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History of Horses from Spain

The Andalusian Horse, Untouched by Time


Sought after and respected throughout the history of horses, the Spanish horse is characterised by his proud attitude, bravery, nobility and the power and grace of his fluid, and expressive movements.

History of Horses

The history of horses would be incomplete without the Andalusian horse. Cave paintings show horses in Iberia in 30,000 BC. In 450 BC, they were the best war horses, customarily troops only rode stallions and today the majority of Spanish riding horses are stallions.

02-history-of-horses-carthusian-monksIn the 13th Century, information about horses was kept by the Carthusian monks, their skills trusted by the nobility. In the 15th century the monasteries of Seville, Cazalla and Jerez created studs, making the Andalusian horse a distinct breed. Bloodline records began with the stallion El Soldado, which, bred with royal mares created the foundation sire, Esclavo.

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By the 16th century, Andalusian horses were considered the world’s finest. Their strength, agility and nobility made them prized by gentlemen and kings. 

Throughout the history of horses art shows many monarchs riding Spanish horses. Introduced into England in the 12th Century for knights of war, under Henry VIII the royal studs in Tutbury and Malmesbury bred Andalusians.

The Spanish horse is very similar today as in the 17th century, when the masters of equitation praised their unrivalled qualities for high school work.

comillas“the noblest horse in the world, the most beautiful that can be. He is of great spirit and of great courage and docile; has the proudest trot and the best action in trot, the loftiest gallop, and is the loveliest and gentlest horse, and fittest of all for a king in his day of triumph”. ~ William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle, 1667.

However, the PRE horse did not evolve without threat.  In the 18th /19th centuries Andalusians were seized for war, just one herd was hidden from Napoleon, saving the line. An epidemic in 1832 seriously threatened the breed, but again one small group survived, protected by Carthusian monks.

With time, the emphasis changed towards thoroughbreds and warmbloods, reducing the number of Spanish horses. However, the breed recovered, The Seville Horse Fair in 1869 boasted over ten thousand horses.

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Influences on Other Breeds of Horses

Many breeds have been influenced by Andalusian blood. These include thoroughbreds, Connemara, Lipizzaner, Neapolitan, Kladrubers and Groningen. German breeds, the Oldenburg, Hanoverian and Holsteiner, and the Dutch, Gelderland and Friesian have Spanish blood.  In Denmark, the Knabstrubers and Fredericksburgs. The Alter Real Lusitano, the Warlander (Andalusian/Friesian) and the Andalusian/Percheron cross known as the Spanish-Norman have Spanish blood. Many American breeds have Spanish forefathers.

Aptitudes and Abilities

Andalusians are extremely adaptable and compliant. They have been used for war, driving, working the land, bullfighting and as stock horses.  Perhaps their most famed ability is for classical dressage.  Such is their aptitude for the classical art; they are used with increasing frequency to produce offspring to specialize in this discipline. Their compact frames, intelligence and energetic power make them ideal for collected movements and airs above the ground.

The PRE (pura raza española) is suitable for most modern equestrian disciplines, from pleasure horses, show horses, show jumping, driving and especially schoolwork.

Their strength and intelligence makes them the favourite for films. You cannot fail to notice the incomparable fire and 05-history-of-horses-eyecourage of the Spanish horses in the epics Gladiator and Braveheart.  The endurance and courage of the mare and stallion in Legend, and others in King Arthur, Elizabeth, Lara Croft and Interview with a Vampire.

They were, and remain, the obvious choice, even in fantasy adventures such as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. Not only selected for their beauty, their bravery, agility and docility make them ideal for difficult, noisy and crowded action shots. Once you begin to notice them in films, you will be amazed just how many Spanish horses are used in the cinema.

Throughout the history of horses, the Andalusian horse remains today, as he has been for centuries.  Distinctive and incomparable in elegance and beauty, possessing fire and nobility in equal parts. Majestic, lively and all enduring.  He is, truly, a mount fit for a king.

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