Andalusian horses are an ancient and yet modern breed. It is the oldest breed relating to the civilization of Europe. They continue to be a rare breed with only 5641 Andalusian(PRE) horses in the United States, as of June 2003, registered with the International Andalusian and Lusitano Association (IALHA)-see link below. Compare this to the numbers of any other breed such as quarter horses, Arabians and many others horse breeds.
The Andalusian is considered a hotblood. It has fire, courage and ability to work and ease of handling with gentle manners. A stallion is easy in temperament and naturally possesses a willingness to work. He can be handled by anyone.
The ancient Andalusian horse is perhaps several thousand years old. The Spanish horse is called the Andalusian in the United States. The name Andalusian comes from the Arab term for the area of Spain that was originally conquered by the Moors in southern Spain. They named the area al-Andalus. The area is still called Andalusia today. Spain was called Iberia or Hispania according to whomever was ruling. The Romans called modern day Spain "Iberia". Hispania was the term used for the Iberian peninsula during the time of occupation by the Moors.
Since the horse is now bred all over Spain, the Spanish government prefers the title of Pura Raza Española(PRE) horse. The common name here in the USA is still Andalusian.
Probably the original Andalusian dates back to the native Spanish Sorraia horse, equus stenonius, which carries the dominant gene for the subconvex profile, the high trotting action and the close coupled compact body observed in the present-day Spanish ...horse. There was probably some additional blood brought in with the Barb horse. The Moors rode camels and brought no horses to Spain with their invasion.
The Spanish horse has long been praised for its qualities. Mention of the Spanish horse dots the history books everywhere. As a war horse the Spanish horse was even mentioned by the Greeks as being without equal. Xenophon, a famous equestrian and Greek cavalry officer, praised the Iberian horse as "gifted Iberian horses...." The Iberian horse is mentioned in the Iliad by Homer written around 1100BC. All the kings of France, from Francis I to Louis XVI, were painted on Spanish horses. Robert of Bellême, son of the luckless Mabel and one of the foremost barons of the Anglo Saxon realm, imported horses from Spain.
William the Conqueror rode an Andalusian during the Battle of Hastings in 1066. El Cid, the national hero of Spain, rode an Andalusian by the name of Babieca. Julius Caesar, Hannibal and Richard I also rode Spanish horses
The Andalusian forms approximately 80% of the bloodlines of all modern breeds including the Quarter Horse, Cleveland Bay, Appaloosa, Lippizan, Welsh Cob, Irish Draught, Connemara, Mustang, Kladruber, Friesian, Neopolitan, Dutch Gelderland, Hanoverian, Holstein, Fredericksborg and others.
The Lippizans were a cross between the native horse of Austria with Andalusian stallions The Archduke Charles of Austria in 1582,the brother of King Felipe II a.k.a. Philip II, was given nine stallions and 24 mares as a gift to be taken to southern Austria to start the Lippizan breed.
One of the supreme masters of classical equitation, M. de la Guérinière, whose methods are still in use at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna stated that "....the Spanish Horse is better than any other horse because of its agility, its resilience and the distension of its rhythmic movements...the best of all horses for the manege, by reason of their agility, their strength and the natural cadence of their gait: and for war on a day of battle because of their courage and obedience."
The thoroughbred horse was established through the infusion of the twelve imported Spanish mares sent to James I(James VI of Scotland).
The cross of an Andalusian with a Quarter Horse produces the national horse of Mexico- the Azteca.
The modern Andalusian horse was created when King Felipe II(Philip II) decided to create the perfect horse as described in many previous classical texts dating back to Xenophon (430BC).
The horse had to be noble as the horse was to be for the use of kings. The horse was meant to be beautiful to meet the standards for the baroque period of time in the seventeenth century. Last, but certainly not least, the horse must have high movement to further enhance the rider and to perform the classical baroque high school movements such as piaffe and passage-then, and now, still popular.
Spanish studs plus some Barb studs were used to re-establish the breed. Later, some Arab stock was also added. Now, the Arab portion is being bred back out of the breed because of the flat or reverse facial characteristics, among others.
Córdoba was selected as the place to establish the Royal Stables.. A Spanish stud book was started which was possibly the first major project in history to establish physical and psychological characteristics for any breed. The Andalusian was restricted in export to any country until the 1960s.
In the book "El Caballo Español" by Juan Carlos Altamirano he states that "Similarly , when the perfect horse was described in antiquity, it was said to possess the characteristics which the Spanish breed has at present. From the times of Classical Greece to those of the Caliphate in Córdoba and the creation of the Spanish horse is the 16th century, the morphology that was sought corresponds to that of the present-day Spanish horse." 2
It is a well balanced horse psychologically. The horse was designed with a short back, strong loins, able to move off quickly from a standstill(as they needed to do so in the bullring), stop quickly and change direction. The Spanish Andalusian has a capacity for lightning acceleration and yet stopping dead in his tracks. It is compact, square built horse with high elevation. They are agile, tough and very noble with a generous spirit and a superb talent for collection. They have an abundant mane and tail. Most Andalusian horses are gray, less are bay and the least number of Andalusian horses are black.
The Andalusian is a hardy animal with the ability to withstand a severe climate and to do well on a poor diet. The Andalusian tolerates hard work without complaint and yet has a high level of fertility. They have exceptional courage with true collection- a collection that to a great extent is naturally inbred into the horse. There is a natural grace and beauty in this horse. The head and neck are heavier than those of an Arab or the Thoroughbred.. The ears create a perfect curve with the tips rounded off and pointing slightly forward. The mane and tail are luxuriant and naturally thick and silky.
"Sire. It is only proper that Your Majesty, as the greatest King in Christendom, should learn to ride on the most perfect horse in Europe."
The Duke of Newcastle said of the Andalusian that it is "it is the noblest horse in the world, the most beautiful that can be. He is of great spirit and of great courage and docile: hath the proudest trot and the best action in his trot, the loftiest gallop, and is the lovingest and gentlest horse, and fittest of all for a king in his day of triumph".
Links: International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association (IALHA)- http://www.ialha.org. Phone number: 205-995-8900.
1. “The Origins of the Spanish and Portuguese Horse” by Holly B. Kilburn, Conquistador Magazine PP 22-28
2.El Caballo Español- La Evolución de su morfología.The Spanish Horse- The Evolution of its morphology) , Juan Carlos Altamirano Macarrón., Malaga 2000, page 106.