The Andalusian horse has been esteemed for its quality and appearance since
Roman times. In the Middle Ages, it carried knights into battle and later
became that treasured mount of European nobles. Horsemen soon realized that
the same qualities that made the Andalusian a versatile war horse could serve
in times of peace as well. The horse soon became the favorite of the grand
riding academies of Europe because of its impulsion, collection, forward motion,
and agility. It was at these academies where dressage and high school riding
began and flourished. In the United States today, the Andalusian horse competes
in Dressage, Jumping, Driving, Trail, Western Pleasure and English Pleasure.
The Andalusian’s physical appearance and flashy action make it one of the
world’s most desirable riding horses. The Andalusian is strongly built, yet
extremely elegant. The typical Andalusian stands 15.2 to 16.2 hands. The head
is of medium length, rectangular and lean. The head in profile is slightly
convex or straight with well-placed ears, moderately narrow and without excess
flesh. The eyes are alive, almond-shaped, and placed within an orbital arch.
The neck is reasonably long, broad, yet elegant and well crested in stallions,
straighter in mares. The mane is thick and abundant. Well defined withers
precede a short back; the quarters are broad and strong. The croup is rounded
and of medium length. The tail is abundant, set low, and lies tightly against
the body. About 80% of Andalusians are gray or white, 15% are bay and 5% are
black, chestnut, palomino and buckskin or possibly dun.
Andalusians are well-known for their trainability and lightness under saddle.
Extraordinary athletes, they enjoy learning. Many Andalusian enthusiasts comment
that they are first attracted to the breed by its beauty but become hooked by
the horses’ eagerness to work and intelligence.
The Andalusian originated in and gained its name from the Spanish Province
of Andalusia. The Andalusian horse is one of the most ancient of horse breeds.
It has lived on the Iberian Peninsula (the region now carved into the two
countries of Spain and Portugal) since pre-history and is represented in cave
paintings dating back 25,000 years. Its ancestors are the Iberian (Spanish)
horse and the Barb horse, which was brought to Spain by invading Moors.
Andalusians were bred principally by Carthusian Monks in the late Middle Ages
at monasteries in Jerez, Seville, and Cazallo. The monks were superb horse
breeders and kept the blood of their horses quite pure. The Andalusian's purity
was threatened in the 1800's when Napoleon's army invaded Spain and stole many
horses. One herd of Andalusians was hidden and used to renew the breed. In 1832,
an epidemic devastated the horse population in the Iberian Peninsula. Only a
small herd of Andalusians at the Monastery of Cartuja survived. No Andalusians
were exported until 1962. In the United States, all purebred Andalusian horses
can be traced directly to the Stud Books of Spain and Portugal. In Spain, the
horses are known as the Pure Spanish Horse (Pura Raza Espanola; PRE); in Portugal,
they are known as Lusitanos.
A Rare Treasure
Today, there are only about 8,500 Andalusian horses in the United States.
Worldwide, these majestic horses number less than 30,000. Each year, the
International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association registers only about
700 new purebred foals in this country and slightly more half-Andalusians. These
are very small numbers relative to other breeds. In fact, the Andalusian is one
of the rarest breeds in the United States, and in some states, they are rarer
than in others. As a result, many Americans have never seen an Andalusian, or
perhaps, have seen only a very few. The Andalusian is experiencing a rapid growth
in popularity in response to an active promotion of this rare breed by the
International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association. Many new owners are
discovering the wonderful attributes of this breed at IALHA competitions that give
Andalusian owners the opportunity to show off their magnificent horses in dressage
and other performance classes.