Saca de las Yeguas 2019


Almonte has not just the Romeria and the Virgin of El Rocio, it also has one of Andalucia’s most important horse events, the Saca de Las Yeguas, the Running of the Mares. There is a unique race of horses here in the Doñana National Park, the Marismeña race. These horses are the original American mustangs. They were imported to America on ships from Huelva, starting with Christoph Columbus in the 16th century.

For the past 500 years on the 26th of June, the mares and their foals, born in the marismas of the Doñana National Park, are brought by the Yegüerizos, the local horse men and women, first to the church in El Rocio to be blessed. Then they proceed through the streets of Almonte to the Recinto Ganadero, the livestock corral, where they are cleaned, vaccinated, reshod, their manes are cut, the foals are branded and some horses sold. After three days they return to their grazing grounds in the Doñana, passing by our gate. This year there were 1,500 horses being herded to and from their grazing areas.

The horse men and women have had a few very tough days finding and gathering up the semi-wild horses in the over 150,000 ha large National park. They arrive there 3-4 days in advance of the drive to camp out and follow a tradition that has no rules or standards, only instinct and the deep understanding and love of the mind of the horse.

It is breath-taking to see groups of riders bringing groups of 300-400 horses, that have not seen a human being for much of the year, into the towns of El Rocio and Almonte. The horse dominates the life for a lot of people here: from the townhouses in El Rocio, that have poles in front of every house to tie the horses and at the back the stables, to the carriage manufacturers, saddle and reins makers and the gorgeous riding boots, hand-made with traditional decor. Alone on our camino are two riding schools and further the other direction is ‘Doñana Horse Adventure’, owned by a french girl, Sandrine, you can book an adventure on horseback through the national Park or the dunes along the beach. [ see ].

There is a monument to the Yegüerizos in Almonte which says: “For he who has never won a horse in the swamp, does not know what it means to ride.”

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The Saca de las Yeguas is followed by the Feria de San Pedro, the patron saint of Almonte, which seamlessly continues the fiesta-athmosphere and celebrations, of which the Spanish are famous.

The Transformation

When we came here first, the property had not been lived in for nearly 6 years. The olive trees were abandoned and the house was in bad shape. All wiring had been ripped out together with light fixtures, plumbing and who knows what else. Then, just before we returned from Ireland, all windows and doors were taken. This was done professionally, over several days before we bought the property. Naturally that all impacted on the price. So we had a big job on our hands to clean up, restore, rewire, replumb, and order new doors and windows as well as installing our very own, off-the-grid photovoltaic system for generating electricity from the very generous Spanish sunshine.

Before we bought the property:

And after our efforts:

The worst place was the en-suite bathroom. It was dark and sported an unfinished concrete bath. It seems it was built as an after-thought, as underneath the sides were tiles on the wall. As we already have a bath in the other upstairs bathroom we wanted a nice, generously proportioned walk-in shower. So the bath had to go. Nigel painstakingly chipped away at it and carried bucketfuls of rubble out. Then the floor and walls had to be smoothed out, plastered and tiled. It isn’t everybody’s dream bathroom, but for us it is a great achievement and it reminds me of the Gaudi-style. Why straight and even if you can play with form and colour? I even refreshed and painted up some tiles for the skirting board and these complete the look.



Our brand-new doors upstairs are now also painted and we had our first B&B guests, Bego, a very talented photographer who was here to take pictures of the ‘Saca de las Yeguas’, running of the mares (more about that in the next blog), and a very young couple.

Next up is my friend from Berlin with her two young sons, so this is holiday time and fun after all the intense time of work, frustrations and difficulties to get everything together.