Spain on horseback
Horses have been man's trusted companions for transportation, for working the land and assisting in battle through the course of history. The horse remains an object of admiration and an irreplaceable part of many sports, among them equestrian trekking. Travelling across Spain on horseback allows the visitor to commune with nature and to move across magnificent terrains that have no roadways and are therefore off limits to those who travel by car. In Spain it is possible to trek for days without ever following a paved road.
Spain's equestrian tradition is long and distinguished. The indigenous Asturcón horse of Asturias, marked by a white star on its forehead was prized by the ancient Romans for its power, bravery and agility. To this day in the mountains of rural Asturias and neighboring Galicia you will find horses roaming free on community lands. Once a year roundups take place, festive occasions that are scenes of excitement, music, and good eating. But Spain is also a country of elegant thoroughbreds. Arabian horses were introduced to Spain by the Moors in the seventh century, and are used, among other breeds, in fiestas, for hunting, riding, trekking, and performing, especially at the world renowned Royal School of Equestrian Art in Jerez. Equestrian tourism has become a most popular way to see Spain from a new perspective. Treks may last for just a few hours or they can span several weeks. All regions of Spain are suitable for horse trekking and are equipped to assist those who wish to see the country on horseback. Since the range of climates and terrains in Spain is enormous, the variety of trekking possibilities is limitless. Andalucía, because of its venerable horsebreeding tradition and year-round mild climate, has the most options, from routes through the dunes, pines and deserted beaches of the Coto Doñana wildlife preserve, to trips along the mountain route of Andalucía's dazzling white towns and into the glorious Sierra Nevada and Alpujarra mountains, where isolated villages have a decidedly Moorish flavor. The singular desert of Tabernas in Almería is yet another option. Northern Castile is also popular for recreational riding, especially along trails that take you into the majestic mountains of Gredos and others that follow spectacular river gorges in the province of Segovia. In the region of Extremadura the Route of the Conquistadors goes through the towns that produced so many of the men who explored America, to the mountain sanctuary of Guadalupe and into the gentle unspoiled La Vera Valley. In Navarra, Aragón and Catalunya spectacularly scenic trails climb into the Pyrenees. Perhaps one of the most traveled routes today for horse trekking is the famous Way of Saint James, which begins at the Pyrenees and crosses all of northern Spain to the shrine of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela.