A joy to watch, the fluidity of motion is synonymous of the breed. The wild main and forelock only add to the sense of wonder these animals command when they are performing. They possess a sense of balance and collection that seems to be a natural gift. Quick to learn, their physical prowess makes a difficult maneuver look easy. As a photographer I always loved to photograph these horses. It’s like filming the ballerina of the horse world.
The Andalusian, also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE (pura raza española), is a horse breed from the Iberian Peninsula, where its ancestors have lived for thousands of years. The Andalusian has been recognized as a distinct breed since the 15th century, and its conformation has changed very little over the centuries. Throughout its history, it has been known for its prowess as a war horse and was prized by the nobility. The breed was used as a tool of diplomacy by the Spanish government, and kings across Europe rode and owned Spanish horses. During the 19th century, warfare, disease and crossbreeding reduced herd numbers dramatically, and despite some recovery in the late 19th century, the trend continued into the early 20th century. Exports of Andalusians from Spain were restricted until the 1960s, but the breed has since spread throughout the world, despite their low population. In 2010, there were more than 185,000 registered Andalusians worldwide.
Strongly built, and compact yet elegant, Andalusians have long, thick manes and tails. Their most common coat color is gray, although they can be found in many other colors. They are known for their intelligence, sensitivity and docility. A sub-strain within the breed known as the Carthusian, is considered by breeders to be the purest strain of Andalusian, though there is no genetic evidence for this claim. The strain is still considered separate from the main breed however and is preferred by breeders because buyers pay more for horses of Carthusian bloodlines. There are several competing registries keeping records of horses designated as Andalusian or PRE, but they differ on their definition of the Andalusian and PRE, the purity of various strains of the breed, and the legalities of stud book ownership. At least one lawsuit is in progress as of 2011, to determine the ownership of the Spanish PRE stud book.
The Andalusian is closely related to the Lusitano of Portugal, and has been used to develop many other breeds, especially in Europe and the Americas. Breeds with Andalusian ancestry include many of the warmbloods in Europe as well as western hemisphere breeds such as the Azteca. Over its centuries of development, the Andalusian breed has been selected for athleticism and stamina. The horses were originally used for classical dressage, driving, bullfighting, and as stock horses. Modern Andalusians are used for many equestrian activities, including dressage, show jumping and driving. The breed is also used extensively in movies, especially historical pictures and fantasy epics.