H is for Horses

11692630_10152920544636837_1795299347901806394_nIt was villager T who told me about a festival in a village about an hours’ drive away where men caught wild horses with their bare hands and I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to see: I imagined a big macho bravado event and I love horses way too much.

But then I came across a documentary on the internet about it and I changed my mind. https://vimeo.com/76041292 Watch it yourself, and you’ll know what I mean.

I had no idea Galicia had one of the largest wild horse populations in the world.

11230031_10152920543831837_7103330367725385484_nThe festival’s tradition dates back to the bronze age, the wild horses are round up, confined in an arena and are caught and immobilised by ”Aloitadores”.

By hand, no rope allowed.

Following that,  they cut the horses’ manes and tails  and the horses are de-parasited.

The people  (mainly men, but women also) who partake in this festival are all from the same village.

On the day of the event  (it’s actually several days) we set off early as we’d been told  that it was always very busy and there were only limited seats in the curro, the purpose build arena.  We arrived with plenty of waiting time, and it was busy indeed.

The empty arena didn’t look big, and I found it hard to imagine how in only a short time this place would be filled with wild horses. The horses had been round-up from the surrounding mountains the night before and  were kept in an area nearby, where they’d rested and been given food and water.

Organisers told us we had to be silent as to not to scare the horses before they drove them into the area.  We sat collectively holding our breaths, then the sudden sounds of hooves, and the first ones, mares and foals trotted into the arena in an impossibly perfect line, as if pulled by an invisible threat, with a fluidity  that made me think of a stream and tears began to brim my eyes.

There was something profoundly touching about this, seeing the arena flooded with these magnificent creatures, I would go so far in calling it a mystical experience.  More followed, dark bays, lighter ones, greys, blacks, until there literary was a sea of horses in front of me and tears were streaming down my face.

The catching of the horses and the shearing which followed wasn’t a peaceful event.

But it was real and it was raw and it was love. Not man (and woman) against horse, but man and woman with horse.

I’m counting the days until the 1st of July, when I can witness it all over again.

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