Craft / April 2019

The Art of Doma Vaquera

Photographer Simon Lipman takes us on a visual journey to Andalusia, where he captured the elegance and splendour of the horses and their handlers at the Royal Andalusian Riding School.

Earlier this year, photographer Simon Lipman took a trip to Andalusia in Spain, armed with a camera and a bag full of film. Here he paid visit to the Royal Andalusian Riding School (the Real Escuela), a place renowned the world over for its show 'How the Andalusian Horses Dance', as well as its training of Haute École riders and the continuation and preservation of Spain's traditional style of horse riding, known as Doma Vaquera. While at the school, he captured a series of documentary-style photographs displaying the art of the performance as well as portraits of the horses with the riders in their iconic regalia.

Here, he talks us through his experience and the story behind this body of work:

"I've always been fascinated by traditional Spanish culture, so the cowboys of the Doma Vaquera in particular were the perfect focal point for this project. Initially it was very difficult to gain access to this most private of institutions in the heart of Jerez De La Frontera, Andalusia. The town itself has an illustrious past of horse rearing and equestrian culture. When you enter the outskirts, upon first impressions, it seems desolate, industrial - hardly the place where you would expect to find an oasis of culture that one experiences on entrance to the grounds of the Real Escuela.

Their uniforms are meant to be completely practical and are made from materials and fabrics that can withstand extremely harsh, arid conditions. Each one is designed with differences based on the environment they are working in. The visual effect seems somehow to have been designed for pomp and ceremony - like a British Soldier's ceremonial dress - not for the wild, dusty, desert-like conditions of the plains and mountains of Spain.

The Vaqueros themselves are distinctly proud men. They have an aura and grace to their movements that is reflective of their surroundings. This was certainly the case when I was photographing them alone... Whilst polite and patient, it is easy to mistake their temperament for arrogance. It is at the moment they begin to interact with their own horses that one witnesses the deeper understanding of their innate passion, and what shapes them as men. They are completely at one with their steeds. Its like an unspoken communication that defies the chaos of their surroundings."

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Aobh O'Brien-Moody

Editorial Assistant at The Rake