By Emily Smith

INTRODUCTION

Andalusian horses are known in Spain as the “Pura Raza Espanola”, or the “Pure Spanish Horse.” They take their name from Andalucía, which houses the largest number of breeding farms and the term is used for horses of Iberian origin, including both Andalusian and Lusitano breeds. Today, they are fairly rare outside of their home country due to strict exportation regulations. There are only 2500 horses registered in the United States, according to the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association[1].


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HISTORY

Cave paintings dating back to 30,000 BCE in the Iberian Peninsula show that horses have been present in the region since ancient times. The many peoples who have occupied Spain throughout its history have largely influenced the breed. The original horses to occupy the Iberian Peninsula were of a heavier set and have been noted as exceptional warhorses since 450 BC[2].The early breed mixed with Barb horses of North African descent, creating a stocky and heavily built breed. When the Arabians came into Spain, they brought with them the lighter, more agile oriental breeds. The crossing of these two bloodlines created the foundation of what would become the modern Pura Raza Espanola. This strain was exported to Europe and created the foundation for modern European warmbloods. They were regarded for their agility and ability to carry heavy loads.The gypsy population that inhabited Spain appreciated the breed and they were coveted for their beauty and nobility.


philip.jpegSome of the oldest pedigrees for the breed date back to the 13th century and come out of Carthusian monasteries. Since they were able to read and write, the monks largely became responsible for keepings records of the breed and the commercial breeding for members of the nobility[3]. Official stud farms were founded in Andaluz during the 15th century. In 1567, King Philip II selected 1200 mares that he believed to have the most desirable traits. These horses were brought to the royal stables in Cordoba and the most intensive breeding program in history was begun. His aim was to create a horse that was purely Spanish. The result was a breed that became the most prized by all European monarchies[4].

A few horses were given as a wedding gift to Henry VIII when he married Katherine of Aragon. By 1576, they made up 1/3 of the breeding stock in the royal stables at Malmesbury and Tutbury in England. The horses were freely imported into Europe during the 17th century and were used to create modern Thoroughbreds and other European breeds and decreased in popularity by the 19th century[5].

Ferdinand and Isabel sent horses with Columbus when he went to the New World in order to establish breeding farms in the Americas. The Pura Raza Espanola became the only horses within the Americas and gave rise to most American breeds, including Quarter Horses, Paso Finos, Appaloosas, and Mustangs.


THE MODERN BREED

The breed today is extremely rare, due to disease and the many wars that plagued Spain in the 19th century. All modern Andaluisans can trace their ancestry back to the horses that were bred by small religious orders during the 18th and 19th centuries. During this time, many different breeds were crossed with pureblooded horses as the needs of the military changed. They favored heavier, more agile horses and subsequently crossed Arabians and heavy draft horses with Andalusians to create a more agile warhorse.

Today, there only 185,926 horses registered worldwide. 42% of these horses reside in the Andaluz region of Southern Spain. The beauty and elegance of the breed that made them popular mounts for royalty also makes them ideal for dressage. The sport is designed to showcase the elegance of the horses’ gate. Andalusians are frequently the chosen mounts of Spanish equestrian teams. In 2002, The Spanish dressage team that won bronze at the World Equestrian Games had two Andalusians on their team and later went on to win silver at the 2004 Olympics. They are also a popular breed for use in movies. They can be seen being ridden by the Nazgul in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.






USES: MODERN AND TRADITIONAL

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Traditionally, Andalusians were used for farming and driving. The mares were used for la trilla, which is the traditional practice of threshing corn. It became a test of endurance and willingness for the maternal line, because the mares would trot for hours over the corn, often with babies at their side. The stallions were known for their bravery and were the chosen warhorse for the Spanish cavalry. This same bravery made them ideal herders for Iberian bulls. They are still the most popular breeds used for mounted bullfights[6].




THE ROYAL ANDALUSIAN SCHOOL OF EQUESTRIAN ART

This academy is located in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. It is a school that teaches all aspects of equestrian art, including blacksmithing, dressage, breeding, harness care and construction, and all aspects of horsemanship. The whole school functions around the herd of Andalusians, which are cared for and live at the academy. They are the counterpart of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

The most famous aspect of the school is the Andalusian dancing stallions, which put on daily shows for tourists. The handlers play on the Andalusian's natural ability to move and are hand-selected by the school. They perform complex, airborne maneuvers and intricate gaits that are only attained through hours of training. Careful breeding has produced horses that have an aptitude for this kind of performance.[7]






[1] http://www.andalusians.net/andalusian.htm
[2] http://imh.org/history-of-the-horse/breeds-of-the-world-by-continent/europe/andalusian.html
[3]Bennett, Deb. Conquerors: The Roots of New World Horsemanship. Solvang, CA: Amigo Publications, Inc., 1998. Print.
[4] http://andalusiansdemythos.com/breed/index_files/page3.htm
[5]Loch, Sylvia. The Royal Horse of Europe. J.A. Allen, 1986. Print.
[6]http://www.usef.org/_staffIframes/pressbox/images/magazine/pdf/04e3f0b4e2d2204b3f649fc0d7b77ea5.pdf
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Andalusian_School_of_Equestrian_Art