The Andalusian horse is one of the most ancient horse breeds in the world with evidence of its existence on the Iberian Peninsula dating back to pre-historic cave paintings. The Andalusian is called a Pura Raza Espanola (PRE) in Spain, which simply means The Pure Spanish Race. The term Andalusian is used in many countries to refer to the Spanish horse and it apparently arose from the fact that there are a concentrated number of stud farms located in Andalucía, Spain.
For centuries, the Andalusian has been known as a symbol of perfection. A unique and remarkable breed, conformation, temperament, willingness and loyalty has evolved the Purebred Andalusian into a very distinctive horse. The incomparable elegance, harmony, athleticism and versatility are unequaled. The overall performance of the breed will soon be just as well-recognized as that of warmbloods. The Andalusian is rapidly developing as a sport horse within the dressage world due to its beautiful natural balance, collection, impulsion, flexibility, and natural extended movements.
Andalusians have been in existence since before the 15th century. Over the years the conformation and performance has been well conserved. The Spanish Government used this breed as a war horse, for their stability and strength. Kings and knights used them as mounts, and they became recognized as a "Horse of Kings." Of all other breeds, Andalusians had the bravery, speed and finesse to work temperamental bulls with enthusiasm.
Quarter Horses and other working cow horses inherited their "cattle sense" from their Andalusian ancestors. Andalusians were originally used for warfare, driving, bullfighting and dressage, however, in the 19th century they were extremely rare and almost driven to extinction due to warfare, disease and crossbreeding. The numbers were drastically reduced, at which point Spain banned all export of Andalusians until the 1960's. To date, they are still rare, highly desirable, but not easily acquired.
"It is no exaggeration to say the Spanish Purebred can be ridden with the only aid being the rider's imagination." ~Sanchez Barbudo
The breeding is carefully regulated by The Jefatura de Cria Caballar who hold the Spanish State Studbooks where the ancestry of many horses can be traced back to the famous Cartujano lines established 600 years ago by the Carthusian monks. Stud book accuracy is maintained through a long paper chain and every registered foal must be microchipped and its parentage verified both through DNA testing and microchip identification. Then at 3 years and above, they must pass a strict exam (Revision) to be registered and approved for breeding (APTO) in the Spanish Stud Book.
Although the population of Andalusian horses in the UK (and internationally) is very small in comparison to other breeds, the Andalusian has captured the imagination of thousands with its overwhelming beauty, elegant carriage and wonderful temperament. There are just over 500 registered Andalusians in the UK out of a total of 1.35 million horses kept privately in the UK. Making up only 0.04% of the UK horse population, the Andalusian is one of the rarest breeds in the UK.
The Andalusian has a small population, not only in the UK, but worldwide. There are only about 12,500 pure bred Andalusian horses in Spain and only 4,000 Lusitanos in Portugal (IALHA). Much of this rarity can be attributed to history and to European wars as the Iberian horse was the warhorse of choice and regarded without equal. The compact conformation, strong neck, powerful hindlegs and strong hooves made the horse extremely resilient, flexible and agile. Coupled with a trusting and kind disposition, the horse soon became the premier mount for royalty and grand riding academies were formed all over Europe where dressage and high school riding flourished with the Iberian horse at their foundation. After 2,000 years of European warfare, the pool of Spanish and Portuguese was very small and the breed was threatened with extinction. Consequently, exportation was very restricted and the export ban was only lifted in 1962.
Many other breeds have been founded and improved by the Spanish horse. The Lipizzaner of the famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna, the Quarter Horse, Appaloosa, Connemara, Cleveland Bay and many others owe much of their characteristics to its strong and prolific genes. This can also be seen in the many part-breds of today giving to the equestrian world a variety of talented, spectacular horses that can successfully compete in any sphere.
The Andalusian breed is experiencing a rapid growth in popularity all over the World.
At present the old Carthusian bloodlines are much in demand as are the more functional bloodlines suitable for competitive dressage such as Escalera and Bohorquez. Other breeders however, take pride in producing a very "classical" or baroque style horse, true descendants of the original Carthusian horses with their specific physique. The color of the coat also influences the price of the horses. Some breeders are now specializing in producing bigger sport horses’ types, particularly as horses are being exported to countries where riders are often taller than in Spain. Big horses with a lot of bone are more expensive because they are harder to find. In Spain dark coats are very much in vogue at the moment, whereas internationally grey coats are often preferred.
There are many revered bloodlines in Spain, however, these are examples of some of the oldest and/or most prestigious:
Hierro del Bocado(also known as Cartujanos or Carthusian lines from the Cartuja stud)
Founded in the XV century by Carthusian monks whose genetic heritage has been safeguarded to the present day. Known for their baroque characteristics, extreme elevation, impulsion, beauty and gentle temperament. Revered bocado breeders today include: Romero Benitez (who produced Invasor III who represented Spain in the Olympics), Cardenas, Guardiola, Roberto Osborne, Terry, Lovera, Pallars, Urquijo and others.
One of the oldest and most prestigious bloodlines, famed for breeding bay horses of uniformity and functionality . When the father died the son and daughter split the brand into Jose Luis de la Escalera and Maria Fernanda de la Escalera. Escaleras have a little less elevation, but have better extension, impulsion and suspension and as such are sought after for dressage.
The Spanish Military Stud and the hallmark synonymous with quality in pedigree and performance. Evento, the Olympic dressage horse was bred by the YM and still stands at stud in Jerez.
Famous Carthusian lines bred in the salt marshes of the Guadalquivir. Known for tradional flea bitten coats and black coats.
Typically an unregistered PRE is called an Andalusian or a 'Spanish type' horse, they do not have P.R.E. papers but do have their specific looks including the full mane and tail, and the elevated movements.