The Andalusian horse is the kind of horse you would imagine to be in medieval fantasy novels and movies. The picture-perfect horse for knights and royalty. It is hard to forget such a beautiful creature with a luxurious long flowing mane and tail, powerful arched neck, noble-looking head, and compact body with beautifully animated movement.
So it is no wonder that Andalusians were owned and ridden across Europe by Spanish diplomats and Kings. The Andalusian, also known as the Pura Raza Española which means the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE, is from the Iberian Peninsula, where its ancestors have lived for thousands of years.
Famous as a classical dressage horse, Andalusians are so much more. They are actually very versatile in their uses and can excel in many disciplines, even jumping, western riding, trail riding, and driving horses.
Weight: 1000 to 1,300 pounds
Height: 15-16 hands
Body Type: Compact and athletic
Useful For: Dressage, pleasure riding, western riding, trail riding, jumping, and much more
Life Expectancy: 25 years
Andalusian’s History & Origin
Andalusians are an ancient breed developed in the Iberian Peninsula which contains both Spain and Portugal. This breed is a direct descendent of the Spanish Horse also known as the Iberian horse, which was the first horse of Europe.
Andalusian horses are also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE. They are considered to be under the heading of Iberian horses which also includes a handful of other breeds with very similar characteristics, such as the Alter Real, Lusitano, Peninsular, Zapatero.
The Andalusian is most closely related to the Lusitano, which was named after Portugal’s previous ancient name Lusitania. The original name of the province where the Andalusian horses got their name was Vandalusia which later changed to become Andalusia. It is located on the most southern point of the Iberian Peninsula.
The Andalusian is an ancient breed with its origins inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula spanning to prehistoric times with some saying even pre-ice age.
The exact creation and development of the Andalusian horse is somewhat fogged in mystery with several theories.
One theory is that Iberian horses were cross-bred by horses brought by explorers to the peninsula, creating the Andalusian horse in the 1400s.
Another explanation for the Andalusian horse is during the eighth century during the Moorish invasions. The Moors Barb and Arab horses crossed with the Spanish Horse creating the Andalusian. However, it has been said that it is a misconception that the Andalusian’s origins are in Arab blood.
Another thought is that Andalusians are the descendants of the 2000 Numidian Mares that were shipped to Spain by the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal.
These are just some of the theories of the early development of the Andalusian breed.
Andalusians took on the legacy of the Iberian horse as being great war horses. They were favored for their speed and agility, which made them famous among European royalty. As the art of horse riding became more popular, riding academies began to form and the Andalusian was a popular mount.
Since the 15th century, the breeding of Andalusians has been centered around Jerez de la Frontera, Cordoba, and Seville in Spain where it was preserved by Carthusian monasteries. These Andalusians are known as the Carthusian Andalusians.
There are 2 types of Andauliasians if you can believe it. One is more heavily built, more robust limbs than the average light riding horse and the other type has a lighter build more typical of the light riding horse.
The Andalusian breed has had a great influence on many other European horse breeds and has been a foundation for most American breeds. Some of these breeds are the Holstein, Oldenburg, Friesian, Lipizzaner, Kladruper, Frederiksberg, the Old Norman Horse, The Hackney, the Orlov, and in America, the Quarter Horse, and Criollo.
Size Of The Andalusian Horse
Andalusians average around 15.2 hands and are strong, compact horses, though they typically range 15-16 hands and weigh between 1000-1300lbs. The stallions and geldings tend to weigh more than the mares when compared at the same height. The Association for Purebred Spanish Horse Breeds of Span has minimum height requirements in order for an Andalusian to be able to become registered. Mares must be at least 14.3 hands, while geldings and stallions must be a minimum of 15 hands. Horses can also be approved as elite stock, which has different height requirements. An elite mare must be a minimum of 15 ¼ and a gelding or stallion must be 15.1hands or taller.
Colors & Markings
The Andalusian used to come in more coat colors, but over time these colors have been refined. It is very rare to see a buckskin or cremello Andalusian, while black, chestnut, dun, roan, and palomino coats are a little more common.
Andalusians most often tend to be grey with over 80% of the breed being this color. The second most common coat color is bay.
Unique Characteristics of The Andalusian Horse
These horses are donned with an attractive head, big bright kind eyes, a broad forehead, and a straight or convex hawk-like profile. The neck of an Andalusian is often short, quite thick, nicely arched, and set on strong wide shoulders. They are broad and deep-chested with a round barrel.
Andalusians are compact with a short back and well-muscled hind end. The tail is thick and is set low on the hindquarters. It is custom for the Andalusian to have long flowing manes, forelocks, and tails which are often wavy. The hooves are well-formed and hardy.
They have great flexion in their joints and have animated movement in their steps. Andalusians actually have been observed to not overstep with their hindlegs as much as other horse breeds, however, they flex their joints and have more action in their gait.
These are intelligent horses that are very trainable and learn quickly.
Andalusians have many uses but what is interesting about this breed is that they are common in the bull ring, parades, and circuses.
It is because of their bravery, energy, and agility to maneuver and turn that they are sought after as bullfighting horses in Spain and Portugal. In my opinion, I think bullfighting is absolutely cruel… to the bull and to the horses who end up getting injured by the bull.
As far as the parades go, these are beautiful horses with high stepping gaits and a noble presence. Which makes them desirable to look at and show off. A commonly displayed high stepping movement in Parades by the Andalusians is known as the gait Paso de Andatura.
Perhaps it is because of their beauty, energy, and trainability that these horses are commonly seen in circuses. Their presence alone is truly a sight to behold.
Andalusians are also seen as light riding horses, excelling in the discipline of dressage. They are among the first horses to be used in classical dressage.
You may be surprised to find that they can also make great jumpers. Other disciplines they do well at including Western pleasure, English pleasure, driving, and trail riding.
Diet & Nutrition
Andalusians can be prone to metabolic issues because they tend to be such easy keepers.
These horses would need to be on a proper diet that would keep them from becoming overweight and maintain a healthy weight but still get proper nutrients.
Quality hay and minimal grain with a vitamin supplement or ration balancer would be a good start.
Because Andalusians are prone to becoming overweight it’s important to restrict the amount of grazing on lush grass, possibly with a grazing muzzle or a certain amount of time out on the grass. Too much grazing on lush grass can cause metabolic issues with an easy keeper.
Health & Behavior Problems
Andalusians enjoy working and are willing to learn. They are energetic and agile, brave, proud, and intelligent animals. But they also have a wonderfully gentle and docile nature. However due to their intelligence and spirited nature in uneducated hands they can become too much to handle. Andalusians do make great mounts for experienced riders.
There are some health issues Andalusians are prone to:
- As mentioned before metabolic issues from being overweight or even from aging.
- Laminitis is usually associated with intestinal issues.
- Small intestine issues which are common in andalusians due to reduced blood flow in the small intestines.
- Grey horses are more likely to develop melanomas.
Andalusians benefit from regular grooming like any other horse breed. If you have a grey be prepared to have to give more regular baths or at the very least spot clean more often than a bay or darker color. Lots of currying brings out the horse’s oils and shine in the coat.
Aside from maintaining a grey-colored horse the most tedious grooming with an Andalusian will be the mane and tail. It depends if the horse has the trademark long mane. Though regardless if the mane is long or not the tail tends to be very thick, wavey, and prone to tangling.
The mane and tail will need to be detangled and conditioned on a regular basis to keep them healthy and beautiful. Some people braid the manes and tails daily to keep them from tangling and safe from breakage.
Famous Andalusian Horses
There are famous Andalusian horses in history as well as featured in films as well.
The most famous Andalusian in history is Babieca. Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar is also known as El Cid Campeador was the rider of the magnificent white stallion Babieca. He was a respectable warhorse that rode valiantly in the battle for 30 years always to victory.
Films using Andalusian horses as part of the cast include:
- Interview with the Vampire
- Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
- The Lord of the Rings film trilogy
- King Arthur
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Is The Andalusian The Right Horse For You?
If you are looking for a beautiful striking horse that will grab attention then an Andalusian might be right for you. However beauty aside, Andalusians are forward, sensitive and spirited so they are best suited for riders at an intermediate level or higher.
If you are an experienced rider and you want an intelligent, quick-learning horse, an Andalusian could be the right choice. Just remember they learn easy and quick which can mean you can teach them bad responses by accident as easily as good ones.
Andalusians naturally want to collect and with their beautiful animated movement, they make great dressage horses.
Andalusians are not a good choice for riders on a budget. Expect to pay at least $10,000 for a trained, registered Andalusian. And that would be limited horses to look at. These horses can go for much much higher double, triple or more.
- Flashy movement
- Athletic and versatile
- Willing, easy to train, and intelligent
- Docile temperament
- Easy keeper
- More expensive than most breeds
- Sensitivity and forward gaits not suitable for beginner
- Prone to laminitis and metabolic issues such as Cushings
How To Adopt Or Buy An Andalusian Horse?
Andalusians are horses of high value, so they are not often seen available for adoption at horse rescues. Possibly a cross with Andalusian may be available at a rescue.
Options for buying an Andalusian include:
- A breeding farm that breeds and sells Andalusians.
- A competition barn that sells Andalusians with a show record.
- You may also find a private seller through an online classified site.
No matter where you find an Andalusian to adopt or purchase, it is important to make sure the horse is specifically the right match for you. As well as do a pre-purchase exam to determine if the horse is sound and will hold up to what type of riding you want to do with the horse.