About Spanish HorsesAbout Spanish Horses

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 Thoroughbred!

Source: New Zealand Rare Breeds (www.rarebreeds.co.nz )

Spanish Horses Associations

International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association - www.ialha.org

The Performance Horse Registry The Performance Horse Registry - www.usef.org

The United States Hunter Jumper Association The United States Hunter Jumper Association - www.ushja.org