The All-Purpose Andalusian Horse

The Andalusian horse is the Swiss Army knife of horse breeds. As depicted in cave paintings in Andalusia (southern Spain), pure Spanish steeds of Iberian descent date back more than 20,000 years. Since then, aristocrats, conquistadors, cowboys, and Olympic champions have all gainfully straddled the athletic, intelligent, and expressive Andalusian horse.

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La Cartuja Monastery outside Jerez de la Frontera

More than 500 years ago, Carthusian monks of the Cartuja Monastery in Jerez de la Frontera first developed the Carthusian strain, now considered the purest breed of Andalusian horse. With one of the oldest and most appreciated pedigrees in the world, the confirmation of the Carthusian Andalusian horse remains little changed since its original monkish introduction.

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Training the Andalusian in the Round at School of Equestrian Art, Jerez

The monks initially utilized the animals as stock horses for farming and transportation. In the ensuing centuries, these qualities of the Carthusian Andalusian strain have been extensively crossbred. The American Quarter Horse and other breeds known for their “cow sense” inherited their job skills from these Spanish ancestors.

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The Athletic Andalusian Horse

Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Spain’s worldwide military activities required an abundant supply of horses. The compact and strongly built Andalusians excelled as a weight-bearing cavalry stallion, and earned status with nobility and New World conquerors as a prized war horse.

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Mares in the Arena at Yeguada de la Cartuja

To get better acquainted with these magnificent animals, we went to see the former monastery and Yeguada de la Cartuja, the most important Carthusian stud farm and horse reserve in the world. In the pastoral countryside outside Jerez, the Yeguada aims to preserve the gene pool of this lineage and contribute to improving the Carthusian breed.

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Veterinary Operating Room at Yeguada de la Cartuja

Our visit included a tour of the 600-acre ranch including the stables, corrals, artificial insemination area, veterinary clinic, and antique carriage collection. Following the tour, we were delighted with an entertaining exhibition of stallions, mares and foals, demonstrating their dance steps, carriage pulling talents, and dressage skills.

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Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art (photo: trudymason.com)

To watch more traditional dressage of the Andalusian horse, we returned to the city of Jerez for the celebrated horse show at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. During the skillfully choreographed performance, the Andalusian horses proved to us why they have won numerous gold medals in Olympic equestrian dressage.

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Andalusian Horse in Madrid Bullring (June 2014)

From transportation to warfare to dressage the Andalusian has a proven itself as a very versatile horse. Because they even delight in working around dangerous and temperamental Iberian bulls, Andalusian horses also continue to be employed in the bull rings of Spain.

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Andalusian Show Horse at Yeguada de la Cartuja

Physically, the Andalusian horse has a profuse and wavy mane and tail, and a range of coat colors, but mostly gray and white. It is an elegant, smooth-to-ride, and light-footed animal, with flowing movement, quick velocity, and controlled power.

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Lovable Long-Hair Carthusian Andalusian Horse

In conduct and demeanor, they are docile, easily trained, and always responsive, willing, and easy-to-read when treated with respect. With just one look into their kind and intelligent eyes, it is abundantly clear that the Andalusian is a very sensitive, vivacious, and lovable all-purpose horse.

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Petting the Foals and Yearlings at Yeguada de la Cartuja

Feature Image: Lladró porcelain sculpture of Spanish Pure Breed Andalusian Horse at the Lladró factory in Valencia, Spain. Price tag $9,215.

 

13 thoughts on “The All-Purpose Andalusian Horse

  1. The Andalusian horses are magnificent animals. I have seen the dressage shows on TV but never so close and personal as you have. La Cartuja Monastery sounds like a fascinating place to visit. Do you ride horses at all?

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    • I’m sure you would appreciate seeing the dressage shows in person, Gilda. I was born and raised in the city, and was never really introduced to horses. Now that I live in the more rural state of Nevada, which is known for its wild horses, I have become more interested in them. In Jerez, I took advantage of the opportunity to learn about the locally-developed Andalusian horse breed. I am now glad to have met this magnificent animal.

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    • I totally agree, Janis. The Andalusian horse is a truly wonderful breed. In Jerez (near Cádiz), the dressage show at the School of Equestrian Art is a popular tourist attraction. Since Esther is a horse lover, this was at the top of her to do list. To me, the show was beautiful but somewhat repetitive. I was happy to find the Yeguada stud farm. It was a much more interesting and hands-on opportunity to admire and learn about these gorgeous animals.

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  2. Wow, $9,000 for the porcelain sculpture piece. I’m so glad you gave some details on it because I stared at that more than the pics of the real horses you took. It’s a very impressive artwork. Very interesting post, Joe. My only other source of information about horse breeding, etc., came curiously enough from a biography I read a couple of years ago about Queen Elizabeth. So fortunately I had something to recollect, with my obviously thin knowledge of horses. The Andalusian is impressive looking. – Marty

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    • We really enjoyed getting to know this impressive and friendly breed. As you say Marty, on any subject, it is nice to have some point of reference on which to expand your knowledge. After this week, I will never look at horses the same way again. The Lladró porcelain piece is so accurate and detailed, I too could just stare at it in admiration. At that price; however, you could buy a real horse!

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  3. What gorgeous horses! It’s easy to see why they are so valued, what with the way they look, their intelligence, their goodness and their movements. Thanks for sharing this, Joe! I had no idea the breed was so old.

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    • As a friend of animals, you would have fallen in love with these Andalusian horses too, Ann. They are truly remarkable, possessing great versatility, high intelligence, and pleasant demeanors. The work being done at the Yeguada stud farm to defend the integrity of this ancient and historic breed is crucial in keeping it from dilution and eventual extinction.

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    • So right, Christi. We fell in love with the Andalusian horse. The farm encouraged us humans to visit with the horses and pet them. As a result, they are extremely friendly and sociable. Of all the skills and qualities of the Andalusian horse, it was their easygoing and good-natured personality that won my heart.

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