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Pride of the Island: The Menorquín Horse

If you’ve ever taken a summer holiday in Menorca, you know hardly a weekend goes by without a jubilant town fiesta. And the star of the typical Menorcan festival is, without a doubt, the thoroughbred black horses that ride through the streets. Though you may not realise it, these majestic animals are some of the island’s most famous and esteemed natives.

The Menorquín Horse

Defining Characteristics

Indigenous to the island of Menorca, the Menorquín horse is a rare and endangered species, with a total population of just under 3,000 (less than 200 of which live outside the Balearic Islands). A local breeders’ association was founded in 1988 to support the continued existence of this iconic animal.

The Spanish ministry of agriculture has strict breed standards that govern what is and is not a true Menorquín mount. To be registered, the animal must be black with minimal white markings. It averages about 1.60 metres in height with a long body and limbs. Slender but powerful, this horse is well-suited for performing at the summer festivals.

The Doma Menorquina

This proud and elegant creature is closely associated with the traditional Menorcan style of riding called Doma Menorquina. Based on the styles of classical dressage, doma menorquina training begins with the three basic gaits (walk, trot, gallop), then progresses to a Spanish walk, a half pass, flying changes, a piaffe, and then culminates in the walking courbette.

The latter, which you may hear called jaleo during summer festivals, is the manoeuvre for which the Menorquín horse is best known. In this dramatic move, the animal rears onto its hind legs and walks forward. In a crowded town square filled with festival-goers, you’ll be amazed with the agility with which rider and horse can jaleo through the throng! You might even notice people trying to touch the horse’s heart, commonly believed to bring good luck.

Seeing the Menorquín Horse

If you’re keen to catch a glimpse of these black beauties during your holiday in Menorca, your best bet is to check the fiesta schedule of towns close to the villa where you are staying. Fiestas in the two major cities, Mahon and Ciutadella, feature some 150 animals and riders, but several smaller towns such as Es Mercadal, Fornells, Alaior, and Cala en Porter hold their own celebrations throughout the summer as well.


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