Andalusian horses belong to a lineage of baroque horses originating from the Iberian Peninsula, a region of southwestern Europe that contains modern-day Spain and Portugal. Today, the Andalusian name is most commonly used in North America to refer to horses with Spanish ancestry.

Although many of these horses belong to the Caballo de Pura Raza Española (PRE) breed, not all Andalusians in North America are eligible for PRE registration.

Historically, PREs, Lusitanos, and Andalusians all come from one breed. While differences between Portuguese, Spanish, and North American breeders separate the breeds, these horses share similar characteristics that make them popular pleasure and competition mounts.

For centuries, Andalusian horses were renowned war horses and prized mounts of nobility across Europe. Today, Andalusians are admired by riders for their striking looks, charismatic personalities, and willing work ethics.

This article will review the history, characteristics, health problems, and nutritional needs of Andalusian horses. Keep reading to learn how to care for and feed your Andalusian.

Andalusian Horse History

The Andalusian horse gets its name from the Spanish region of Andalusia and has roots that date back to prehistoric times.

However, the Andalusian breed originates from horses found throughout the Iberian Peninsula, and not just Andalusia.

Origin

Archeologists discovered depictions of horses in cave paintings dating from 20,000 to 30,000 BC in southern Spain. These prehistoric horses were likely the ancestors of modern Iberian breeds. [1]

According to historical evidence, local cultures in the Iberian Peninsula domesticated horses for riding as early as 4000 BC. The Iberian cavalry gained notoriety among ancient civilizations, and Homer even mentions Iberian horses in the Iliad. [2]

Xenophon, the famous ancient Greek cavalry officer who authored The Art of Horsemanship, praised Iberian horses for their role in the Peloponnesian Wars of the 5th century BC.

Carthusian monks began recording the pedigrees of Iberian horses in the 13th century. The Pura Raza Española name originated in 1567 under the breeding program established by King Phillip II of Spain. [3]

Historic Use

Iberian horses maintained their dominance as the preferred war horses of European soldiers until the Medieval Period when heavy armour required larger draft horses and warmbloods. [4]

However, the breed maintained popularity in royal courts and riding academies. Regarded as the royal horse of Europe, Andalusian horses were prized by European nobility for their beauty, charisma, and athleticism.

The Spanish government gifted horses to foreign rulers as a tool of diplomacy, and these horses went on to influence the development of new breeds throughout the world.

During the Renaissance, Andalusians thrived in military riding schools that provided the foundation for the modern sport of dressage. Today, the Lipizzaner horses of the Spanish Riding School can trace their bloodlines to Iberian ancestors. [3]

While Iberian horses likely accompanied Spanish conquistadors on expeditions across the Atlantic, the first recognized Andalusian horses weren’t imported to the United States until the 1960s.

This timing corresponded with the first formalized breed definitions that distinguished Portuguese Lusitanos from PREs. [5]

Breed Registry

The LG PRE ANCCE is the official studbook for purebred PRE horses maintained by the National PRE Horse Breeders’ Association of Spain and recognized by the Spanish Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Resources. [3]

USPRE is the primary National Association of the PRE Horse in North America. This non-profit organization promotes PREs in the United States and assists breeders with PRE Stud Book Registration.

The Portuguese Association of Purebred Lusitano Horse Breeders (APSL) manages the official studbook of purebred Lusitano horses. The United States Lusitano Association (USLA) is the only association recognized by APSL in North America.

Andalusian breeders in North America founded the International Andalusian Horse Association in 1977. In 1995, the organization merged with the American Andalusian & Lusitano Association to form the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association. (IALHA).

The IALHA registers horses with verified ancestry to the Spanish and Portuguese studbooks, including Half-Andalusians, and Half-Lusitanos. [5]

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Breed Characteristics

Andalusians have distinct features and personalities resulting from centuries of selective breeding. The ancient war horse bloodlines that produced the breed now allow the modern Andalusian to excel as a dressage horse for various levels of rider.

Conformation

Most Andalusian horses stand between 15 and 16 hands tall. The head should be average-sized with a straight or slightly concave profile, medium ears, a wide forehead, and expressive triangular eyes.

Arched and muscular necks lined by long, silky manes are characteristic features of the breed. These horses should also have broad withers, muscular backs, short loins, rounded hindquarters, and low-set, full tails. Legs are strong, clean, and average in length. [3]

Colours

All coat colours are permitted according to the PRE Rules and Regulations. But grey and bay are the most common colours seen in Andalusian horses. [3]

Temperament

Andalusian horses are known for having excellent dispositions. The breed is noble, docile, and energetic. In addition, Andalusian owners often praise the breed for their generous natures and willing work ethic.

While the breed’s gentle temperament makes the Andalusian popular for many riders, personalities can vary between individuals. These horses can also be more sensitive and forward going than other breeds.

Disciplines

Andalusians have harmonic, rhythmic, and agile movements that complement their pleasing personalities. Riders often find these gaits smoother and easier to ride than big-moving warmbloods. This makes the Andalusian an ideal amateur dressage horse. [6]

Iberian horses can also succeed at the top levels of the sport, with several PREs appearing at Olympic Games and World Championships in the past decade. While Andalusians may not match the power and swing of modern warmbloods, the breed is talented at collected work.

However, the striking appearance and willingness of the Andalusian allow the breed to stand out in several disciplines. Some Andalusians even find their calling as movie stars, with Spanish horses playing central roles in films such as Braveheart, Lord of the Rings, and Gladiator.

Andalusian Horse Health

The selective breeding that produced the modern Andalusian horse also contributed to health problems in closed populations. Andalusians also have unique characteristics that require different management than some other breeds.

Genetic Diversity

Unlike some breeds, Andalusians don’t have an exceptionally high risk for certain genetic diseases. However, genetic studies of Spanish horses reveal that purebred PRE horses have an increased inbreeding depression load due to their closed breeding population. [7]

Inbreeding depression load refers to the negative impact or burden that arises from the accumulation of genetic traits in a population as a result of inbreeding. This leads to a higher concentration of genetic defects and risks of health problems in the offspring of related individuals.

Breed registries are now collaborating with scientific teams using genomic technologies to assist breeders in producing horses with greater genetic diversity. [7]

Health Problems

Andalusian breed standards tend to favour horses with heavier builds, but obesity can increase the risk of health problems. And some owners can confus