… Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre — the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art — was the first visit on our recently concluded CAA trip to Spain.

So I think it’s a good place to start with the stories, additional photos, and photo captions that I’ve been promising to post.

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At the start of our trip, nearly everyone arrived and gathered for a lovely welcome dinner on a Wednesday, and then we met in the hotel lobby at 8:30 the next morning (jet lag be damned!) to drive to Jerez de la Frontera, which is about an hour south of Sevilla.

We were welcomed at the Real Escuela by Maria Angeles, who is in charge of the foundation’s museums, and she ushered us into the theater to see a movie about the school and its horses. Before the trip had even started, Kathy and I had been practically taking bets on which one of us would tear up during this particular visit. I don’t know about her, but I was almost undone by the movie … and we hadn’t even seen any real horses yet at that point!

From there, we walked through the park-like setting to the property’s original palace:

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… which we toured. But not before noticing the (gorgeous, of course) Spanish horse standing outside the palace. The horse and its traditionally dressed rider are what have captured the attention of the CAA members in the lower right corner of the photo above. It turned out that he was standing there so that visitors could get an “official” portrait of their visit. Such as, say, this one:

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standing in front of the Spanish horse and rider are (left to right) Raimundo Coral Rubiales, me, Maria Angeles Mata Lagomazzini, and Pepe Carmona

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inside the palace

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From there, we toured the foundation’s museum. It’s packed into a small space, but the museum’s interactive (and holographic!) exhibits provide quite a lot of interesting information about the property, the palace we had just seen, the riding school, the Spanish horse, and various types and styles of riding and driving. We even learned about the differences between the area’s traditional livery styles from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, both of which are still used today. Needless to say, this tour provided the perfect background information for much of the rest of our trip.

During the noon-time performance showcasing the school’s horses and riders, we weren’t allowed to take photographs. But, rest assured that it was beautiful and awe-inspiring. If you ever find yourself in Jerez, you won’t want to miss out on seeing these gorgeous, talented horses.

During the intermission, Maria Angeles invited Vicki (as our highest-ranking CAA “VIP” … she’s a past president), me, Raimundo, and Pepe (who was our “local” guest) to take a quick tour of the stables. What a treat! Vicki was introduced to all of the riders, and then we had our photo taken with them:

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Maria Angeles, Raimundo, me, Pepe, and Vicki with the Real Escuela's riders; third from the right is Rafael Andrade Soto and on the far right is Ignacio Ramblas Algarin, both of whom have represented Spain in major international dressage competitions

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Then we were given a quick tour of the tack room. Although it is undeniably lovely, we were assured that it is also functional and used daily.

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this photo is a bit fuzzy (the person using my camera was focused on the background instead of us!), but I have to include it because it was a treat to be introduced to one of Spain's Olympic dressage riders, Ignacio Ramblas Algarin

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As we left the stables to head back for the second half of the performance, I was finally able to take a photo of horses!

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even just standing still: what beauties