Yesterday, we drove out into the countryside to see a show at “Acampo Abierto.” The beautiful property is owned by Alvaro Domecq, whose family is known for breeding and training horses and for breeding and raising toros bravos (literally, “brave bulls”), or as we usually know them: fighting bulls.

The family has put together a two-hour show that they put on three times a week to introduce their horses, their bulls, their beef cattle, and their way of life to visitors. Anything like this is of course a bit touristy because it’s just for show, but this one also appears to be a labor of love borne of goodwill and a desire to educate. It’s also clear that the entire family is involved in each performance. The riders range from small children to someone who is probably their grandfather — perhaps even Mr. Domecq himself. When we were there, the mother of several of the children in the show sat next to me, taking photos. And several other family members drove out to the arena to watch or to help.

Over the course of two hours (with a ten-minute intermission), they bring all the riders into the arena; bring the cows and calves into the arena; bring a herd of mares and foals in; demonstrate the life of the old Spanish drovers (“cowboys”) by bringing in the steers, bringing the cows and calves back in and, with horses and dogs, separating the calves out; and, finally, they bring in a group of fighting bulls. Of course, all of this happens in sequence and not all at once! In between these very active segments of the show (many of the herds are “brought in” to the arena at a full gallop, starting from a quarter of a mile away!) were a few more sedate demonstrations, including classical dressage and traditional Spanish “ranch” dressage. Because everything is explained along the way (in Spanish, French, and English) it was interesting to learn that they breed purebred Andalusian horses for dressage work and, I would imagine, for driving (these they often leave “whole”). But they typically cross their Andalusians with Arabians to obtain the horses they use for working with the cattle and the bulls (these horses they geld).

Here are some photos from the show:

four riders enter the arena, including three young boys (Domecq grandsons, perhaps?)

four riders enter the arena, including three young boys (Domecq grandsons, perhaps?)

preparing to go to work, using the traditional pole with which they tap the cows

preparing to go to work, using the traditional pole with which they tap the cows

a herd of mares and foals running into the arena

a herd of mares and foals running into the arena

bringing the steers in to the arena for the "reenactment" part of the show

bringing the steers in to the arena for the “reenactment” part of the show

the traditional "ranch dressage" is vaguely similar to reining

the traditional “ranch dressage” is vaguely similar to reining

working with the fighting bulls

You can’t really tell from any of these photos, but it’s been really windy here the past couple of days. I understand that we’re in the midst of a “levante” wind, which comes from the east. This time of year, it just makes the wheat fields ripple constantly, but in the summer a levante brings hot air and dust from Africa.

Having grown up in the Santa Ana wind country of southern California, where the warm (sometimes hot) wind comes in from the desert and blows all the smog back out to sea, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for a good strong wind, as long as it doesn’t do any harm.

And, speaking of California, the countryside here in southern Spain continues to remind me of home. Or, at any rate, of the California I wish I could have known, before all the people arrived. In a strange sort of way, this visit to modern, rural Spain is a bit like a time-travel visit to old California. While on our way to and at Campo Abierto, we saw eucalyptus trees, palm trees, oleander, cactus, dry creek beds, and all sorts of delicate wildflowers thriving on all the rain the area received this winter. There are red poppies, and various pink, yellow, purple, and magenta wildflowers. Today, we drove along the coast, past Trafalgar and through a forest of “umbrella” pines and scrubby oak trees.

Tomorrow, we’re going to visit the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Jerez de la Frontera (site of the 2002 World Equestrian Games). And on Tuesday, we may be going (through the generous help of a cousin of a friend of a friend) to yet another private carriage collection, this one at a farm on the way to Jerez.