To many, a Spanish Horse is a horse from Spain, an Andalusian horse – they’ve been to southern Spain, heard or read about them. They may even have ridden them whilst on holiday. But the Spanish Horse is so much more.
… the noblest horse in the world, the most beautiful that can be. He is of great spirit and of great courage and docile; hath the proudest trot and the best action in his trot, the loftiest gallop, and is the lovingest and gentlest horse, and fittest of all for a king in his day of triumph.
The Andalusian, now correctly known as the Purebred Spanish Horse or PRE (pura raza española), also referred to as a Spanish Horse, is a horse breed from the Iberian Peninsula, where its ancestors have lived for thousands of years. The breed as we know it today was established in the 16th century, thanks to the efforts of King Philip II of Spain who established the basis for the modern breed, organising the breeding population in Spain and responsible for building the Royal Stables at Cordoba. Over several decades the breed was refined and improved until it was considered to be the perfect horse. The newly created PRE became the emblem of imperial Spain and initially was for the exclusive use of the Royal Family.
Throughout its history, it has been known for its prowess as a war horse, and was prized by the nobility. The breed was used as a tool of diplomacy by the Spanish government, and kings across Europe rode and owned Spanish horses. During the 19th century, warfare, disease and crossbreeding reduced herd numbers dramatically, and despite some recovery in the late 19th century, the trend continued into the early 20th century. Exports of the Spanish Horse from Spain were restricted until the 1960s, but the breed has since spread throughout the world, despite their low population. Today, there are well over 200,000 Purebred Spanish Horses registered worldwide.
An abundance of natural beauty, strongly built and compact yet elegant, with long, flowing thick manes and tails. The PRE’s most common coat colour is grey, but black and bay colours are also common. They are known for their intelligence, sensitivity, docility and superb work ethic.
The PRE is closely related to the Lusitano of Portugal, and has been used to develop many other breeds, especially in Europe and the Americas. Breeds with PRE ancestry include many of the warmbloods in Europe as well as western hemisphere breeds such as the Azteca. Over its centuries of development, the PRE has been selected for athleticism and stamina.
The modern PRE is renown for its versatility. Originally used for classical dressage, driving, bullfighting, and as stock horses, the PRE is used for many equestrian activities, including dressage, show jumping and driving. The breed is also used extensively in movies, especially historical pictures and fantasy epics.
Sources & further reading:
The Purebred Spanish Horse [ANCCE, the National Purebred Spanish Horse Breeders’ Association, PRE]
The Purebred Spanish Horse [BAPSH, the British Association for the Purebred Spanish Horse]
The Andalusian [Wikipedia]
The Menorquín or Catalan: Cavall Menorquí is a breed of horse indigenous to the island of Menorca in the Balearic Islands, from which it takes its name. It is closely associated with the doma menorquina style of riding.
Menorca was under Moorish domination from 903 to 1287. According some sources, research has shown links between the Menorquín and Arab breeds, while others have shown it to be of Berber origin, and yet others believe that it was brought to Menorca from central Europe by King James I of Aragon. According to the Government of the Balearic Islands, it belongs to the eastern group of indigenous Iberian horses which also included the now extinct Catalan horse.
The Menorquín was officially recognised as an indigenous breed in 1989, and is listed in the Catálogo Oficial de Razas de Ganado de España in the group of autochthonous breeds in danger of extinction. The FAO lists it as “endangered”. In April 2011 the total population was reported to be 2995, of which fewer than 200 were outside the Balearic Islands. A breeders’ association, the Associació de Criadors i Propietaris de Cavalls de Raça Menorquina, was formed in August 1988.
The breed has remained agile and slender as it was not employed for agricultural work, for which the Balearic donkey was traditionally used.
The Menorquín may only be black, in all its variations; horses of any other colour cannot be registered. Limited white markings are permitted. It is harmoniously made, tranquil and obedient, noble and elegant. The average height is 1.60 metres (15.3 hands), and the minimum permissible height 1.54 m (15.1 h) for males and 1.51 m (14.3 h) for mares. The profile is slightly convex, the body and limbs long, the eye round and lively. It is strong and energetic, slender, powerful and muscular and suited to any type of saddle or driving use. Its most valued quality is its suitability for the traditional festivals of Menorca, where it is irreplaceable, and for the elevade and bot movements of the doma menorquina.
The Menorquín horse [Wikipedia]