The chosen few get out of bed at dawn on May 2 to start preparations for what is the most important date in the calendar in the town of Caravaca de la Cruz, in southeastern Spain.

Amid yawns, but with plenty of enthusiasm, they take their time plaiting the mane and tail of their horse. Then they toss over it a caparison, or cloak, which has been embroidered by hand over the previous year.

These are the men picked to represent their troupe in the annual fiesta called “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses.

In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, members of the
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, members of the “Terry” troupe and their richly decorated horse Rociero make their way amid the crowd during the “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

“For a lot of people the Running of the Wine Horses is one day a year. For me, it’s all 365 days,” says Antonio Torres, as he braids Rociero, a Spanish pure breed.

At 7 a.m., fires are lighted to announce to locals and tourists that the festivities are about to begin.

Thousands of people gather on the slopes of the town’s Knights Templar castle, where the tradition is played out.

In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, Antonio Torres braids the tail of Rociero, a Spanish pure breed that he hopes can win the competition for best cloak during the annual fiesta called
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, Antonio Torres braids the tail of Rociero, a Spanish pure breed that he hopes can win the competition for best cloak during the annual fiesta called “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Nobody knows how much of the story behind the event is fact, how much myth.

Part of the mixed Moorish and Christian celebrations that are so typical of Spain, the Running of the Wine Horses recalls the perilous horse ride with which the Templars purportedly broke the Muslim siege of the local castle by bringing in provisions, in the middle of the 13th century.

The rules of the modern competition are simple. Four men in black pants, white shirts and red scarves run alongside their horse, hanging onto it for dear life as it gallops up the steep dirt road to the castle, covering 80 meters (88 yards) as crowds press in and then part to make way.

In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, Antonio Torres and Niky Alcazar braid the mane of Rociero, a Spanish pure breed that they hope can win the competition for best cloak during the annual fiesta called
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, Antonio Torres and Niky Alcazar braid the mane of Rociero, a Spanish pure breed that they hope can win the competition for best cloak during the annual fiesta called “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Some men trip and fall, others can’t keep up with the sprint. Some horses are jumpy and hard to control. Some of the young men in the race are gripped by nerves. Minor injuries are not uncommon.

Standing on a platform with a microphone in hand, Jose Antonio “Zaram” — known as the voice of the “Caballos del Vino” — announces to the crowd “Caballo en carrera” (Horse on the track).

All four men have to reach the top to stand a chance of winning the title and the admiration of the people. Participating in the event is a family tradition, and troupes are longtime rivals.

In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, Juan Antonio Sanchez prepares ornaments for Rociero, a Spanish pure breed during the annual fiesta called
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, Juan Antonio Sanchez prepares ornaments for Rociero, a Spanish pure breed during the annual fiesta called “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

“Coming first is something that is impossible to put into words. It’s a feeling that anyone from Caravaca de la Cruz dreams of from a young age,” says Juan Antonio Sánchez, a member of the “Terry” troupe alongside Torres.

There are 58 runs this year, and it is the penultimate one that produces the winner: the “Calimocho” troupe with its mare Bulería.

In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, members of the troupe
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, members of the troupe “Terry,” dress Rociero, a Spanish pure breed during the annual fiesta called “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. Part of the mixed Moorish and Christian celebrations which are so typical of Spain, the Running of the Wine Horses recalls the perilous horse ride with which the Templars broke the Muslim siege of the local castle by bringing in provisions, purportedly in the middle of the 13th century. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a member of the troupe
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a member of the troupe “Terry,” holds a valuable caparison, or cloak, which was embroidered by hand over the previous year, to be used as dress for Rociero, a Spanish pure breed during the annual fiesta called “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, Antonio Torres, center, and Juan Antonio Sánchez, right, look at Rociero, a Spanish pure breed that they hope can win the competition for best cloak during the annual fiesta called
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, Antonio Torres, center, and Juan Antonio Sánchez, right, look at Rociero, a Spanish pure breed that they hope can win the competition for best cloak during the annual fiesta called “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, Rociero, a Spanish pure breed and contestant for best cloak during the annual fiesta called
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, Rociero, a Spanish pure breed and contestant for best cloak during the annual fiesta called “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. At the Running of the Wine Horses in southeast Spain, men dash alongside their richly decorated horses up to the local castle. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, detail of an embroidered cloak atop Rociero, a Spanish pure breed and contestant for best cloak during the annual fiesta called
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, detail of an embroidered cloak atop Rociero, a Spanish pure breed and contestant for best cloak during the annual fiesta called “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe and their richly decorated horse make their way amid the crowd during the
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe and their richly decorated horse make their way amid the crowd during the “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a horse and entrant of
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a horse and entrant of “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses, wait in downtown for the start of the competition in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The rules of the competition are simple. Four men in black trousers, white shirts and red scarves run alongside their horse, hanging on to it for dear life as it gallops up the steep dirt road to the castle, covering 80 meters as crowds press in and then part to make way. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, troupes race during the
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, troupes race during the “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe try to control their richly decorated horse during the
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe try to control their richly decorated horse during the “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe and their richly decorated horse make their way amid the crowd during the
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe and their richly decorated horse make their way amid the crowd during the “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe and their richly decorated horse make their way amid the crowd during the
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe and their richly decorated horse make their way amid the crowd during the “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe falls down while their horse make its way amid the crowd during the
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe falls down while their horse make its way amid the crowd during the “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe falls celebrates their timing race during the
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a troupe falls celebrates their timing race during the “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. The annual fiesta is said to date from the 13th century when the Knights Templar broke a siege. The colorful spectacle draws thousands of tourists. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a member of the troupe falls down during the
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, a member of the troupe falls down during the “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. Four men in black trousers, white shirts and red scarves run alongside their horse, hanging on to it for dear life as it gallops up the steep dirt road to the castle, covering 80 meters as crowds press in and then part to make way. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, the
In this Thursday, May 2, 2019 photo, the “Calimocho” troupe celebrates after scoring the best time during the “Los Caballos del Vino,” usually translated as the Running of the Wine Horses in Caravaca de la Cruz, southeast Spain. Part of the mixed Moorish and Christian celebrations which are so typical of Spain, the Running of the Wine Horses recalls the perilous horse ride with which the Templars broke the Muslim siege of the local castle by bringing in provisions, purportedly in the middle of the 13th century. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

View more: