Versatility of the Spanish Horse

the world's your oyster !

The Versatile Spaniard

The Spanish horse is a combination of controlled power, fierceness, athletic ability, and endurance. They are still used today in bullfighting rings in Spain, yet are versatile enough to round up cattle on a ranch or compete in dressage, show jumping competitions and a lot more.


Just take a look at what some of members get up to …. and keep scrolling to read individual stories ….

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Horse Agility Competing

Let’s start with a few questions….

  • Can you hack your horse easily on it’s own and in company past traffic and ‘scary’ obstacles?
  • Can you turn up to a show and your horse not spook at dressage boards/plant pots/fillers/water/ditches/spectators/moving lorries/dogs etc.?
  • Can you load your horse completely relaxed and leave it happily stood in while you secure the doors?
  • Could you then also reverse the horse out of the trailer safely down the ramp?
  • Can you lead your horse to and from the field on a loose rope and can you walk and trot up your horse in hand and also make a left and right turn with ease?

If you answered yes to some or all of these then that’s brilliant and you are already on a horse agility journey too. If you answered no to some or all of these then horse agility will help you.

So what is horse agility?

It is similar to dog agility, but with horses, being able to navigate a course of obstacles with the horse and a leader.
It’s helping the horse become used to unusual objects in a way that is fun and engaging for them while building a good relationship with their partner.

 Horse agility is suitable for any horse/pony of any age, size and ability. With only a headcollar/halter and rope needed to get started. Most obstacles are simple and easy to build with minimum things needed, and it can be done in a field too, so no fancy arena is needed. The horse agility club runs online video competitions monthly with a range of levels, including leading, liberty, ridden, wild agility, summer of sport and young horse classes plus more. There are horse agility accredited trainers (HAAT’s) all over the world who have qualified with the horse agility club who offer training days and competitions plus local coaching at home with your horse. There is a lovely horse agility community of people who help each other by offering support and advice.


In a normal competition you follow the guide found online, set up the course and get someone to video you, then send the link to be judged. There are usually 10 obstacles, with 10 points available per obstacle. 5 marks for completion of the task and 5 for the horsemanship techniques used, so even if you cannot complete a task fully you’d still be awarded points for how you handle the situation. There are rosettes for all who enter and points towards a yearly league, prizes for the winners of a class and a score sheet with helpful future advice on it too.

Horse agility has been around for a while now as a named subject but there will be many people who have done things with their horses over the years to help build confidence with them whilst training. I personally came across horse agility in 2009, I had a look at it and decided to have a go at a few things with my horse at the time, Arthur (Wilday Fascinar).


A few years later I decided to start competing which we did for quite a few years, until the year I sadly lost Arthur, by which time we had gained enough points to be 3rd in the world. We had competed up through the levels, he helped me to qualify as a HAAT, we won many competitions and Arthur was so confident with it and trusted me too. We took time to build up to this level, but it did also mean we could do a fancy dress dressage one year carrying a big pirate flag throughout the whole test.

I now compete with my young horse Aztec Leonado (Leo), who is doing a brilliant job for a 2 year old and has started a nice rosette collection of his own.


PRE and part bred PRE horses seem to love investigating puzzles of any kind, even escaping from fields, but horse agility is so good to engage their brains and for building up a good relationship with their owner. The skills learned in agility can be transferred to anything you do with your horse, as suggested in the questions earlier.


GBPRE usually holds a horse agility class at the yearly show at Hartpury, with a practice session and competition with rosettes and a winners trophy donated by me in memory of Arthur. I thoroughly recommend a go at horse agility and there are plenty of us around to help get you started if interested.


Emily McManus HAAT, BHS APC 

Competing at Arena Eventing

What is Arena Eventing?

Arena Eventing is a Two-Phase Competition, comprising of a round of show jumps directly followed by a round of cross-country fences. The object is to go clear across both phases. The competitor with the fewest penalties wins, and in the event of more than one person with a double clear, the fastest horse wins. The usual penalties for showjumping and cross country apply for refusals, knock downs and falls. Usually cross-country attire and a hat with no fixed peak is worn but some competitions vary, so it’s important to check the schedule.


The scope of competition is from unaffiliated to affiliated levels such as the British Eventing (BE) Series and Riding Club Series, which culminate in Regional and National Championships (both unaffiliated such as the Sunshine Tour and Affiliated BE Winter Series etc.). Heights can start from 30cm and range incrementally up to 100cm plus, there may be technical elements such as skinnies, corners, banks, steps and ditches depending on the level of competition. It is usually on a surface which makes it a fantastic Winter event or pre event season warm up , although some are held on grass. More often, Arena Eventing runs all year round and is a great introduction to cross country for young, inexperienced horses (or riders) and a fun challenge to compete in!


PRE and PRE Fusions are particularly well suited to this discipline as they generally are quick thinking, bold and enjoy a variety of challenges. The different challenges in the Arena Eventing maximize their brain capacity from the clean and careful showjumping phase to the faster bold cross-country element. They may not be as fast as other breeds across the flat,but they are particular well suited to the twists and turns of a shorter course which plays to their strength of agility and quickness on their feet. They have power and agility that isn’t always found in the bigger rangier horses. As a breed they are very genuine with the right partnership and I have found that they have a “can do“ attitude; this is generalizing as there are always an exception to the rule.


I started Arena Eventing with my horse, Aztec Silverio (PRE Fusion) as part of his education as a youngster, but also because I myself am not an experienced cross-country rider. We started at 30cm and have worked up to and regularly compete at 70cm. He loves the variety of fences and this is his favourite event we compete at. He isn’t the fastest horse, but he is super careful with a big scopey jump and as he has matured can turn faster and quicker than any horse I have had. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in agility! He is super genuine and even if I fluff a stride he will take charge and “sort it”.


He is always in the ribbons when we compete and has qualified for The Sunshine Tour Championships across three height levels in one season. At present we only compete unaffiliated; he is only a young horse so we will see where this takes us.  


Catherine Legg 

British Riding Clubs Competing

British Riding Clubs – What’s it all about?

British Riding Clubs Competing/British Riding Clubs (BRC) exists to “provide support and encouragement to amateur riders of all levels – from the dedicated competitor to the leisure rider.“ 


Members ride, socialise, train and compete together through a network of over 480 clubs across the UK. Some clubs do specialise in a discipline, but most offer a range of activities and training e.g. social rides, quiz nights, camps, cross country, jumping, dressage and Pilates. Members get access to very good trainers, sometimes at a reduced rate. Clubs organise their own competitions, which are generally very supportive and friendly for new or novice riders, or young horses. There really is something for almost everyone and it is ideal for those who enjoy variety as well as those who ride primarily for fun.


Each club belongs to an Area, which holds qualifiers for teams and individuals in Dressage, (Intro to Advanced Medium) Showjumping, (70-110 cm) Combined Training, Arena Eventing, Horse Trials and Dressage to Music, The winning clubs go forward to the BRC National Championships. There’s also Showjumping at Hickstead and an Eventer Challenge at Blenheim Palace. The standard to win at the qualifiers is high, but many clubs also enter teams who are just taking part to enjoy the team camaraderie and support each other, (this often involves picnics and Prosecco!)


All my PREs have been breed ambassadors at riding club events. With their quick intelligence and agility, they easily pick up new skills and seem to really enjoy trying new disciplines. Neon has turned a hoof to many club activities over the years, demonstrating perfectly the versatility of the Iberian horse. We were on the club’s teams for dressage and show jumping. We’ve done pub rides, Christmas fancy dress jumping, quadrille and side saddle clinics. He was often the pathfinder demonstrating the exercises on complex pole work and jumping clinics and he was the very happy demo horse for equine massage. When I organised our club’s dressage competitions, Neon would stand patiently in the trailer for most of the show, then be given a hasty warm-up, do our test and go back on the trailer.


My Stallion, Bordador, enjoyed several training clinics and dressage competitions, where he did much to dispel the myth that stallions are wild uncontrollable beasts. When I got him, our first outing was to a club evening training, where he proved that not only was he perfectly behaved working with mares and geldings, but also bombproof with fireworks going off outside.


My youngest PRE, Mill Nuez, has also benefitted from and been a big part of the riding club. We took full advantage of the riding club’s clinics in our early days together, where it didn’t matter if he got a bit enthusiastic or silly when we weren’t yet working as a partnership. We stepped in as last minute substitutes in the dressage to music team, using Neon’s music and hastily adapted floor plan. With his former sharer, Nuez competed on the team for Showjumping, Combined Training and Horse Trials and, despite his inexperience, he did very well at all of them, flying the flag for Iberians.


Marianne Rabanal 

Competing at Cross Country

Cross Country – exhilarating fun !

Back in the late 1980’s we were lucky enough to be gifted a beautiful bay horse called Lucero. Only thing we really knew about him was he was a circus reject (too small) and a real escape artist. Back in those days Mr C did not have a moustache to make a statement with, but a rather dashing ponytail (Marilyn will testify to that) !


We moved our lovely bay baby to a super yard in the middle of the New Forest, where we actually stayed for over 20 years. Being a country yard they had no idea, nor did we, of what a Spanish horse should or could do. Luckily this yard had, unnaturally, MEN owners as liveries. Mr C was in his element, and so was the horse. Every weekend there were jumping lessons, men only hacks out and eventually competitions to go to. Only one thing stopped us, the horse could not jump. Never the less, after many months (you know how dogmatic Mr C is) the horse could jump.


Nothing was more scary, or more exhilarating, than going to watch the pair of them pit themselves against the cross country fences. I must admit he was never that fast and they did come a cropper a few times: it was often said Mr C tasted more Hampshire grass then the horse had 🙂


This picture above was from a brilliant day when both got home clear and won a rosette. Many more followed and then they progressed to Team Chasing. Lucero was never the fastest horse but careful to the end.


Bobbie Chamberlin 

Competing at British Dressage

Hooked on Dressage !

I first started competing in dressage about 30 years ago when I shared a horse with my daughter and we decided that both of us jumping him at shows was a bit unfair, so I thought that dressage might be a fun option for me. This was before BD was formed and the BHS ran dressage: from that moment, I was hooked!

I have never had the talent, money or the horse power to proceed up the levels, either redundancy or broken horses got in the way, but I loved to watch dressage. I am lucky enough to live near Hickstead and always took time off to go and watch the International Shows and saw many inspiring horses & riders. Eventually, after spending a lot of time writing and helping at Hickstead, and having more spare time, I decided to become a Judge so that I could put more back into the sport I love, and I am now List 5 – which means I can judge up to Novice Level at Affiliated BD Competitions.

The latest World Cup video from Equivision was always top of my Christmas list, and seeing Rafael Soto and Invasor competing took my breath away and from then on I was in love with the beautiful, baroque Spanish horses and determined to have my own one day. Trips to Spain and watching the horses at the School in Jerez confirmed my wish and, eventually in 2009, I bought my first PRE, Lomero. Arquera VI followed, and, following her field injury, my current partner, Bondadoso AC, who I have just started competing at Novice level. There are more and more Iberians doing very well at dressage now, particularly at the higher levels – I am lucky enough to be trained by Kirsty Mepham (List 1 Judge and Olympian) who competes the PRE stallion, Victorioso Z, owned by Veronica Fraser-Harris, very successfully at PSG.

A very experienced breeder & trainer did once say to me that she felt it was a waste of time to bring them out before Medium Level, and I think she was probably right as far as the more baroque type is concerned. It is true that Iberians can struggle with the level of relaxation the Judges like to see in Prelim and Novice, and often get marked down for tension, but once they start the more collected work, they come into their own. Few Iberians will have the floating, exaggerated paces of a Warmblood, but then very few Warmbloods can piaffe or passage like a PRE or Luso can, or show the sheer enthusiasm of an Iberian who loves to show off!

The introduction of the GBPRE/BD Associated Championships have encouraged more grass roots PRE owners to dabble in the world of Affiliated Dressage, and it’s a great way to compete against similar horses and show off the ability of the breed. To qualify, all you need to achieve is 3 scores over 60% within the level you wish to qualify for, in accordance with the BD Rules which can be found in the Members’ Handbook. Classes run from Prelim to PSG. The qualification period for the Associated Championships is 1 January 2021 to 31 August 2021. To qualify, riders and horses must hold Club, Full or Trial BD Memberships, or compete as Associate Members with a class ticket. To compete at the Championship, all riders and horses must hold Full BD Membership and Registration, riders and owners must also be Members of GBPRE.

We also now have a UK Branch of the MCI – Iberian Dressage Masters – with a UK Championship for pure and part bred PREs and Lusos, and the very exciting, European Championships for purebreds only. Sadly, Covid got in the way and no European Championships were held this year, but our teams have been very successful competing against teams from Belgium, France, Italy and The Netherlands in the past, at levels from 4 year old classes to Grand Prix.

Penny Powell


Driving Los Españoles

Hello, my name is Emma Nuttall and I have been driving horses for 30 years. Starting with a sprightly pair of Hackney crosses named Benson and Hedges, I taught myself to drive – looking back now I think I may have been slightly mad! but I am now one of the highest qualified commercial lady coachman in the UK, so I must have got something right! The carriage driving companies I own are White Horse Farm Carriages Ltd and Drayhorse Funeral Carriages Ltd: we carry out weddings, funerals, corporate events, licensed equine modelling and carriage driving training.


The horses that we use in the businesses are Friesians, Shire Horses, Gelderlander and PREs. Each breed has its own benefits but the Spanish guys are by far the best all rounders. Brave and honest enough to cope with all situations, hardy enough to deal with tricky terrain and the heaviest of traffic. I find them intelligent, sensitive, and easy to train and work with.


I am currently bringing a team of four PREs together ready for showing and the commercial world; we work all four in every combination so that they can go in the wheel or in the lead, nearside or offside. We drive them singly, in pairs, as well as in the team. We also break them to ride and all this education makes for well rounded, brave and trusting horses. We work with them in a measured approach, increasing the obstacles, and their education, until they are ready to go out in the commercial arena.


I have a beautiful dark blue High Seat Brake carriage that we intend using to compete in the Attelage classes, when the world returns to normal. At the moment they are being worked in exercise vehicles, in breast collar harness. We took a pair of the PREs recently on a sociable driving event, and then onto the IPS, and spent some time working them in full collar harness to get them ready for this. They were a little green, but we were extremely pleased with them; they didn’t put a foot wrong.


One of the leaders in the Spanish team we used recently as an outrider – a ridden horse in front of a funeral cortege – for a huge funeral in Canterbury City: only broken to ride at the beginning of lockdown, I rode him as he bravely lead the procession of 7 horses and 2 carriages through the heaviest of city traffic, and over two railway crossings without hesitation. This horse is now also used in our riding school, as will the others be once we have completed their ridden training and schooling.


Driving is a very sociable pastime, it’s a great way to share your horses with your family and friends, and a picnic or a pub drive is a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.


Emma Nuttall 


Versatility of the Spanish Horse – From happy holidays to the show ring …

In Spain the horse riding holidays may include the opportunity to watch or even ride in the local feria; Spanish horses are often ridden around towns and villages in the fairs, often parading in the streets or taking part in everything from ribbon races to flamenco displays. My love of Spanish horses started with my first riding holiday in Andalucía, Spain. On the first day of my holiday I met Diamanté, a PRE Fusion trekking horse at the Los Olivillos finca. Over the next three years and many holidays I rode Diamanté hundreds of KMS all over the countryside; riding across the mountains, down to the villages and in the ferias. He carried me safely through both glorious and torrential weathers, sometimes following me on foot through the rocky terrain or left loose to eat and stand in the shade by a water trough whilst we enjoyed lunch, never wandering far. Bringing him home to England when he got older was a dream come true; as a first horse he was perfect, having experienced everything at his trekking home he could turn his hoof to anything, which also included my ambitions of showing.

Showing in England varies from local smaller shows through to bigger shows like Royal Windsor and 5 day National Show Equifest with a wide ranging variety of classes; examples of classes you might like to try include In Hand Iberian, Ridden Foreign Breed, Parade, Ridden Veteran and In Hand Young Stock. Nowadays most shows include foreign breeds classes in their schedules, the APHS and USAUK Show Series are organised specifically for foreign breeds in the U.K. and GBPRE and The Lusitano Breed Society of Great Britain run U.K. National Shows for Iberians. Taking Diamanté in the show ring for the first time I watched what everyone else did then had a go; it’s been a wonderful learning curve, especially show ring etiquette and riding the individual show. Anyone new to the show ring, GBPRE has both a Horse and Rider Guide to Showing Attire for Spanish horses which was really useful in helping me know what to wear; though I confess to still using my tie, scrunchie and riding crop from when I was riding lead rein ponies as a child, my jacket is 10 years old from my first riding club show and my bridle is a horsey car boot sale bargain purchase, it doesn’t have to be expensive gear.

Since our first show we have had many wonderful opportunities competing in English showing attire, traditional Spanish attire and my Andalusian flamenco styled Concours D’Elegance outfit and Diamanté shows his true versatility switching between all three classes. Riding in my Concours D’Elegance outfit in the show ring felt like riding in my flamenco dress in Spain and I have partnered it with flamenco music for dressage to music competitions too. Shows we have enjoyed competing at include Royal Windsor, the London Riding Club Show in Hyde Park, County Shows, the PRE and Lusitano National Breed Shows, Equifest and the Veteran Horse Society Championships. Riding under the spotlight at Equifest and the VHS Champs in the night-time performances will always be some of my favourite memories, along with my much-loved rides in Andalucía, and it’s all thanks to my wonderful Spanish boy Diamanté; I will forever be indebted to him for the life and the happiness he has given me.

Virginia Draper

Team Chasing Competing

Team Chasing

Valiente LXXlX came into my life straight from the field three years ago aged four, for me to ride on behalf of his owner HH Sheikha Maryam Bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He was sired by Averoes lll and is out of Dudosa XXVlll.

Having taken things slowly with his backing, I decided first to enter into the world of show jumping. His nature is such that whilst all fence fillers were out to get him, he put his heart and soul into it and he went very well for his age and experience. He was anxious and very green for quite some time so I decided to try team chasing to see if that would give him the confidence I felt he needed.

Team chasing requires you to form a team of four equally deranged people! Find yourself a good name and team kit if you like and off you go. I often compete with the same team but it can vary as we can’t always do the same weekends, but some people do. I belong to the Dapper Dobbins, they put people together to form teams around the country. Last weekend we were the ‘Dapper Dobbing Hedge Hoppers’. The best three horses get judged for placing so if you lose a team member or have a refusal your team can still be placed. Depending on the class you enter there will varying sized jumps. The classes differ at each event. The Speed class being the fastest round the course. Novice, you go at a steady hunting pace and the team nearest the bogey, (set time) wins. Sometimes there are pens with jumps at either end. Going through the pen you have to have a total of 12 horse legs in at the same time. We tried the speed class once and whilst stamina wise Valiente did a fantastic job of keeping up with 3 throughbreds, I felt towards the end over the longer distances he would start to tire and I think this upset him as he is always trying to please in his work.

People are often commenting on my handsome boy as we prepare for the off in the collecting ring. He certainly stands out from the crowd with his showy leg movement. They are often surprised to find an Andalusian team chasing and even more so as we come hurdling over the last fence alongside the rest of the team. It is a great sport and the sizes of the fences will generally suit all. I have made some smashing mates and it is always good to share your successes, and dramas.

The Andalusian is a kind breed and Valiente is a very sensitive lad. He loves running alongside other horses and it has certainly given him the confidence I had hoped for and this has come through in his show jumping. We came 4th in the 1M, his first time out show jumping in almost a year. He has the biggest heart, is always doing his best for me and we have such great fun together. Now the Team Chasing season is almost over we shall concentrate on our show jumping and see where that takes the intrepid duo! 

 Rachael Patterson

TREC Competing

What is TREC?

TREC is a sport intended to test the skills of a horse and rider in planning and executing a long distance ride in unfamiliar country. It originated in France as a way of testing and improving the skills of trail ride leaders, and was introduced into the UK in the early 1990s.

TREC is a great sport that any horse /pony and rider can enjoy. There is the chance to improve and Championships to aim for, if you want to, or you can just enjoy exploring the countryside with your trusty steed (and a friend as well if you want to, in a pairs class).

The 3-phase sport tests rider navigation and the horse’s ability to tackle different terrain and natural obstacles you would meet out hacking in the countryside.

How does it work?

There are 4 competitive levels in TREC, from the easy and encouraging mini TRECs to the more demanding events at international level.
The 1st phase is orienteering on horseback (POR), where riders follow a route on a map at speeds predetermined by the organisers. The POR route will be 10 to 15km (6 to 9 miles) at level 1, usually taking about 2 hours. The higher levels involve longer and more complicated orienteering routes.

The timed control of paces (MA) phase calls for solid flat work foundations, as competitors must canter as slowly as possible along a narrow track before returning at the fastest possible walk.

Finally, an obstacle section (PTV) recreates natural hazards you might encounter out hacking — such as a gate, steps up, a river crossing or a jump. All obstacles are optional, but you’ll lose points for missing one.

Suitability of the PRE for TREC

Certain characteristics of the PRE make it ideally suited to TREC, namely; bravery, agility, intelligence and quickness to learn.

My Experiences of TREC

I am a GBPRE Member and also a Member of TREC GB and the East Anglian TREC Group. I have enjoyed competing in Level 1 competitions and Training Days with my PRE mare, Mill Besar, bred by Mandy Wheatcroft at Millpark Andalusian Stud. I enjoy both the test of horsemanship and the fact that the discipline improves your bond and relationship with your horse. I have found the TREC community to be friendly and welcoming and it’s a great way to test yourself, your riding skills and also to have fun!

The competitions

TREC events are run throughout the year but the format of the Summer and Winter competitions is different. The Summer competitions usually have all three phases whereas the Winter competitions miss out the orienteering (POR). Winter competitions are usually held in an arena (either inside or outside), have a shortened control of paces (MA), and a course of only 10 obstacles (PTV).


To find out more and for current list of events, please see the TREC GB website:


Sally Crone 

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