The Azteca horse breed combines the cow-sense and speed of a Quarter Horse with the movement and disposition of Andalusians and Lusitanos.

When I first heard the term Azteca being thrown around, I pictured some variation of a combo meal at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I also considered that it might be the name of a Pendleton blanket pattern.

But, as with many things, my thoughts were way off base. It turns out that an Azteca is actually a versatile, silky-smooth traveling, noble and athletic breed of horse that originated in Mexico and is gaining popularity in the United States. All different disciplines, including dressage (traditional and Western), roping, trail riding driving, polo ranch work and sorting competitions, enjoy the breed.

The Azteca was born out of a desire to combine the cow-sense and speed of the American Quarter Horse with the style, movement and disposition of the Spanish equine breeds (Andalusian and Lusitano). The charros of Mexico wanted a horse that was sensible and handy enough for ranch work, but agile and savvy in the bullfighting pen and competitive charreria arenas. They began breeding Quarter Horse and Criollo mares to Andalusian and Lusitano stallions from Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula, and the ultimate charro horse was born. It was officially started in the 1970s and the Azteca is the official national horse of Mexico.

Kelli Neubert riding an Azteca horse

Naturally, I became very interested in learning more about these horses. (They had my attention at silky-smooth gaits, am I right?) They generally stand between 14.3 and 16 hands. Ideally, they are more Andalusian in the front and Quarter Horse in the hind end. An Azteca should sport a strong, defined, beautiful neck and chest, with a narrow head and a strong hip. They are short coupled, fluid through the shoulders and can move in any direction swiftly and smoothly. They are incredibly trainable, cooperative and combine grace, suspension and power with a feel for cattle and often, great manes and tails. The more I learned about these horses, the more I wanted to have one to ride, train and learn from.

There are a couple different breed associations for these horses to be registered through. The American Azteca is based in the U.S., allows Paint and Quarter Horse breeds, and prohibits any horses with more than 25 percent Thoroughbred genetics. The Mexican-based association allows only solid colors and inspects the horses throughout their maturity before entering them in the books as breeding stock.

Before you wonder if I’ll ever have one of my own, the answer is yes— I’ve already got him. I’ve mentioned my Azteca “Benito” in a previous post about starting colts this year. My father-in-law raised Benito, who is by an Andalusian stallion and out of a foundation-bred AQHA mare. Although I have only 20 rides or so on him, he has proved himself to be gentle, willing, intelligent, forgiving and an exceptionally smooth traveler. Plus, compared to our short cutting horses and ponies that we usually ride, he’s a towering 15 hands, which is kind of a fun change.

So, long story short, there are no tacos involved with Aztecas and hardly an attractive southwestern pattern to be found. And although you might not see me in the dressage pen, polo field or behind a sulky any time soon, I’m certainly enjoying my own gelding of this special breed and his willingness to learn.

Not to mention that fabulous, floating extended trot.

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2 Comments

  1. Enjoyed the article but have to make a correction and to qualify my comment, I am the president of American Azteca Horse International Association. The correction is about the statement that Appaloosa color patterns are accepted, they are NOT. The blood other than Andalusian/Lusitano of an Azteca must be of Quarter Horse only, (Criollo is accepted because it is in Mexico, though very few are in the US). The APHA registered Paint horse is allowed because it is a breed created from Quarter Horse blood but with too much white to qualify for AQHA. Pinto horses do not qualify to produce an Azteca, only APHA registered Paint horses. Even though the Appaloosa of today can be of substantially QH blood they are still a breed of their own that originated from other than QH blood and therefor not accepted for producing an Azteca. Please see our website for more information on the American Azteca. http://www.americanazteca.com

    • Katie Frank Reply

      Hi Rita! Thank you for clarifying the acceptable breeds. We clarified Kelli’s text to avoid any confusion. It certainly is a beautiful, interesting breed.

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