Andalusian pure breed horses are truly elegent, athletic and intelligent animals, and are iconic of the culture here, so it was a real pleasure this morning to visit a stud farm.
Rafael Tejada, a Ronda bullfighter has established a new stud and bull rearing estate, ‘Reserva de Tauro’ , near Ronda and on our last morning with Toma Tours, we were given the opportunity to see the ranch first hand.
Rafael’s estate not only specialises in the breeding of beautiful, elegant thoroughbred Andalusian horses but also bulls for fighting.
I know from my earlier post on bullfighting just how emotive and sensitive this issue is for many of us. Yet, a visit to this estate really helps give a better understanding of the culture and approach taken by Andalucia’s horse and bull breeders.
‘Reserva de Tauro’ is a beautiful estate, set amongst ancient oak trees. The property is relatively new, having just celebrated its first year in business, but the design of the ranch is classic Andalusian with a class and style that is really appealing.
Rafael Tejada is a modest man; he has a relatively small frame, but he’s athletic and muscular. Once he has his ‘capote’ in his hands, (his coloured cape), he moves with a graceful, determined motion. And when he’s talking about his animals he becomes animated and engaged.
As a guest of Toma Tours on this private estate tour, one gets ‘VIP’ treatment which included a private lunch with Rafael Tejada.
There is a small bullring, called a ‘plaza de tientas’ used to work with the bulls and get a feel of their personality and behaviour. The earth in the ring is the classic Andalusian yellow sand, called ‘albero’. It’s a material that used to be used throughout Andalucía, especially in Seville and Malaga provinces as a paint pigment so that’s why so many homes and properties have that distinctive yellow colour around windows and doorways.
Our guide explained that aficionados, when watching a fight on TV, can tell in which part of Spain the fight is by the colour of the arena. ‘Arena’ is Spanish for sand, and distinctive yellow coloured sand in the ring is typically Andalusian; a dark colour would indicate say Bilbao etc..
Traditional building techniques have been used throughout the estate including the ancient art of dry stone walling, so the whole ranch sits comfortably within its natural setting.
The approach to rearing fighting bulls appears thoughtful and natural. I am not attempting to justify bullfighting, but I think it is interesting to note that the treatment of animals in a farm for food production appears to be far inferior to the conditions on this estate. Here calves stay with their mother’s throughout the natural cycle; they live outdoors all year round in large, protected spaces and they eat well. A fighting bull might fetch 8,000 to 12,000 euro, so the financial pressures here are different to commercial animal breeding and farming for food production.
One also has the opportunity to see the huge, French horses used for training when fighting with bulls.
These heavy horses wear armour during the training, and later in the real fights it is the agile and intelligent pure bred Andalusian horses that partner with the bullfighter.
Toma Tours arranged for us to meet Rafael, see him herd bulls and also spend time with him in his stables, and walking in his pastures with his elegant thoroughbred Andalusian horses.
He is a quiet, understated person that clearly loves animals, so it was interesting to see photos of him in a bullfight, dressed in his ‘suit of lights’ and ready for action – such a contrast. He told us stories including how he and the crowd once spared the life of a bull, because it fought so graciously.
Bullfighting is a culture I cannot fully appreciate but a morning at this estate was a truly memorable experience.
Visiting ‘Reserva de Taro’, a classic Andalusian Estate, with Toma Tours.