"He's of the colour of the nutmeg. And of the heat of the ginger ... he is pure air and fire; and the dull elements of earth and water never appear in him, but only in patient stillness while his rider mounts him; he is indeed a horse, and all other jades you may call beasts."The Andalusian horse is also known as Pure Spanish Horse or PRE, which is short for Pura Raza Española. The breed belongs to the Iberian peninsula in Spain, dwelling in the region for thousands of years.
―William Shakespeare, Henry V
The history of Andalusian horses has been interesting, where they've been described as both, respected and coveted as war horses, and found much favor with nobility. Here is what William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle, had to say about them,
"... 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, and fittest of all for a king in his day of triumph."
Besides being an animal of great beauty, the Andalusian has quite a lot of venerable qualities which makes it one of the best horse breeds.
A standard Andalusian as described by the Association of Purebred Spanish Horse Breeders of Spain should possess the following characteristics:
- 15.1 1⁄2 hands (61.5 inches) at the withers
- 1,129 lb in weight
- 15.0 hands (60 inches) in height
- 15 1⁄2 hands (60.5 inches) at the withers
- 908 lb in weight
- 14.3 hands (59 inches) in height
An Andalusian stallion with its trademark massive chest and spotted coat.
► The Andalusian is grandly built; a finely sculptured head with straight or subconvex profile. The neck has an elegant arch, with a well-developed crest. The neck is lined with a long, dense, and wavy mane. The withers are well-defined, with a sturdy back. Their trademark is their massive chest, with long, sloping shoulders. Rounded quarters, a low-set tail, strong legs, and well-formed hoofs make up the rest.
► In the old times, most coat colors including spotted patterns were found. Most Andalusians these days are gray colored, especially in the U.S., where they make up 80% of the entire breed. Among the rest, about 15% are bay, and 5% are black, dun, palomino or chestnut. Other colors, such as buckskin, pearl, and cremello, are rare, but are recognized by breed registries.
► The Andalusian's temperament is unparalleled―they are known to be intelligent, sensitive, and quite shy. When treated right, they are quick learners and a sheer delight to work with.
► Quite a lot of superstitions and beliefs were attached to this breed, with typical white markings and whorls being considered to bring in good or bad luck. A specimen with no white markings at all was considered to be ill-tempered and vice-ridden, whereas certain facial markings were indicators of honesty, loyalty, and endurance. Hair whorls in various places had their own interpretations, with the most unlucky being in places where the horse could not see them (on the temples, cheek, shoulder or heart). Two whorls close to the top of the tail were a sign of good luck.
► The breed found favor with the European nobility during the Middle Ages, which built their reputation as prized war horses.
► It is believed that the Carthusian monks were the ones who bred and trained these horses during the Middle Ages. In fact, the purity of the breed was threatened when Napoleon invaded Spain in the 1800s and took away several of these Andalusians, barring a small herd at the monastery of Cartuja. These horses later revived the number of Andalusians in Spain.
► Andalusians have a showy, rhythmical walk, a high-stepping trot and a smooth, rocking canter. This style makes them popular at equestrian shows and competitions.