From the first to the fifth of May, Caravaca De la Cruz dresses up to enjoy its festival in honour of the Santísima y Vera Cruz de Caravaca. As main part of this festivity, the outstanding celebration of Wine Horses takes place during the two first days. It has been declared of International Tourist Interest.
Apart from that, parades, battles of Moors and Christians and religious events, such as the rite of the Bath of the Cross, are celebrated.
Origin of the Wine Horses
According to History, at some time during the 13th Century the villagers of Caravaca, together with the Knights Templars had to seek refugee in the castle of the town because they were besieged by the muslims. At one point the water supply became contaminated and they were forced to leave the castle to look for fresh supplies. They couldn´t find any, but they found some wine. They loaded the wine into wineskins and onto horses and without delay raced back to the castle. On their return a miracle happened: the wine was blessed in the presence of the Cross of Caravaca and when it was given to the people who had become ill through drinking the contaminated water, they recovered. The wine was then mixed with the tainted water and it became drinkable!.
How the Wine Horses Festival is celebrated
On the first day of the festival, horses are paraded through the streets of the town without any adornment to show off their natural beauty. This event is called “Caballos a Pelo” (Hair Horses). Each horse belongs to a peña (a group of villagers who join forces to celebrate the festival together), and each peña is accompanied by its own brass brand.
In the early hours of the second of May, the horses are magnificently bedecked for the next day race. Splendid mantles embroidered in silk and gold threads are prepared during the whole year in preparation for this festivity.
In the morning, the “peñas” parade again with their horses beautifully adorned. As the day before the town is full of people, horses, music and fiesta.
Although it appears that two races are held, only one counts for the contest, the one celebrated on the slope of the castle (the Medieval Castle of Santa Cruz). The unusual here is that four young men have to run together with the horse without ever releasing their hold so as not to be disqualified. There are prizes not only for the quickest horses, but also for the most beautiful and for the best dressed ones.
This may be a unique event in the world. It is an astonishing fiesta full of colour, beauty and tradition. You shouldn´t miss it, this festival is certainly worth it.
More info about the festival: http://murciatoday.com/running-of-the-wine-horses-caravaca-de-la-cruz_2816-a.html
Info about the legend of the Holy Cross: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caravaca_de_la_Cruz