William R. Killingsworth
Past President, International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association
Although the population of the Andalusian horse breed in the United States is very small, the Andalusian has a reputation, image, and, yes, a mystique that is enormous. Many know of the breed, but few have direct contact with the Andalusian. As President of the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association, perhaps the most frequent comment and question I hear is “I’ve heard of the Andalusian horse, but I’ve never seen one. ..what is an Andalusian horse?” That question is then usually followed by the second most frequently asked query which is, “What do Andalusian horses do?” In the following article, I shall try to address these and a few other most often asked questions.
What Is An Andalusian Horse?
The Andalusian horse is one of the most ancient of horse breeds. It has lived on the Iberian Peninsula since pre-history and is represented in cave paintings dating back 25,000 years. In the United States, all purebred Andalusian horses can be traced back directly to the Stud Books of Spain, Portugal, or to a combination, or crossing, of those two stud books. Specifically, to register an Andalusian horse with The International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association, a paper trail of registration certificates and transfers must exist which trace the horse’s pedigree back to Spanish and Portuguese papers. For a foal born to parents already registered with our Association that trail has, of course, already been established and the registration is straightforward.
Where Did the Name “Andalusian” Come From?
In Spain, the horses are known as the Pure Spanish Horse. In Portugal, the horses are known as Lusitanos. The term Andalusian is used in many countries to denote the Iberian horse. The term Andalusian arose from the region in southern Spain, Andalucia, in which many noted stud farms are located.
What Does an Andalusian Look Like?
The Andalusian is strongly built, yet extremely elegant. The typical Andalusian stands 15.2 to 16.2 hands. His head is of medium length, rectangular and lean. The head in profile is slightly convex or straight with a broad forehead and well-placed ears. The eyes are alive, oval, and placed within an orbital arch. The face is straight or softly convex, moderately narrow, and without excess flesh. The neck is reasonably long, broad, yet elegant and well-crested in stallions. 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 grey or white, 15% are bay, and 5% are black.
Why Haven’t I Ever Seen An Andalusian Horse? or “Why Don’t I See More Andalusian Horses Competing?”
Today, there are only about 2,500 Andalusian horses in all of the United States. Each year, the International Andalusian Horse Association registers only 225 new foals in this country. These are very small numbers relative to other breeds. To put the annual Andalusian registrations into perspective, the table below presents the approximate number of recent annual registrations of selected horse breeds in the United States:
Horse Breed Annual Registrations
Quarter Horse 102,000
Paso Fino 1,500
As the above clearly shows, the Andalusian is one of the rarest breeds in the United States, and in some states, they are more rare than in others. For example, California has the greatest number with roughly 900 Andalusians. Texas has the second largest population with 450. Thus, these two states represent over one-half of the total U.S. population. No other state has even one hundred Andalusian horses. As a result, many Americans have never seen an Andalusian, or, perhaps, have seen only a very few.
Why Are There So Few Andalusians in the United States?
It must be first noted that the Andalusian horse has a small population not only in the United States but worldwide. There are currently only about 12,500 purebred Andalusian horses in Spain and only about 4,000 pure Lusitanos in Portugal. The reason for the rarity of this breed lies in history, and that history is largely the history of European wars and the important role of the Iberian horse in those wars.
How Did Wars Lead to the Rarity of This Ancient Breed?
Since the time of the Greeks, the Iberian horse was regarded as the war horse or cavalry horse without equal. Homer mentions the Iberian horses in the Iliad written about 1,100 BC. The famous Greek cavalry officer Xenophon highly praised the “gifted Iberian horses” and their role in helping Sparta defeat the Athenians around 450 BC. Hannibal, in the Second Punic War(218-201BC ), defeated the invading Romans several times through the use of Iberian Cavalry. The Romans, however, were ultimately successful in their conquest of the Iberian peninsula, and, in fact, the Romans subsequently established stud farms in Spain and Portugal to supply horses for their own campaigns in Britain and other fronts. This military use of the Iberian horse continued unabated with William the Conqueror ultimately riding an Andalusian horse in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Over the next few centuries, however, the trend was for heavier and heavier armor for the mounted knights. As a result, the Iberian horse was gradually replaced as the premier warhorse by larger, slower moving draft and warmblood horses. This trend was later reversed in the fifteenth century with the development of firearms and the need for rapid and agile horses. The most devastating period for the Iberian horse began in 1492. Spain at that time began the conquest of the New World, invaded Portugal, attacked England, and was involved in the Dutch Wars. Following this period of sustained conflict, Napoleon invaded Spain and the horse was central in the country’s defense. Finally, internal revolt against the Church (which owned major stud farms) in the 1830’s and the revolution of 1936 continued the dispersal of the stud farms. After 2,000 years of European warfare and internal strife, the pool of purebred Spanish and Portuguese horses was very small and the horse was threatened with extinction. Consequently, exportation from Spain and Portugal was very restricted (some kings threatened execution for those secretly exporting mares) so as to give Spanish and Portuguese breeders the opportunity to develop and expand their stud farms.
In recent years, outbreaks of African Horse Sickness have severely restricted exports from Spain and Portugal to the United States because of the severe quarantine requirements. Moreover, last April, the United States Department of Agriculture declared that Spain and Portugal would join the rest of Europe and be considered positive for Contagious Equine Metritus. CEM also has substantial quarantine requirements that make importation quite difficult. As a result, the growth of the breed in the United States is largely established by the natural growth from the existing breeding stock. In addition to this natural growth, there are, however, perhaps fifty horses a year imported to the United States, primarily from Mexico and Costa Rica, with a few coming in each year from Spain and Portugal.
What Made the Andalusian So Popular For Warfare?
The Iberian horse evolved in hilly and rugged areas of the Iberian peninsula. Fighting for survival and grazing over this rough terrain led to the development of a strong, arched neck, a short-coupled and powerful body, hindlegs positioned well underneath the body with strong hock action and impulsion, and small, round hoofs. These attributes made the horse extremely agile as well as forward moving. Some researchers believe that these horses were being ridden perhaps as early as 4,000 – 3,000 BC. When the Phoenicians arrived in Iberia in 2,000 BC and the Greeks in 1,000 BC, the Iberian cavalry was already a formidable foe. Even at this early date, the horse was also well known for its trusting and kind disposition. These attributes of strength, natural collection, agility, impulsion, and kind temperament are still the fundamental characteristics possessed by the Andalusian horse.
How Do These Attributes Relate to the Horse’s Utility?
The Andalusian horse today displays an amazing versatility, that has, in fact, been present for centuries. After the introduction of firearms, the Iberian horse once again became the premier mount for royalty and cavalry officers. No longer were the lumbering horses which carried heavily weighted knights into battle an effective war horse. New means of riding were introduced, often returning to the writings of Xenophon The Iberian horse was the favorite horse for this new, more rapid and agile mounted army. Soon thereafter, the Iberian horse became the royal horse of Europe with presence at every court. Grand riding academies were soon being formed all across Europe including Austria, France, Italy, and Germany. It was at these academies where dressage and high school riding began and flourished. The Iberian horse was the favorite at these academies because of its impulsion, collection, forward motion, and agility. In the United States today, the Andalusian horse competes in dressage, jumping, driving, trail, western pleasure, and English pleasure. In Spain and Portugal, the horse displays the ultimate in courage and cunning as it faces the fierce Iberian bull.
What’s the Status of the Andalusian Horse in the U.S. Today?
The Andalusian horse breed is experiencing a rapid growth in popularity. Many new owners are discovering the wonderful attributes of this breed. Membership in The International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association has increased dramatically this year. Moreover, the number of horse shows has doubled over the last three years. Additionally, the Half-Andalusian Registry is growing strongly. The Andalusian is proving to be a very popular and successful cross with the Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, Arabian, Morgan, Percheron and other breeds.
During the past year, The International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association has initiated an in-depth education program aimed at preserving the historical conformation and temperament of the Andalusian horse. In February, educational clinics were held in Los Angeles and Nashville for judges, owners, and breeders. The clinics were conducted by Don Francisco Daza, a prominent Spanish breeder and the judge at the last two National Championship shows in Spain. These clinics focused on the unique conformational characteristics of the breed and their relationship to the athletic abilities of the horse. At the horse shows sponsored by The International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association, halter judging is now against a conformational standard, not against what may be simply a passing fad. Additional educational clinics will be held on an annual basis.
In addition, an official evaluation team from Spain visited the United States in May of 1994 and, for the first time, evaluated over two hundred horses for inclusion in the Spanish Stud Book. A second evaluation visit occured in1995. This evaluation program is also designed and conducted to preserve the conformational heritage of the Andalusian horse in the United States. The Registry of the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association has been recognized by the Spanish Cria Caballar as the official registry in the United States. Only those Andalusian horses registered in the TIALHA registry will be eligible for evaluation by the Spanish and, if approved, inclusion in the Spanish Stud Book.
The International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association has also taken the lead in the United States in the area of horse identification via microchips. The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is encapsulated in inert, sterile glass. The microchip is injected into the upper area of the neck approximately two inches from the crest. It is read by passing a scanner over the neck of the horse. When scanned, the number programmed into the microchip is displayed on a small screen on the scanner. This number is registered and subsequently appears on the registration certificate of the horse. These microchips can then be used at shows, at breeding facilities, and in the case of theft to identify the horse.
Our specific program is as follows. For any foal born in 1994 or thereafter to be registered, the foal and both its sire and dam must be microchipped. Also, any horse being transferred must be microchipped. This program is aimed at uniquely identifying each individual and thus adding to the protection of the stud book’s integrity. Over the last year and a half, 1,200 Andalusian horses have been injected with microchips for identification. The microchip program is used in conjunction with parentage verification blood testing to provide strong protection to the breed through assurance of stud book accuracy.
The International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association conducts an active group advertising program. In these ads, ten to twenty breeders come together six to eight times a year and buy a full page ad in several of the major horse publications. This program has proven to be a popular and efficient means to promote our rare breed.
The International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association is also sponsoring dressage competitions at our shows. These competitions allow Andalusian owners the opportunitay to show before internationally and nationally recognized dressage judges and also compete in the in-hand conformation classes as well as other performance classes.