The Athletic Andalusian
The Andalusian, also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or Pura Raza Española (PRE), is a horse breed from the Iberian Peninsula, where its ancestors have lived for thousands of years.
Andalusians were originally bred in Andalusia, Spain, and the breed made up the majority of the Iberian and Carthaginian horse troops that carried the Roman army in its conquests throughout the ancient world.
The Andalusian is well known for its incredible athletic ability. It has been used as a war-horse for centuries and more recently for stock work with bulls. Their ability to dodge and weave from a charging bull was noted and then used in the sport of bull fighting on horseback. The Andalusian has had a strong influence on most ancient horse breeds because of its regal carriage and high step and its ability to be powerful and elegant simultaneously.
In part because of its elegance, the breed was used as a tool of diplomacy by the Spanish government, and kings across Europe rode and owned Spanish horses. But during the 19th century, warfare, disease and cross-breeding reduced herd numbers dramatically, and despite some recovery in the late 19th century, the trend continued into the early 20th century until the purebred Andalusian almost became extinct.
Because of the extreme reduction in numbers, the Spanish government restricted the exportation of the breed. It was hoped that by doing this the breed numbers would rise and indeed, once the restrictions were lifted, the Andalusian went on to become one of the most successful all-round performance horses in the world. In 2010, there were more than 185,000 registered Andalusians worldwide.
The breed in Australia
The first Spanish horses arrived in Australia in 1972. They were sent to Western Australia to live at the El Caballo Blanco (The White Horse) stables run by Ray Williams. The horses were incredibly popular and were shown off to delighted crowds who could visit the complex to see the horses in action.
One of the imported stallions was called Bodeguero and many of the present day Andalusians in Australia can be traced back to him.
In the early 1980’s the stables were moved to Catherine Fields, about an hour out of Sydney in New South Wales. The updated El Cabello Blanco was a theme park with a mini Australiana zoo, entertainment for families and a train that took passengers around the large grounds to see the sights. The main attraction was the horses, they lived in beautiful brass stables and wowed the crowds with their regular dressage shows.
In the mid-1990’s the horses were sold off and the theme park was closed. Many of the horses were sold to their former show riders and happily lived out their retirements.
The Andalusian is a well-balanced horse with great presence and substantial bone. The horse should be calm yet alert with free flowing paces. Only the best stallions and mares should be selected for breeding – with breeding, it should be all about enhancing the breed rather than breeding for the sake of it.
Temperament: Andalusians are well known for their kind and easy-going character. They have great trainability and an incredible intelligence that makes them a popular saddle horse choice.
Head and neck: A noble and attractive head in proportion to the body is desirable. The neck should have a natural arch with a good length (not too short). The neck must not have too much crest or a thick gullet.
Body: The Andalusian should have a strong but athletic body with a board muscular chest, strong sloping shoulders and a straight back.
Legs and feet: The breed is famed for its powerful yet elegant movement which comes from its strong legs. The bones must be strong but not coarse with straight forelegs – the horse should not ‘paddle’. The hooves should be strong and well-proportioned to the horse.
Colour: Most of the breed are white/grey, however solid colours are permitted. Black is rare, but bay, palomino, chestnut and dun are all acceptable colours.
Did you know? The Andalusian is thought to have been the first European ‘Warmblood’ bred from a mixture of heavy European and lighter Oriental horses.