Ask someone who knows nothing about horses to name a few breeds : they will probably tell you about the Arabian thoroughbred, a breed that is much talked about for its elegance, and the English thoroughbred, which reigns supreme in racing. The Spanish horse breeds are not as visible as those mentioned above, but they should be known. In this article we highlight two breeds of horses that originated in Spain but whose qualities have allowed them to conquer enthusiasts beyond the borders.
The black pearl : Menorquin horse
Always black, the Menorquin horse or Purebred Menorquin is a very old breed. In fact, it appeared about seven centuries ago to serve as a war horse during the reign of King Jaume II. It is the result of crossbreeding between black horses native to the island of Menorca with horses of the Genet breed from Spain, but also with bearded horses and Arabian thoroughbreds. It was only later, during the English occupation, that crosses with English thoroughbreds were made to improve the breed. This contribution of blood makes the Minorquin an agile, supple and comfortable horse. It is an intelligent horse and appreciated for its versatility, it is mainly used in dressage and in driving, but it can also do show jumping. It is also perfect for shows and traditional festivals. It participates in competitions of “Doma Menorquina” a discipline close to the classical dressage. This horse is an emblem of the island of Menorca, and many visitors come to attend the traditional festivities in which the Menorquin is the main actor : during the patronal festivities, the jaleo, the name given to this festive and popular folklore, features a Menorquin stallion, his rider and the crowd in a hypnotic and perilous dance. During the jaleo, the riders, called caixers, dance their horses on their hind legs, surrounded by a crowd of people of all ages. The horses sway and rear to the rhythm of a specific repetitive music. It is an extraordinary show, in every sense of the word, and unique in the world.
Made for high school : Purebred Spanish horse
The Purebred Spanish horse is a saddle horse originating from Spain and more precisely from Andalusia. The breed is very old. Since ancient times, traces of horses in the Iberian Peninsula are detectable. The beginnings of the breed are in the Middle Ages following the crossing of Spanish war horses with Arabian invader bearded horses. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was extremely popular in the different European courts where nobles rode it and observed its high school figures during shows. It is particularly predisposed to dressage. Its docility, its excellence in gathering and its beautiful gaits are indeed important assets for this discipline. Founded in Jerez de la Frontera in 1973 by Don Alvaro Domecq, the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Arts revived and perpetuated the Andalusian traditions of high equitation. Nowadays, we distinguish between lines that are more “sporty”, destined for dressage competitions, and lines that are more baroque, closer to the original model, and intended more for shows. It is also the most represented breed in movies, the one of predilection of Mario Luraschi for example. It is also very popular for cowboy training (“doma vaquera”) and bullfighting on horseback (“rejoneo”). The Purebred Spanish horse is internationally renowned under the saddle of Rafael Soto, Olympic dressage rider.
There are other Spanish breeds, such as the Pottock, a Basque pony that is very popular in riding schools and works wonders in equifun or the Cruzado, which has many adpetes in leisure riding throughout Europe.
But no, you won’t see these breeds of horses running for the Gold Cup on day four of the cheltenham festival or in any horse race. However, they have nothing to envy to the English thoroughbreds, both in terms of entertainment and physical performance. You have certainly vibrated to the sound of the gallop of a Minorquin in front of a cap and sword movie like Zorro, and if you haven’t already done so we invite you to go and see a high school or equestrian art show. Although it is exciting, horse racing is not the only vector of equestrian emotions and it would be a pity to miss it.