The War Horses Come to Devon in Peace

On the 19th July 1588, 436 years ago, Andalusian war horses from Córdoba would have been on the Spanish Armada. It was first spotted off the coast of Cornwall from Plymouth Hoe in Devon, by Sir Francis Drake, full story below. 

In August 2023, horses from the Royal Stables of Córdoba once agai came to Devon. It was the first ever UK visit of horses from the Royal Stables, but this time they came in peace, as friends to star in The Festival of the Iberian Horse at Westpoint Arena, Exeter. 

In a bizarre twist of fate, due to cancelled flights, the riders and dancers had to hot hoof it all the way across Spain, then take an overnight ferry, to travel overnight, with no cabins to arrive in Plymouth not Bristol as was planned. The horses were already safely here.   Amusingly, they were briefly held in Plymouth customs, until customs were told in no uncertain terms they were very important guests and due to be interviewed by Spotlight in 2 hours time! They were soon in Exeter and reunited with their horses. 

The first ever performance in the UK of horses from The Royal Stables of Cordoba's at Westpoint was absolutely spectacular, in a state of the art, high end production.  It was a moment all of Devon can be proud of, a home grown, but now World Class show making history!  Devon loved them, and they loved it so much, this August once, again they return.  There's authentic Spanish and Portuguese food, Flamenco, shopping and so much more. You can Buy Tickets here

The flags of Andalusia and Devon are the same colours and we are very proud to fly them side by side in celebration of the horses, art and culture of Spain and Portugal.   Perhaps Devon and Andalusia should be twinned!?

The Royal Stables of Córdoba and the Spanish Armada

The Caballerizas Reales de Córdoba) were created in 1570, by decree of King Felipe II.  He wanted to create a cradle for the purebred Spanish horse, and to "breed sturdy horses for the service of the Royal House".  The King invested enormous sums of money from the state treasury, so determined he was to create and protect the ultimate horse for riding and for warfare. The very best mares and stallions were selected from local provinces along the Guadalquivir river.

From far earlier times, the Spanish horse was revered by the Romans, Kings and Queens and the military the World over,  but with the King’s vision, Córdoba became the Royal Stables and the cradle of the pure blood Spanish horse as we know it today (now referred to as the PRE the Pure Raza Espánola).  Still today horses in Córdoba carry very ancient bloodlines treasured and preserved with huge love and pride.  

Alongside the development of the Royal stables, for nearly 20 years King Felipe was planning and preparing, and in 1588, the Spanish Armada set sail with the intention to overthrow the Protestant Queen Elizabeth and re-establish Catholic rule.  This was a year behind schedule due to an attack on Cadiz by Sir Francis Drake in 1587 known as the "Singeing of the Spanish King's Beard" as featured in the amazing image below. Clearly here Drake riding an Andalusian. 

La Felicissima Armada  “the most fortunate fleet” was the largest ever seen at the time, made up of around 150 ships, many thousands of men, and of course, Horses. Some or indeed many of these horses would undoubtedly have come from the home of the King’s stables.

On 19th July 1588 Captain Thomas Fleming in the Golden Hind glimpsed the Armada through the swirling morning mist off the Lizard.  He travelled immediately to Devon to inform Sir Francis Drake who was famously playing Bowls on Plymouth Hoe.  Beacons were also lit signalling the arrival of the Armada.  Battle commenced, ‘El Draque’ as the Spanish called him, and the Queen’s Navy pushed the Spanish back with their lower and faster boats. For 8 days they battled before the Spanish were forced out into the North Sea. 

Much of the fleet sank off the coast of Ireland, a few did make it back to Spain. Some of those horses made it ashore and were crossed with Irish horses, there is no mistaking a little glint in the eye, a high stepping action in some Irish Draft horses that absolutely brings to mind the horses of Spain.

So here we are, and once again horses from Córdoba will return to Devon.  War horses they were, but now, they come peacefully, travelling not in a galleon, but in the finest carriages from John Parker International to arrive safe and rested.  You can see them at Westpoint at the Festival of the Iberian Horse, where they will showcase the incredible heritage and culture of the Royal School of Córdoba in a dazzling star studded production.

Buy your tickets here