The name Andalusian, comes from the word Andalus which, for centuries, was the name given to the Iberian Peninsula where the Andalusian horse was developed. The breed probably developed from the crossing of African Barb horses with indigenous stock. The Andalusian is essentially the same horse as the Lusitano, which is the Portugese version. The Andalusian is still bred in the province of Andalusia, which these days covers the area of southern Spain, around Seville, Cordoba and Granada. A major center of Andalusian breeding is still located at Jerez de la Frontera, where a Carthusian monastary, founded in 1476, preserved the purest strains of the Andalusian, in spite of a royal edict to introduce heavy Neopolitan crosses.
Collectively, the horses of the Iberian Peninsula are called Iberian horses, although they may be called Spanish Horses, as well as Andalusians and Lusitanos. While other countries use the name Andalusian to refer to this horse, the Spanish Horse Breeders’ Association stopped using it in 1912 and the official spanish name of the breed is now Pura Raza Española which means “the pure Spanish breed”.
While the Andalusian is not a large horses (they stand no higher than 15.2 hh) it is an impressive horse with great presence. The profile of the head is somewhat convex, as opposed to the dished or concave profile of the Arabian. The neck is short and powerful and is carried high, contributing to their presence.
Andalusians are compact horses, with a short back, a sloping croup and high degree of flexion in the joints of the hind legs, which allows them to move in collected gaits.
Andalusians can be grey, white or bay with a fine coat. They have thick and luxuriant manes and tails, which are usually left natural, or trimmed only for tidiness’ sake.
In the past, the Iberian horse was considered the perfect war horse. They appear throughout history in great battles, and accompanied by renowned historical figures, such as the Greek officer, Xenophon.
Andalusians are still used in the bullring in their native Spain. Their ability to move easily in the collected gaits makes them suited to Haute Ecole or High School in the riding academies of Europe. They are versatile horses, with placid temperaments. They are also popular as parade horses, where the flamboyant “Spanish Walk” is sure to enthrall parade spectators.
While the Andalusian is experiencing a rapid growth in popularity, there are currently only about 2,500 Andalusian horses in the US. Most are in California, with the second highest number being in Texas. Even in their native Spain, there are only about 12,500 purebred Andalusian horses, with about 4,000 purebred Lusitanos in Portugal.
Consequently, many people have never seen an Andalusian or, like myself, have only seen one or two.
The Encyclopedia of the Horse – Elwyn Hartley-Edwards. ISBN 1-56458-614-6