The Spanish Death Ride, Valencia 2008

COMUNIDAD/// Cabalgata de homenaje a Jaume I   A bit of a blast from the past – but I stumbled upon the pictures and realised tat I hadn’t blogged about this ‘traumatic experience’ yet; ( mostly because back then I did not have a blog…) Anyway, the story…  The event was set up to re-create the famous civic parade that took place in 1428,celebrating the visit of king James I. Griffin Historical  were  given the mammoth task of organizing  it and supplying riders and ground crew. Over 80 riders and support crew were flown from different parts of Europe – England, the Netherlands, Poland,  etc – and the cavalcade itself  counted over twelve hundred people in total, all in medieval gear… We arrived the day before the event  – most of us were picked up at the airport and deposited in two major hostels in Valencia’s Old Town.  Many of us knew one another quite well – from past events, jousting circle, and other historical and equestrian backgrounds, ( I also brought a friend from my  ECW regiment – not everybody had medieval kit, but many people shared what they had in order to get the look). We just had time enough to go for a walk, admire some fireworks and visit a few tapas bars… DSC00722 DSC00731

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practicing before the event…. on little wooden horses…

The next morning we all breakfasted, assembled  and were briefed, then the kit was sorted out – we put on our hose, chemises, doublets, boots etc… And since I was a bloke for this event,  Griff  placed me in a nice padded gambeson, hiding my womanly flesh, and I got a nice piece of headgear too…. DSC00738   Can you see that it is a woman hiding in there? 🙂 DSC00737 A perfect disguise… Then  it was time to do some dry training, (not mounted). The  folks who were to ride in full armour had arrived a few days earlier and practiced with the horses, so they had a vague idea of what to expect – there were 15 fully harnessed knights, quite a sight! The rest of us were blissfully ignorant, but we had fun discovering our duties… Like marching up in down the training grounds, with long pikes, practicing formations… n796310536_4391791_2308   After hours of that, we had a quick break ( siesta!) and  then it was time….. In the centre a huge tent was erected – huge to house about 100 horses and people…. and that’s where we waited…   n1127359090_30157280_7190   and waited some more…. n1127359090_30157278_6584   …and then suddenly it was time to meet the horses and mount up.   Yeeesss, about that…….

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After initial panic, we were shown the proper mounts…

It turned out that quite a few of the supplied mounts that were brought in were supplied by third parties – from outside of the town. Indeed , as I learnt later, many of them were seeing a town for the first time ever – and it was quite evident. They were lovely horses – many of them stallions, many spooked by the unfamiliar surroundings. It didn’t help that many of the riders were beginners, too – since all we had to do was to sit and walk,  no trotting or cantering,  Griff’s team had to match their abilities to the horses. As it happened, I was busy helping people to mount up, and when the time arrived  for me to get a pony, there were only two left in the tent – a nice chestnut and a lovely gray. There were three people standing next to the chestnut, and none with the gray – good, I thought! so I grabbed the handsome beast and led him out.  Only to learn the reason why he was left alone –  once outside, he completely freaked out, rearing and panicking, impossible to mount up. Nicky, ( who was doing a sterling job of organizing the mounting chaos and helping folks out), just looked and told me to forget it, he won’t do, sorry, I will have to walk. Well, I didn’t fly all the way there to just to walk! In the end, Nick led the horse toward me, standing on a mounting block, and I sort of jumped on en route… and then the fireworks started… After a few hairy moments  of dancing, prancing etc, the horse calmed down and was ok 🙂 n1127359090_30157286_9053   Everybody was mounted and we slowly started making progress towards the start of the cavalcade… the steps first though… 2   In the meantime, the weather took a turn for the worse – it started to rain… As a result, ( I think), we were not given any pikes to hold; ( I was very grateful for that, the moment I saw the narrow alleys and slippery cobbles)… Immediately after we started,  problems started to pop up –  there is no Health and Safety over there, it seems – the public was just next to us, next to the slipping, kicking, biting stallions, and bless them, ( the public, not particularly the stallions), they were fearless, especially the kids. Everybody wanted to pat the horses…  Our ground crew, both Griff’s staff and local folk were a great help – trying to calm don panicked horses, shield the public from the riders, and calm down the riders who suddenly decided that it wasn’t their idea of fun and wanted off, now. My horse was doing OK, despite shying and prancing a bit, he wasn’t rearing and bit my  support crew bloke only once – So I felt reasonably safe on board. The bloke in question, a weathered chap of about 60, named Jose was not only helpful, but talkative and  so we struck a conversation in my halting Spanish.  He was the source of my information about where the horses came from, ( mostly farms and gypsy encampments, according to him), and  about the festival.

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here I am, on my pretty gray pony – he did turn out ok in the end:-)

For me the cavalcade was proving fairly uneventful – stressful, yes, but not nerve wracking. Others were not so lucky… The rain meant the ground was very, very slippery – be prepared, some disturbing photos below.  Just let me say that none of the horses were injured in their falls, ( a miracle, surely!) and the riders escaped mostly  unscathed too 🙂 1223576377137 1223576377227 1223623987888   It does look awful –  but all the horses who fell, did get up and continued the parade. They did not even panic, bless them. Apart from a couple incidents like these, it  all went fine… 0070 0035 0022 1223576308746 COMUNIDAD/// Cabalgata de homenaje a Jaume I 1223580919773__t3a3889 1223581828964__t3a4029   The cavalcade was cut about an hour short due to the deteriorating weather conditions, so we missed the fireworks (just as well), and made our way back to the tent, where we dismounted, (many with an audible sight of relief!) We thanked our mounts and left them with their carers/owners… Duty done, time to party  – well, at least food was first on the agenda, we were starved! There was some entertainment too:

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Armour makes a great drumming instrument…. for many drummers it seems!

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a tad wet… I got even wetter later ( if that was possible) bu disappearing into a flooded manhole – only my reflexes saved me from disappearing for good – but fortunately i managed to spread my arm s wide and grab the edges, and the guys dragged me out. next day we wet to see what it was – it turned out there were some serious roadworks going there, and during the day the site was covered by planks… i guess the food carried off the plans and there was no indication that the street was dug up, especially when you are going knee deep in rainwater….

In in the meantime the weather turned to be of the ‘tropical downpour’ variety… n796310536_4391797_4264   We had to make our way back to the hostels – needless to say we were drenched…. DSC00739   The hostels were flooded too, but nothing we couldn’t deal with 🙂 but all evening party plans, ( we were going to hit a salsa club or two),  were cancelled. The city was flooded too, the streets turned into rivers, cars being swept away – and so hostel based entertainment had to suffice, ( chatting mostly and reliving the experiences of the day). The next  day dawned clear and most of the flooded drained away overnight – so I ended up on a romantic walk around the old town, then back to the hostel to check out. Our flight  was in the evening , so  our small party had some time for sightseeing –  we ended up admiring the town, drying our  clothes,  eating, resting, buying Valencian lace (me, mostly…), and socializing.  The flight back was uneventful – though  there were some scenes of distress at the weighting in of the luggage – water soaked gambeson weighs much, much more than a dry one…. Some paid up the price, some wore theirs on the flight…   The whole event was, well, ‘interesting’ is a mild way of putting it! It was stressful,  exhilarating, scary,  and fun –  and I would do it again!  Alas,  it  was a one off, it seems. Still, that 2 hours of a walking taught me a lot about horse riding, dealing with stress, wet surfaces, public etc – so some learning took  place 🙂   Hope you enjoyed reading the bit – I enjoyed re-living it again!   P.S. the pictures of the cavalcade were taken off the news websites shortly after the event – if any of you know the sources, photographers etc, I would appreciate help with tracing them back 🙂

One thought on “The Spanish Death Ride, Valencia 2008

  1. We live in Spain and are very aware of the lack of health and safety for most Spanish events like this, they rely on the common sense of the participants and in spite of what you might think disastors of the h&s kind are very rare. Sad that it rained for you, the Spanish do know how to put on a party… even if it always starts late.

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