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Windt im Wald Farm
Geauga County, Northeast Ohio
since 1995

The Andalusian Horse

Although many people seem familiar with the Arabian horse as the foundation stock of many modern-day horse breeds, few individuals understand the importance of the Andalusian horse in equine history. Xenophon, the first horse trainer to write down his techniques, referred to "the gifted Iberian horse" some 4000 years ago. Julius Caesar mentioned the Iberian horse in his memoirs about the conquest of Gaul, or modern-day France; Hannibal from Carthage used them when he crossed the Alps; Richard the Lion-Hearted, the Crusader-King of England, wildly admired his "Spanish Destriers" as skilled and agile war horses.

When the Moors, or North African Berbers, invaded Spain in 710 A.D., they brought their own tough endurance horses with them. These horses had long faces with straight or even Roman noses; short, thick necks, short backs, round croups, thick manes, and long tails that were carried close to their bodies. These Barb horses, not Arabian horses, bred with the native horses of the Iberian Peninsula, comprised of Spain and Portugal, and produced tough, agile horses. Since the Arabic word for the Iberian Peninsula was Al Andalus, the breed was easily named Andalusian, but it was also known as the Iberian War Horse, Jennet or Genite, Alter Real, Carthusian, Spanish Horse, Portuguese, Peninsular, Castilian, Extremeno, Villanos, Zapata, or Zamanos. As the Catholic Christian influence resurged in the 1400s, monks of Cartuja took over the breeding of these highly sought-after horses in Terez, Seville, and Cazallo. Once the Spanish Empire broke up into Portugal and Spain, each country continued to use the same foundation bloodlines, but in Spain, the Andalusian horse eventually became known as Pura Raza Espanol (Purebred Spanish), and in Portugal it became known as the Lusitano.

As the nation-states of Europe evolved in the 16th-18th centuries, the development of a skilled cavalry horse for invasion became vitally important. Already widely recognized throughout history as a sturdy horse with great agility and powerful impulsion from its hindquarters, the Andalusian was the logical choice of mount for the most powerful empire, the Holy Roman Empire (Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Austria). In fact, it was Archduke Charles, later Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who sent Andalusian horses to the Royal Stud of Lippiza. The "Dancing Lippizaner" owed much of its development to these foundation horses.

By the 19th century, the influence of the Iberian Peninsula was weakening. The Andalusian horses continued to be so desirable that when French Emperor Napoleon I invaded Spain in the early 1800s, he stole as many of these treasured horses as he could for his own army. An epidemic of disease in 1832 destroyed large numbers of the remaining Andalusian horses. Like so many other breeds whose stories have appeared here, the Andalusian horse became threatened with possible extinction. During World War II, General Patton of the United States Army rescued some that seemed destined to be stolen by Nazi Germany. Even today, fewer than 7000 Andalusian horses are registered in the Spanish National Stud Book.

The Andalusian/Lusitano horse looks much as it did during the glory days of the Iberian Peninsula: a 15.2-16.2 hand horse, largely gray or bay, and very rarely, black. It has a long head with a straight or concave profile, a short to medium neck, a short back, a rounded croup. It is used to pull carriages, to perform complicated dressage and Haute Ecole (high school equitation), and to carry the Rejoneador as he fights a bull on horseback without reins or bit. The horse long desired by conquerors and kings, it remains the national treasure of Al Andalus.

Diane Jones
Windt im Wald Farm  

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