History of the Andalusian
The Andalusian horse is an object of admiration and a source of inspiration for lovers of equines all over the world. Its unique qualities of physical beauty and grace, coupled with its extraordinary courage and nobility, single it out from other horses. Its natural athleticism and cat like agility, combined with its extreme sensitivity and heightened intelligence, make it receptive to all forms of handling and training and therefore an obedient and willing servant to man, as well as a companion and friend. It is not by chance or historical accident that this horse was chosen as the mount of kings, emperors, and great figures of history, for who would not want to be seen mounted on so fine horse whose very being radiates beauty and intelligence.
The Andalusian dates back to the Bronze and Iron Ages on the Iberian Peninsula. Cave paintings have been discovered dating as early as 20,0000 BC that depict horses with distinguishing characteristics that are still found in the Spanish horse today.
In approximately 400 BC. Greek philosopher and calvary officer, Xenophon wrote of the Iberian horse; "On horses such as these even gods and heroes will appear and men who know how to work well with them will look magnificent."
After the Moorish occupation of Spain, which began in 710 AD, Spain progressed through the Middle ages where the Spanish horse was famed through Europe as a superior war horse and was greatly prized. Historical documentation relates that William the Conqueror rode an Andalusian Stallion onto the battlefield of Hastings after the Normand conquest. Napoleon and Wellington based their armies on Iberian horses. Queen Isobel sent Iberian horses with Columbus to the new World and later to the West Indies to establish breeding farms which later were used in the Spanish conquest of South and Central America and Mexico populating them with the Spanish Horse.
The warring armies spread the Andalusian breed throughout Europe. With the Renaissance came a rebirth of appreciation of all forms of beauty and art. Soon the qualities that had distinguished the breed in battle made this breed further sought after by the equestrian riding academies that were being formed in all the royal courts of Europe. The movements that were encouraged in the early riding academies were quite naturally based on those that had been required of in the battlefield; movements that demand strength, agility, and collection for which the Iberian horse is uniquely suited. A horse in piaffe is in a state of balanced readiness; the pirouette is a vital invasionary tactic. The capriole, courbette, and the levade are all movements cultivated from natural movement of the Spanish horse for use war. Training to the point where these movements can be preformed calmly on command in a balanced and collected manner is the highest level of equestrian artistry. There does not exist a horse more naturally adapted for this purpose than the Andalusian. During the Baroque Era, the Iberian horse achieved the peak of its greatness throughout
Europe, its magnificent qualities being recognized and constantly sought after. In 1667 the Duke of Newcastle wrote about the Spanish horse: "If well chosen it is 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."
In Austria, the Imperial Riding School came into being in 1850. The Imperial Stud in Lipizza used a foundation stock of mares and stallions imported from Spain to create the Lipizzaners. Over time, Spanish blood has been reintroduced into Lipizzaners to maintain their original qualities.
Perhaps one of the most impressive facts regarding this extraordinary breed is that the qualities so much admired in him today remain virtually unchanged from those of the Iberian horse of centuries ago. Throughout history, this remarkable horse has been virtually unchanged and has remained magnificent in the image of his ancestors while leaving his footprints along the path of history with mankind.
Because of his unusual genetic strength, it has been the Andalusian that has been used to create new breeds and improve existing breeds. The warmbloods of Germany, Holland, and Denmark, the Kladruber of Austria, the Cleveland Bay, the Connemara, and the Thoroughbred all carry Spanish blood. The original native breeds of the Americas were founded on Spanish bloodlines. The Quarter horse, the Appaloosa, the Morgan, the Paso Fino, the Criollo, the Peruvian Paso, the Seminole, the Azteca and many other find their roots in the Iberian horses. There has been no other single breed that has had greater influence than the Iberian on the horses existing today.
Owners of an Andalusian will know that they are in possession of both a legend and a dream. The Andalusian carries with him a mystique and projects a sense of history and art. Through his history his sensitivity, he heightens our own senses; he brings a brighter light into our world. We know he is a gifted being, both magician and artiste, a unicorn, and a dancer, a valiant spirit. His temperament is extraordinary, his resilience unsurpassed. As Ronald Duncan wrote: "He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity. There is nothing so powerful, nothing, nothing less violent. There is nothing so quick, nothing so patient. All our history is his industry; we are his heirs, He is our inheritance."
Excerpts taken from a history of the Andalusians by Marilyn Tennent in the book:
"THE ANDALUSIAN" by Robert Vavra as well as a version by Holly Kilburn.