Tientas in Ávila at the Ranch of Andrés Hernando

My sister Maria arrived early in the morning at the Madrid Barajas airport. I was with two friends, Joe and Ken from Scotland and California, respectively, in a rented VW. Our plan was to pick her up in the AM and immediately travel for an hour and a half to the countryside bordering the city of Ávila. Pass Ávila on the Renfe train and you’ll immediately recognize the great, intact medieval city walls enclosing an old town center. I never got a chance to explore within Ávila’s walls, but I admired from a distance on several occasions. We were headed for the bull ranch of the ganadero Andrés Hernando, but didn’t get on the road until Joe and Ken sorted out the details of a minor parking lot collision that occurred while I was hunting down my sister. Apparently, a gentleman from the Vietnamese embassy who spoke neither English nor Spanish backed into our rental and left quite the dent on the passenger door. Once I found my sister, Joe and Ken were filling out some paperwork and said that the damage would not be a serious issue.

At the ranch, we met up with Santiago Naranjo, and picked out four vacas that we’d be fighting that afternoon. This tienta was a great opportunity to put my month’s worth of training with the school in Jerez and with Santiago and Juanito in Madrid to practice.

I’ll hold off on the details of each animal, except by saying that my third cow that I caped on the first day was very weak and therefore had to be managed in a particular manner – with a soft, smooth toque (the shake of the cape and vocal call that incites the animal to charge) and I had to run my hand higher than normal and get distance between each pass before starting another one. With a strong, aggresive animal, you can complete a pass with a turn at the wrist and hips, pivot, leave your cape out in front of you, and be set up for the next pass without ever getting any distance. This animal, however, required certain changes in order to accommodate it’s physical characteristics. It was amazing to watch and to feel how well Santiago’s advice worked. After talking with David White about the day’s training, I realized the importance of getting in front of as many different animals as possible to know how to correct or to treat certain characteristics. With his increase in opportunities to torear recently, he has realized that despite his extensive experience for an aficionado turned torero, he needs even more of it to torear with greater technical consistency.

Here are some photos from both afternons:

relaxed high passes with the 3rd vaca

Day 2

Though Maria is not an aficionada, she seemed to enjoy herself on the ranch and was simply very understanding throughout the whole trip. I had to interpret for her with nearly everyone we met, and despite nearly overdosing on bullfighting related experiences, she had a wonderful time. She even did a pass with in front of a vaca holding the cape with Santiago on the second day in Ávila. She took a spill, but was fine! The fall had all of us pretty nervous! Once she got up with a smile on her face I knew she was okay.

After the second day, we packed our things, loaded up the cars, and had a much appreciated meal in the salon, which displayed various bull’s heads as well as Maestro Hernando’s collection of taurine posters and photographs from his days as a young, successful matador. The meal was a delicious, traditional Colombian dish with chicken and rice. Wine and beer were also served and were the perfect nourishment for an intense afternoon of a tienta. We were also joined by a Colombian picador, Luisín, as well as several longtime friends of Maestro Hernando who had joined us for the tienta.

From Ávila, Maria and I spent another afternoon in Madrid and prepared to head to Salamanca to meet Juan del Álamo, the young torero who was at the time preparing to take his alternativa (the rite of passage bullfight in which he officially owns the title of matador de toros). My plans to meet him through coordinating with his manager and peña taurina (essentially his fan base back in Salamanca) were fruitful, and Maria and I were welcomed into the Salamanca taurine community with open arms. More on that, as well as the imminent debut of Jose Monje – a torero I interviewed from the Jerez school – soon!


  1. This is really interesting. I think that the detail you put in each one of your blogs, is just enough for the readers to create a clear picture in our minds. Though I have never done it myself, bull fighting is a very intense and thrilling sport. I’m glad you got to experience it first hand, and I can’t wait to hear more great stories from you. Good job!