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The Andalusian horse is one of the oldest breeds of horses in Europe. Evidence of the early roots of the Andalusian can be found in artwork and paintings which date back to 20,000 BCE, and the horses were being praised for their abilities on the battlefield by 4,000 BCE. The Andalusian is considered to be an Iberian horse, along with the Lusitano, but in order to be considered a true Andalusian, the horse must originate from Spain.
In Spain, a separate studbook has been established, and a great deal of work has been undertaken to ensure the purity of the breed, which almost died out in the 1800s. A horse which has been certified through the Spanish studbook is known as a Pura Raza Espanola (PRE), a “Pure Spanish Horse,” a rare distinction. Horses which cannot pass the standards of the Spanish studbook through imperfect coloring or conformation are simply known as Andalusians, without the PRE distinction, although they retain many of the qualities of a PRE horse.
Typically, an Andalusian is gray, black, or chestnut. The majority of Andalusians are gray, as this color has been selected for over the centuries. The horses have long, flowing manes and tails, along with an energetic, high stepping gait which makes them ideal for dressage. The compact, powerful body of an Andalusian can carry the horse for miles with a skilled rider, and Andalusians are also highly intelligent horses. They have become beloved as a breed because Andalusians are also gentle, loving, and patient with their riders, when they have been well trained.
Several breeds of horse probably influenced the development of the Andalusian, including Celtic and Arabian horses. The end result, however, was a distinctive breed which was initially prized as a war horse. The Andalusian is steady and unlikely to shy in chaotic situations, and Greek and Roman warriors both sought after the breed. In the Middle Ages, the Andalusian was considered to be the horse of kings, and was also used as a lady's palfrey, thanks to the beauty and gentleness of the classic Andalusian. Today, there are a limited number of pure Andalusians in existence, although breeders are making an effort to increase the available numbers, as the horses are in high demand.
In addition to appearances in the dressage ring, Andalusians are also used for bull fighting, show jumping, eventing, and pleasure riding. The stable nature of the horses makes them ideal for families with children, as Andalusians are patient with young riders. Many riders who work with Andalusians are highly devoted to the breed, and work with stud farms to maintain the bloodline.