Horse breeds fact file: Andalusians

  • A former warhorse, the Andalusian is now better known in the dressage arena.

    During their occupation of Spain, the Moors spoke of the versatile and beautiful “Andalus” horse.

    In the Iberian Peninsula, fossils dating back 20,000 years show evidence of a domesticated horse in Spain. By 3000 BC, these horses were under saddle and by 1000 BC, the Andalusian’s talents as a warhorse were discovered, making the Iberian Cavalry a formidable force.

    Xenophon, believed to be the founder of classical equitation, said of the Spanish horse that it had an extraordinary ability to gather its hind legs beneath it, raising the forehand in what is today described as “collection”.

    It is this talent that made the Andalusian swift, agile and able to stop and turn quickly.

    Horses used in battle were trained in high-school movements such as airs above the ground.

    These are seen today carried out by the Lippizzaners at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, descendants of the Andalusian horse.

    When in battle formation, horses were tightly ranked together, performing shoulder-in so that the shields of their riders protected themselves and their mount. This was a virtually impenetrable barrier.

    Using the Andalusian’s talent for performing impressive movements riding academies designed to train horses and riders in this art were formed throughout Spain and into Europe.

    Now famous for its elevated, cadenced movement, high-stepping trot and ability to collect, the Andalusian was used in the establishment of many other breeds.

    Today, it is renowned for its beauty, docility, courage and presence, which have attracted worldwide enthusiasm.

    It has a strong, arched neck and is short-coupled, with a deep body and powerful hindquarters. As well as its traditional use in Spain for bullfighting, ceremonial duties and high school, the Andalusian has taken to the international stage in the dressage arena.

    The Andalusian’s kind nature makes it a versatile riding horse, turning its hand to all disciplines, including jumping, driving, and Western riding.

    For more information visit the British Association of the Purebred Spanish Horse website: www.bapsh.co.uk

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