Every year on the 2nd of May, the town of Caravaca De La Cruz in Murcia, Spain, holds its Wine Horses race, as part of its annual fiestas. This is a major event for the town, where family groups (Pena’s), race their beautifully decorated horses up the hill to the castle. Each Pena produces a intricately embroidered costume for their horse. These are textile works of art, and prizes are given for the best costumes as well as to the horse that completes the course in the fastest time.
The race up the narrow streets of the town, is fast, exciting and thronged with spectators, as well as the 4 runners alongside each horse, each runner wearing the white shirt and distinctive red scarf. There is a separate race for children with their ponies, all wearing miniature versions of the costumes.
If you are visiting the area at other times of the year, you can still experience some of the magic by visiting the Museum of the Wine Horses. Set in a beautifully restored historic house in the Old Town district of Caravaca, the museum explains the history and origins of the race, shows a film about the race itself, and on the upper floors, displays some of the beautiful costumes worn by the horses, past and present. It is well worth a visit, and afterwards, you can walk the path of the race, up the hill, past the statue of runners and horse, to the castle and church which is part of the Santuario de la Vera Cruz. Wonderful views across the landscape can be had from here before descending back to the town and enjoying a lunchtime menu del dia.
The museum website is http://museocaballosdelvino.com – check for opening hours, and there are stairs to get to the upper floor.