The horse of Spain is one of the ancient breeds of the world. It, along with the Arabian and Barb Strains, founded nearly all of the other recognized breeds known today. The Spanish, or Iberian Horse, was well known to the Romans as a superior war horse due to his strength and agility.
Julius Caesar wrote of the noble steeds of Hispania in "Del Bello Gailico." Hannibal used them in his invasion of Italy. Later we read of many of the knights of Richard I mounted on "Airy Spanish Destriers."
The Andalusian as a "breed" dates back to the Moorish Invasion of Spain. The Moors brought with them the fine Barb horses of their homeland. These horses were crossed with the native Iberian horses in an effort to produce a breed that combined the finest points of the two. The Moors were well known to be the most patient and critical horse breeders of their time. Their efforts to develop an unexcelled war horse were continued after the Spanish reclaimed their lands, by the breeders of the Spanish province of Andalusia. The horse that they bred was very sturdy, with a long sloping shoulder, a wide chest, a deep heart, a strong back, a round hind quarter, a well crested neck with a natural arch, and extremely sturdy legs.
The horse was bred with the Spanish flair for style. It carried itself with such style and presence, that it was much sought after by kings and rulers all over the world. ; Because of his strength and agility he became the premier warhorse of Europe and was used in all of Spain's successful conquests. The Spanish horse literally carried Spain to her greatness. In the words of one of the world's most renowned Hippologists, Dr. Ruy D'Andrade of Portugal, "... There should be a great monument to this marvelous horse in Andalusia to glorify and perpetuate his memory... I consider it a duty for the history of Spain that the Spanish horse should be conserved... With his help, Spain achieved her greatness; e.g., in the wars against the Romans, the Moors, Italy, France, Germany, and the conquest of the New World. Without her incomparable 'Caballo Espanol' Spain could not have been victorious, so it is a duty to cherish him, in the same way one protects cathedrals, libraries, armories, paintings, etc., all of these things together form the character and demonstrate the nobility of Spain; better still, of the peninsula..." For thousands of years the Spanish Horse enjoyed the admiration of the world. In the seventeenth century, the Duke of Newcastle wrote in his 1667 manuscript, "New Method and Extraordinary Invention to Dress (Train) Horses. "...The Spanish horse is the noblest horse in the world... and the most beautiful, for he is not so thin and lady-like as the Barb, not so gross as the Neopolitan. He is of great spirit and 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 fitingest of all for a king in a day of triumph... much more intelligent than even the best Italian Horse and for that reason the easiest dressed."
Before the arrival of the celebrated Oriental stallions, the English thoroughbred was already well on its way due to a heavy use of Spanish blood. All over Europe new breeds were being developed and old ones were being improved by the introduction of the famous Spanish horse. Eighty percent of all modern breeds trace at least part of their breeding back to the illustrious horse of Spain. When Europe surged into the New World, the Spanish horse was carried along. The breed has often been called the Great Colonizer." Spain established stock farms in the Carribean and supplied horses to all colonizing countries. For hundreds of years the Spanish horse was the representative of his kind in the Americas. All New World breeds carry his blood. They all owe part of what they are today to what the Andalusian was 500 years ago.
The American Quarter Horse was developed from the Colonial Short Horse, so named because it was unbeatable in a short distance race. The Short horse was none other than the Spanish horse as its development was first recorded at a time when the Spanish Horse was the only breed to be found. However, as English throughbreds were imported, they were often crossed with these Short Horses. This mixing of blood produced most of the modern North American breeds including the Quarter Horse, Morgan Horse, American Saddlebred and the original American Thoroughbred registry records that Short Horses were accepted as Foundation stock!
Ironically, the very breeds that the Andalusian spawned were to be his near undoing. Size became the fad in Europe. The Neapolitan, the Norman, and the English thoroughbred became more and more popular. Finally they had usurped the former position of the Spanish horse. The Andalusian breed was all but extinct in all areas except its homeland, Spain, and Portugal, where it became known as the Luistano. Then, tragically a plague followed by famine nearly pushed the breed into oblivion. Fortunately, the breed survived in a few mountainous areas of Spain, notably at the Cathugian Monastry. The horses of this herd are today known as Carthusians, the finest of the Spanish horses. In order to conserve the rare horses for breeding, the Government of Spain place an embargo on their export. For over 100 years the Andalusian was virtually unseen by the rest of the world. Then in the 1960's the export ban was lifted.
Now the popularity of the Andalusian horse is once again on the rise. Horsemen are rediscovering the traits that had made the Andalusian the most sought after horse in the world; the strength, agility, beauty, pride and docility bred for centuries into the Spanish horse. The Spanish stallions are unique in that they seem to be firey and proud, while at the same time they remain docil and extremely tractable. This seeming contradiction stems from the edict of King Ferdinand of Spain who enforced the old law that gentlemen must ride stallions only. This severe edict must have resulted in a few Spanish Grandees being dumped on their heads. Breeders began to breed for good temperament, knowing not only would they have to ride stallions, that they would be selling saddle stallions for a living.
The temperament, agility and strength of the Andalusian is again being sought after for dressage purposes just as it was centuries ago. In fact, Dressage and the Spanish horse were almost synonymous in the beginning. The Spanish horse was so strong and agile, that he could be trained to do amazing things. Dressage developed as a way to train the superior warhorse. This school of training was the foundation of modern dressage. The Andalusian was so adept at this training that nearly all of the oldest and most famous riding schools started with Spanish horses. The best example of this is the Spanish Riding School in Austria, named for the Spanish horses that it used.
Although scorned by apparently forgetful breeders of dressage horses, the Spanish Andalusian is still the superior dressage mount. Modern dressage riders overlooked the Andalusian as a "circus horse" and generally considered him unsuitable, despite the fact that he was an important element in the development of their beloved thoroughbred and most of the other popular European dressage breeds. But now they are being forced to admit that the Andalusian is not only suitable, but is actually excelling in the dressage arena. The list of their winnings and the spread of their fame is limited only by the rarity of the breed.
The Andalusian is excelling in other areas too as American Horsemen find out how versatile he is. As a western riding horse he is excelled only by his grand child, the Quarter horse. However, when it comes to agility and the ability to work cattle, the Andalusian is unexcelled. After all he has been through countless battles with the wild and deadly Iberian bulls. For well over a thousand years he has worked at close quarters with these bulls, both in and out of the bullfighting arena. With death only inches away, he had to be able to carry his rider close enough to place a rose between the horns of a maddened bull, and then wick away before being gored. When not in the arena, he was the only horse quick enough to work the unpredictable and dangerous herds.
As a show and parade horse, his way of going combined with his noble appearance and long lush mane and tail, make him a winner. His shiny grey or white coat glistens as he moves with all of the pride and style bequeathed to him by his ancestors who carried Caesars and Kings in their days of triumph and splendor.
His strength and boldness make him a very good hunter and jumper. His agility and endurance make him ideal for trail riding cross country.
All in all, the Andalusian is a horse of all seasons!
The Andalusian Cross
The Andalusian is of such pure and ancient lineage, that when crossed with other breeds, the offspring will seem of pure stock. The cross improves the strength and build of the lighter breeds. When crossed with the Arabian it produces a horse that has more size and stronger legs without losing the graceful lines and way of going of the Arab. This increases the show ability of the Half-Arab in such classes as dressage and stock horse. Additionally with the greater size and sturdier legs and feet, it makes the cross ideal for Half-Arab and Open Hunter/Jumper classes.
Improved leg and foot structure resulting from the Andalusian cross is very useful in breeding programs, as it helps avoid the problems of ring bone, splints, mechanical founder and other lamenesses. Crossing the large bodied breeds on smaller and slight legged breeds often leads to these problems. The Anglo-Arab, Draft-Arab, and Draft Thoroughbred crosses are commonly afflicted with one or more of these problems. Since the Andalusian has the strongest legs of any breed in relation to size, it is the ideal substitute for the Arab or smaller Thoroughbred when considering a Draft or heavy thoroughbred cross.
One of the most popular crosses in the Americas is the Azteca. The Azteca is Half-Andalusian and Half-Quarter-horse. Originating in Mexico it is becoming more popular than the Quarter horse for those jobs requiring ability, the Azteca is quick and graceful. Aztecas are good working cow horses and are also better for hunting, jumping, and dressage than is the average (stock type).
Just about any cross will produce an improved using horse.
To read more about the Andalusian history in America Click here