The Lusitano & Andalusian Breed
The Original Dressage Horse...
The story of the Andalusian and Lusitano starts as far back as the Ancient Greeks and Romans when the horses of the Iberian Peninsula had been sought after as premier riding horses. Spanish and Portuguese kings have used the riding horse of the Peninsula, as a glorious symbol of their power. For centuries, the warriors, conquistadors and bullfighters of Spain and Portugal selected these horses for athleticism, maneuverability and docility. During the Renaissance, in 1567, by imperial decree of Philip II, the Andalusian was further refined into the ultimate classical high school dressage horse at the Royal Stables of Cordoba. These horses enjoyed the reputation of being Europe's "ideal horse for war and the manege” into the end of the 18th century.
Most dressage enthusiasts, even those unfamiliar with Andalusians or Lusitanos, are aware of the writings of Francois de la Gueriniere, founding father of classical riding in the 18th Century, who wrote:
"Equestrian authors have given unanimous preference to the Spanish horse, and have considered him to be the best for the ‘manege’ work because of his agility and the strength of his hind legs, combined with their elasticity. His natural cadence and pride make him the first choice for the pomp of the parade where he can display his grace and his nobility. His courage, combined with utmost docility is the foremost requirement for war on a day of battle.”
The Andalusian, bred for the agility and collection required for hand-to-hand combat, became the original dressage horse. When the ancestors of today’s warmbloods were still pulling wagons, coaches, and the army's artillery, the Andalusian and Lusitano was the Haute Ecole dressage horse in Europe.
Iberian horse expert, clinician, and Olympic trainer Jean Paul Giacomini explains,
“The ideal Iberian horse is noble in his demeanor, versatile in his ability and majestic in his appearance. Docile to the rider yet bold in all circumstances, he is energetic without ill-temperament, sensitive to the aids without hysteria, proud without arrogance and courageous without hostility. His body is both strong and flexible. Though refined and elegant, he is renowned as an easy keeper who has adapted to the toughest living conditions at the 4 corners of the Globe”.
The modern descendants of the Andalusian and Lusitano are known in Spain officially as Pura Raza Espanola (P.R.E., Pure Spanish Horses) and the Portuguese lines are called Puro Sangue Lusitano (P.S.L.). In North America, P.R.E.s and Lusitanos are registered jointly by the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association (IALHA). Out of respect for the common historical and genetic origin of all Iberian horses, the American registry, IALHA, allows them to inter-breed, as it was traditionally practiced on the Iberian Peninsula. IALHA also has a Half-Andalusian Registry that has seen a recent increase in crosses with thoroughbreds, Friesians and warmbloods.
The Andalusian ( P.R.E. ) and Lusitano horse is fast becoming recognized as serious competition and successful champions in dressage today.
"Out of his romantic past he comes. He has carried kings and conquered continents.
He was painted by the greatest painters of all time. Poets have sung his name in a thousand voices.
His handsome beauty is unmatched. His nobleness without compare.
In all the World, no horse has stepped with such pride. He was all of these things and more.
And as if by some glorious miracle, today he comes to us unchanged.
He is the Andalusian horse."
~ Poem by: Trajan Tennant