Andalusian

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Andalusian. Courtesy IALHA

Breed Name -Andalusian

Origin: Spain

Physical Description:

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. It 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 and 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.

History:

The Andalusian originated in and gained its name from the Spanish Province of Andalusia. It is one of the most ancient of horse breeds, living on the Iberian Peninsula (the region now carved into the two countries of Spain and Portugal) since pre-history and 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.

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.

Primary Uses:

In the United States today, the Andalusian horse competes in dressage, jumping, driving, trail riding, Western pleasure and English pleasure.

Famous Horses:

Babieca is the most famous Andalusian of ancient history and a horse of great legend. Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar better known as El Cid Campeador rode the magnificent white stallion Babieca. He was a formidable warhorse and he carried his master fearlessly into all of his battles for thirty years, each time to victory. His name was legendary as his master's and he was spoken of with awe, reverence and great respect.

El Cid's most memorable battle with Babieca was his last. After being mortally wounded, he later died in camp and knowing that the Moors would attack with the news that the great one that they greatly feared was dead, El Cid's body was dressed in his armour and placed on the back of Babieca, and one last time he and Babieca led his men at full gallop towards the enemy's army and even in death won his last battle.

Opus was one of the most famous bullfighting horse of all time. Under his owner Alvarito Domecq Opus became a household name in all of Andalusia. On the day of this great stallions retirement the stadium was packed to overflowing and all rose to their feet as Opus, after his last fight, was unsaddled, unbridled and set free to take a victory lap around the arena.

Novlhiero and Opus were full brothers, their bloodlines are considered to the finest Portuguese lines of the whole Peninsula. Novilheiro a brilliant grey stallion was a very accomplished grand prix show jumper ridden by John Whitaker after also excelling in Grand Prix dressage. He was truly a talented extremely versatile horse.

Evento ridden by Ingnacio Rambla rose to International fame for his performance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics representing Spain in Dressage. To this day, Evento still commands one of the three highest fees at the Military Stud in Jerez and is regarded as one of Spain's National treasures.

Breed Association: IALHA, International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association

(Information provided by U.S. Equestrian Federation)