Rockets tore through the sky, church bells peeled and pigeons erupted from their baskets. It was a wake up call for horses, sheep, goats and foals not to mention the thousands of locals and tourists that had converged on La Caleta in Costa Adeje to honour San Sebastian. Up to that point the Tenerife morning and early afternoon had been relaxed and reflective, the horses and foals were racked up in their shady makeshift paddock, their toughest decision being which side of their head and neck to offer up for stroking and pampering by their adoring public.
The goats and sheep had their own fan club gathered around their pens, young hands reaching over to offer them little morsels as cameras clicked steadily. Between the sea of stalls selling food and souvenirs thirsty visitors formed small islands around tables as the beer and wine started to flow. The dedicated worshippers were crammed into the church and in good voice as the sermon and hymns were broadcast outward from the bell towers via the speakers. Even deep in prayer they could hardly fail to catch the aroma of paella, meats and spices on the stalls that hugged all sides of the church, there were outside pews for everyone and they would still be there after jumping up for a little dance.
Preparations had begun for the parade. Some horses trotted along the road to get their legs working while riders posed for family photos and swigged a few late beers. The horses back in the paddock were getting a little restless and raking the ground with their hooves. Some riders were more adventurous than others riding side saddle or even taking a standing bow on horseback and young family members hitched a pre parade ride with their parents. Once the church bells were ringing saddles were slung into position and all the horses and carts filed onto the road and set off towards the beach,
Every vantage point possible was taken as holiday makers hung out of windows and balconies in the luxury hotels. The horses were frisky and playful trotting and posing for the crowds that lined the route. The keener followers kept pace with the parade leaders nimbly avoiding the newly deposited obstacles in their path. As the slip road turned into sand the horses gathered pace and raced down to the shore and through the sea that was lapping strongly on the shingle beach. A massive crowd had gathered and pressed in on all sides but with police allowing plenty of free room for the horses they were able to splash happily through the waves. Cart wheels made their own way through the churning water and smaller foals skipped along the edges not sure quite what to make of all the fuss.
The climax of the early afternoon fun came when the statue of San Sebastian carried shoulder high cut a swathe through the packed beach top to be blessed at the waters edge. As the horses and riders shook off the last drops and headed back to their paddock the crowds began to melt away, many of them picking their way slowly down from their grandstand perches. The boats just off the shore carried on their way and the music and dancing started afresh back at the plaza by the church.