Darlene Foster's Blog

The Wine Horse Festival of Caravaca de la Cruz

Posted on: May 17, 2022

Caravaca de la Cruz

I love horses and enjoy equestrian events. I was delighted to spend a day in the town of Caravaca de la Cruz during the annual Caballos del Vino Fiesta. The horses were proudly paraded around town in all their splendour, the streets teamed with local families wearing black, white and red outfits, Knights Templar, Moors and Christians mingled and various bands played. The air was filled with excitement.

Knights Templar
All ages take part in the festivities. This little caballero is so cute.
One of the many bands

At one point I became stuck in the middle of a parade on a narrow side street. I had no choice but to join in and dance along with everyone else as we followed the band. So much fun.

The main event is held later in the day when the wine horses race up the side of the mountain accompanied by four horsemen on foot. The horse with horsemen that arrives at the top in the fastest time, is declared the winner. Should one of the horsemen let go before reaching the top, the horse is disqualified.

Why do they do this? Like most things in Spain, it is based on a legend. Legend has it that during the time the Castle of Caravaca was besieged by Muslim troops, the Knights Templar went in search of water for the starving citizens. They only found wine. Dodging the enemy, they raced up the mountain beside their horses loaded with filled wineskins. They were considered heroes and their horses were decorated in appreciation. This tradition is now carried on as a competition once a year at the beginning of May.

The horses and their elaborate silk mantles, embroidered with fine gold thread, are the central focus of the festival. Each mantle can take a whole year to make and cost thousands of euros. There are prizes for the best-decorated horses as well. It was hard to pick which one was my favourite.

Decorated from head to tail
Pretty in pink
Interesting mantle with pictures of famous people.
The castle that had been under siege
The path the horses have to run up. There are many more spectators at the time of the race.

We did not stay to watch the race as it can be dangerous for spectators, but I did watch part of it on a big screen TV at the restaurant where we enjoyed a paella lunch.

What an amazing event. One I was glad to have attended and will not forget.

There are some great YouTube videos of the event. Here’s one:

72 Responses to "The Wine Horse Festival of Caravaca de la Cruz"

Awesome post Darlene!! Thanks for sharing….your pictures tell the story augmented by your descriptions. Love it!!

Thanks, Kirt. It was an amazing event to witness.

What an amazing festival! Fabulous photos! Thanks for sharing.

Thanks, Irene. Glad you enjoyed the pictures.xo

Wow! What a spectacle! The horses’ decorations are just incredible. Thank you for taking so many pictures to share.

Thanks, Liz. And I only shared a few of the pictures I took.

You’re welcome, Darlene.

Very impressive, and so traditional. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences, Darlene! Have a great week!xx Michael

Thanks so much for reblogging, Michael. Pleased you enjoyed the post.

Your photos are excellent. I couldn’t decide on a favorite horse, either.

I know. Every time I decided on one to be my favourite, I would see another one even more fabulous. I do like the one with the wineskin though and he was a very nice, gentle horse too.

I enjoyed the carnival atmosphere, too. I don’t think I’ve read of anything so festive since COVID began.

It had been cancelled the past two years due to Covid so everyone was so happy to be able to hold it again. In some ways, it felt like Mardi Gras.

Hi, Darlene – I’ve had the pleasure of watching a few cultural festivals in Spain that happened to be on during our Caminos. Such a privilege! Thank you for stirring up warm memories!

I love that the Spanish people keep these cultural events going. It’s so nice to see the entire family out and enjoying themselves. And if you are on your own, as I was this time, they invite you to be part of their family. They have more public holidays than any other country I know.

What a fun time, with lots of culture. Thanks for sharing.

It was so much fun and easy to get caught up in the excitement. Even more so as the event had been cancelled the two previous years due to Covid.

Hi Darlene – this looks so colorful and interesting! I just watched a YouTube video of the festival because I was curious what the running of the horses looked like. OMG the race did look dangerous for the spectators. The video I saw had the spectators jumping away at the last second to let the horse through. I love all the horses’ mantles. It must have been so fun to see them up close.Thanks for sharing your story and pictures 🙂

That is exactly what happens, the crowd splits to let them through. I should add the youtube video to the post. Glad you looked it up. The local people know what to do, knowing me, I would be at the wrong place at the wrong time and be trampled. xo

It reminded me of Hemingway and the running of the bulls! I’d definitely watch that on tv instead of in-person 😉

It made me think of the running of the bulls as well. I was happy to drink wine and eat paella while watching it on the TV.

The little caballero stole the show for me. It’s fascinating to see the different ideas people came up with to decorate their horses.

Me too. I loved that little fellow and his mom was happy to let me take his picture. A lot of imagination went into the horse’s mantles.

Love this post Darlene …I love it when old traditions are still practised what an amazing tradition to be part of it looks just beautiful and so much fun 🙂 x

I love these old traditions as well. It has been declared a UNESCO Heritage event. Even though there were tourists around, the majority of the participants were local Spanish people. I swear the whole town and surrounding area had turned out.

Its the same here we get some tourists but mainly it is locals and Thais who travel to an event,,,so lovely watch and enjoy 🙂 x

Wow, those decorations are something else!

They were incredible. And I only shared a few of them.

A most interesting post! It was good to know the story behind how the festival originated as well.

Thanks, Nancy. I love the history of these events.

Wow, what a fun event! There’s nothing better than experiencing local traditions 😊

Exactly. I love how proud the local people are of their traditions too. Everyone would step out of the way so I could get pictures.

Excellent, love it.

Thanks, Andrew. Have you been to it?

You would love it!

I will have to ask my sister to take me there one year.

Thanks Darlene for sharing this beautiful, traditional festival with us.

Glad you enjoyed it!

Great timing for your visit to coincide with the Caballos del Vino Fiesta. The costumes for the horses look gorgeous and very detailed. Glad you got to join in the festivities and that you stayed safe.

It was a wonderful time to be there.

This is terrific!

I knew you would love it. Thanks!

If I want color and merriment, I need to go to Spain. Thanks for bringing it to me here, Darlene! 😀

Colour and merriment are certainly aplenty here. Glad you enjoyed it!

These are terrific pictures, Darlene. What an amazing experience.

It was awesome! Glad you enjoyed the pictures.

The decorations on the horses are fantastic! It looks like quite the memorable event.

It was something I will never forget. Raised on a ranch, I was around horses so this was very special.

What an amazing opportunity! Wow! Thanks for sharing, Darlene!

Thanks, Jan. I am so glad I was able to see this.

What fabulous photos, Darlene. Looks as though everyone had a wonderful time.

Everyone was so happy. I think after two years of not having these fiestas, everyone is ready for them.

I have never seen or heard of anything like this – the parade, the ‘dress-up,’ the HORSES. Just amazing photos and decorated horses. Thanks for giving us the history too. I learn so much from your adventures! xo

It is so fascinating and there are so many interesting legends and stories here. I’m delighted you enjoy these posts.

How wonderful! The horses and their decorations are spectacular. I’m glad you were there.

I’m glad I went as well. It was an organised bus trip, which is very popular here, and a great way to see something this special. Of course, our time was our own once there. I loved mingling with the local people and the horses.

Organized bus tours are wonderful. They get you there and back, and you have time on your own. Yes, mingling is the best part, and you did that so well!

The video clearly shows how that is dangerous to the bystanders. I would have been with you and watching it from afar or on a screen somewhere. Trampled by a horse is not how I want to go out. That said, everything leading up to the race looks fabulous. Thanks for sharing.

As our tour guide said, the local people know what to do and how to step away, so let them enjoy the race up close. Surprisingly, there have been very few casualties over the years. I was happy to watch the race on the screen while enjoying my lovely paella.

If I were local and had grown up with it, I might feel differently. The thrill of it might be addictive. Sort of like running with the bulls, which I will never do.

Yes, me too. I was raised attending rodeos but I still stayed away from the action and watched from a safe distance.

I love the dedication to decorating the horses and parading them as heroes. This is so Spanish, centering on wine! 🙂

I know and each horse had its own entourage. They really were the heroes of the day.

So unique for humans to revere animals like this. I really like that.

This looks stunning and so unique. Toni x

It was amazing and something very different. So glad I went.

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