Andalusian Horse Article
The Andalusian horse is one of the purest breeds of horses in the world today. It is also known as PRE (Pura Raza Española) in most countries because of the work done by the Spanish studbook in promoting the pure bred horses around the world. It is one of the breeds of Iberian horses, and similar to the closely related Lusitano breed.
Andalusians have been used for all manner of riding horses, and were the preferred mount of kings over many centuries. They excel in high school dressage and are used in cattle work and bullfighting in their native Spain. They are highly intelligent and learn very quickly.
Part bred Andalusians are popular as sport horses in most countries. They also excel at dressage and are used for show jumping and other equestrian activities.
History of the breed
Archaeological evidence in the Iberian Peninsula, modern day Spain and Portugal, indicates that the origins of the Iberian Horse date back to at least 25,000 B.C. in the form of its primitive ancestor, the Sorraia. Cave paintings in the Iberian Peninsula dated from around 20,000 BC depict portraits of horses and activities related to a horse culture.
The Sorraia horse remained isolated for several millennia in the southern part of Iberia, the Alentejo and Andalusian regions of modern Portugal and Spain. Portuguese historian Ruy d'Andrade suggested that by the Neolithic period (4000 B.C.) the native tribes of the area may have used horses in war.
They were soon to be followed by Phoenician traders and Celts from northern and eastern Europe, who were largely responsible for a two-way exchange of horses which brought an influx of oriental breeds from Libya, Egypt and Syria to the Iberian peninsula. By the time of the first trading expeditions of the Greeks, around 900 B.C., a mixed Celtiberian culture dominated all of Spain apart from the south coast, which remained Iberian. According to Lady Sylvia Loch, "It was the horses of the Celtiberian that were to become famous throughout the civilized world."
The Spanish horses were known for their use as cavalry mounts by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The Anglo-Saxons never developed cavalry in warfare. Fine Spanish horses were brought into Britain after the Norman Conquest, however.
Most excellent studs put apart for breeding, and deriving their origin from some fine Spanish horses, which Robert de Belesme, earl of Shrewsbury, brought into this country: on which account the horses sent from hence are remarkable for their majestic proportion and astonishing fleetness.
Later, the use of heavy plate armor required stronger breeds. In the 15th century, the invention of firearms called for a lighter, and more agile cavalry horse, and the Andalusian's popularity rose again.
From this period onward, we find many references to the Iberian or Celtiberian horses and riders of the peninsula by Greek and Roman chroniclers. Homer refers to them in the Iliad around 1,100 B.C. and the celebrated Greek cavalry officer Xenophon had nothing but praise for the gifted Iberian horses and horsemen. Xenophon, in one of his books written about 370 B.C., admiringly describes the equestrian war techniques of Iberian mercenaries who were influential in the victory of Sparta against Athens in the Peloponnesian wars. This type of warfare consisted of individual horse charges with fast starts, stops and pirouettes followed by retreats and renewed attacks. A form of riding that was made possible by the use of incredibly agile horses and curb bits.
Looking further back into the evolution of the horse, we find that the most ancient ancestor of the horse was a small, herbivorous mammal of the genus Hyracotherium from the Eocene Epoch, having four-toed front feet and three-toed hind feet, which existed fifty million years ago in an area that is now the western United States. Hyracotherium eventually evolved into what we know as the horse. These horses then migrated from America through the land bridge connecting Alaska and Siberia and entered Asia where they established themselves and from where they disseminated to Europe and Africa. When the Spaniards arrived in the New World however, the horse had been extinct on the American continent for about 8000 years.
During the Renaissance, the great Classical Riding Academies took an interest in the breed. Because of the Andalusian's agility and natural balance, it excelled in the High School Dressage performed in many courts of the day. The Andalusian went on to develop many other breeds suitable for High School Dressage, including the Lipizzaner, Alter Real, Lusitano, Kladruber, and many European warmbloods of today.
During the 19th century, the use of the Andalusian declined. However, Carthusian monks continued to breed the horse, and preserved the purity. Today, the Spanish government promotes the Andalusian, and the breed is gaining in popularity for High School Dressage demonstrations. They are also popular for bullfighting, and have recently been used for dressage, show jumping, driving and endurance, although Thoroughbred blood is often added to give the breed more scope.
Andalusian horses are found in a number of colors although the most common color is grey. They are popular in bay and black, however chestnut is not regarded as a legal co lour for purebreds in most countries. They are compact horses, yet very elegant. Their legs are clean, with good bone, and they have a high, round action, which makes them particularly suitable for High School Dressage. They usually have a large head with a convex profile, short cannons, a long, sloping shoulder, and a long, flowing mane and tail. The Andalusian generally stands 15.1-15.3 hh.