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In the development of the modern horse breeds, the most significant influences are the Arabian and then the Barb. Discounting the Thoroughbred, and its history goes back only about 200 years, there is a third presence. This is the Andalusian, for centuries known as the Spanish Horse.
The center of Andalusian breeding is in old Spain, in sunscorched Jerez de la Frontera, Cordoba and Seville. In these areas, Carthusian monks preserved the purity of the breed with dedication. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries outcrossing to heavy stallions, in a mistaken effort to breed bigger horses, nearly ruined the Andalusian, but the Carthusian monks selectively bred the Andalusian, and the best lines today trace to those original Carthusian horses. However, the precise origins of so old a breed are difficult to establish. Before the Ice Age, a land bridge, now the Straits of Gibraltar, existed between Spain and North Africa. Barb horses could have crossed over into Spain. At the time of the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, between A.D. 711 and 1492, the indigenous stock was exemplified by the Sorraia Pony, a primitive type with a Barb connection. It seems highly likely that the Spanish Horse evolved from crossbreeding between this native stock and that of the largely Berber invaders - the North African Barbs.
The action of this horse is proud and lofty. The walk is showy and rhythmical, the trot is high-stepping and full of impulsion, the rocking canter smooth and spectacular. The natural balance, agility and fire of the Andalusian, together with its spectacular paces and docile temperment, make the breed well-suited to any horse owner.
Reference: The Ultimate Horse Book, Elwyn Hartley Edwards, 1991
Eastern Regional Andalusian Horse Club
International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association
Wild Wind Andalusians
The background picture courtesy of Miraval Andalusians