. This will be my to do list when I go to Spain.

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    • Thanks for stopping by our blog, Carmen and for your comment. We thought the horses were extraordinary and are so glad you agree. I think you’ll find, as you start putting together a list of places to go and things to do in Spain, that the hard part will be deciding between all the choices. However, we would highly recommend both a visit to Cordoba (our next post) and seeing the Andalusian horses.

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  • Amazingly beautiful creatures! So “lucky” to have all of Europe at your fingertips (toetips)? 😉

    P.S. Yes – I too *hate* that “lucky” label – you two MADE IT ALL HAPPEN – good for you!

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    • Whether we worked to make it happen (part determination, part a shift in priorities and part following our dream) or not, we really do feel “lucky” to be able to travel around Europe with little more planning than if we lived in the US. You’re a great example too, Dyanne, of making your own luck and pursuing your passion. Some people just assume that traveling is something that they can’t do, maybe because of money, a perceived danger or other reasons but it’s all doable and great experiences can be had for not a lot of money. It makes for a “rich” life, doesn’t it? 🙂

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  • Beautiful horses. I hope you guys also saw the Mezquita? We loved our visit to Cordoba, lovely city.

    Frank (bbqboy)

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    • Yes, yes, yes! The Mezquita-Catedral was our primary reason for visiting Cordoba thanks to both yours and Kemi’s enthusiastic recommendations and pictures. There were so many things to see and learn about Cordoba that we decided to do a couple of posts (maybe more?) because the history there is so fascinating. We love Spain (how great to live nearby) but Cordoba really is something special!

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  • I don’t know much about horses, but these horses are beautiful and it must have been amazing to see them performing. Sounds like Cordoba has a lot to offer and you did your research well before arriving. Finding this “hidden treasure ” was certainly the icing on the Royal cake. I will look forward to hear more about your visit there.

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    • We’re city people too Gilda, so learning about the history of these beautiful horses and seeing them perform was fascinating. As for Cordoba, to say we fell in love with the city might be an understatement and we have at least one more post of the things we saw there. Doing some in-depth research this time really paid off although, like all great cities, we left hoping that we’d be back to see more!

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  • Fascinating. Must do this when we get to Spain. I think I’d be absolutely captivated.
    Alison

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    • I imagine your list of things to do and see in Spain is getting pretty long by now, Allison! 🙂 But yes, do make some time for Cordoba and the horses while you’re in the country – they really are magnificent creatures and the city itself (we’ll be writing more) is amazing. I’d love to see what magic you could do with your camera. But, remember us here in Lagos – hoping this is the year our paths finally cross! 🙂

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  • I found this very interesting, great pictures. I am very happy that you are enjoying your time in Europe.

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    • Thanks, Hugh! Ah, Europe … Yes, we are loving our time here and are so happy with our decision to make Portugal our home. It’s wonderful to be able to travel to so many heritage cities in just a few hours and we’re like kids in a candy store. How nice to be able to say, “Where to next?” and know that we can make it happen!

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