The modern day pure Spanish Horse is derived from very ancient
horses whose body shapes are depicted in cave drawings from at least 5000 BC in
both north-eastern and southern regions of Spain. Eventually predominating in the
southern province of Andalucía, they became known as Andalusian horses. However,
the authorities of the Spanish stud book now prefer them to be known as Pura Raza
Española (P.R.E.) or Pure Spanish Horse. There are about 45,000 world-wide.
Andalusian horses are a very beautiful aristocratic horse, with
a lovely arched neck held uprightly on a strong, compact body. The cannons (lower
legs) are short and sturdy. It has a long thick mane and tail, and the predominantly
grey or bay coat has a natural glistening sheen to it. The height varies from 15
to 17 hands (152 to 173 centimeters).
They have a lovely rocking canter and such stamina that its forbears
were reputed to be able to carry a fully armored Spanish soldier for 40 miles (64
kilometers) in a day. Rounded (collected) leg action, a natural athleticism and
high intelligence make them able to master high school dressage movements easily.
For this reason they are also known as “The Dancing Horses”. Powerful hindquarters
and natural balance make them very good and stylish show jumpers too. Their versatility,
strength and responsiveness lends to their ability at many riding and harness driving
disciplines including Western riding, trail riding, bull fighting, making movies,
and plain old hacking!
Andalusians were in the company of Hannibal and his elephants,
and ridden as cavalry horses since the time of the ancient Greeks, but lost favor
during the Middle Ages because heavily armored knights required much larger, more
solid horses for battle. With the invention of firearms in the 1500s, the fortunes
of the Andalusian horses turned and they were once again used in the military. By
royal decree of King Felipe II the horse was standardized between 1567-1593 and
bred selectively to his ideal represented by the horse of today.
With its regal bearing and sociable, kind, and respectful temperament
this horse was a favorite of European royalty and it became known as “The Horse
of Kings”. Many art forms show them being ridden by famous people – the greatness
of the rider being accentuated by the stunning presence of the mount! However, with
less ostentatious display from royal houses during the 1800s Andalusian horses numbers
began to fall.
Andalusian horses are a contributor to many other modern breeds
in both the Old and New Worlds. They were taken along with other breeds by the Spanish
Conquistadores to the Americas from the early 1490s. As the Conquistadores were
mainly from Andalucía, the breeds transported were from there as well, and included
the Spanish Jennet (a gaited horse) and the Barb. The mixing of these horses developed
into many new breeds within varying geographical areas of the New World. The following
are but a few breeds descended from Spanish horse stock: the Criollo of Argentina,
Peruvian Paso, Paso Fino of Puerto Rico and Colombia, Mustang (Spanish Colonial
Horse) of the American mid and western areas, Native American Appaloosa and the
Quarter Horse. In the Old World, in 1580 they became the foundation of the Lipizzaner,
and at least since the 1600s they were used in the development of the Hanoverian,
Holsteiner, Kladruber, Lusitano, Alter Real, Friesians, Oldenburg – and the English
Source: New Zealand Rare Breeds (www.rarebreeds.co.nz