Andalusians show their versatility and style as horses used for roping and ranching.
They’re elevated and animated, the kind of horses seen in fantasy films. But charro Tomas Garcilazo, featured in the October issue of Western Horseman, and others are discovering that Andalusian horses are a versatile breed for Western disciplines and cattle work. The breed has ties to the early 17th century vaqueros who worked mission cattle in the hills and valleys of what is now California.
The purebred Andalusian, also referred to as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE (Pura Raza Espanola), originated in the Spanish region of Andalusia on the Iberian Peninsula. The Lusitano, an Iberian horse genetically similar to the Andalusian, originated in Lusitania, which is now Portugal.
Known as the “Horse of Kings,” the Andalusian was developed for classical dressage, driving, bullfighting and stock work, but was ridden by royalty and became known for its nobility and bravery in battle.
Purebred Andalusians that meet strict breed standards are registered in the Spanish studbook through the mother association, the Asociacion Nacional de Criadores de Caballos de Pura Raza Espanola (ANCCE). Crossbred Andalusians, also known as Aztecas, are registered through other associations, such as the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association.
Fabian Banderas grew up on his family’s ranch outside of Guadalajara, Mexico, riding mostly Quarter Horses, even though his grandmother had a crossbred Andalusian. His experience with purebred Andalusians began a few years ago when he and his fiancée, Cara Hamer, purchased their first PREs.
“I found out how gentle they are and how easy they are to train,” he says. “You don’t have to do a lot of repetition because they are super smart. They like to be challenged and get bored with repetition, and that challenges you as a rider.”
The horses are selected for their strength and stamina, and their natural collection abilities and suspension create smooth gaits Bandaras compares to “riding on feathers.” All of these qualities make them desirable for those who spend several hours in the saddle each day.
“I wish all of my buckaroo friends would give Andalusians a try,” notes Bandaras.
Until the 1960s, export of purebred Andalusians from Spain was restricted, so they were considered a horse of privilege and used mostly in English disciplines. However, the horses are now gaining popularity in Western dressage, ranch roping and other stock-horse events because of their athleticism, collection abilities and cattle prowess.
“In the United States we haven’t had enough people using them in the stock horse world,” says Banderas. “Most of them have been used in English disciplines, but we’re seeing more [PREs] being used on ranches and for Western dressage.”
Hamer, who grew up in South Africa, bought her first PRE Andalusian a few years ago to rope and work cattle.
“They are great ranch horses because they have strong legs, feet and bone, and were originally bred for bullfighting,” she says. “They are naturally drawn to cattle but are versatile enough to do anything. They have so much try and heart.”
Bandaras and Hamer stand PRE stallion Chino de Vargas at their Karma Andalusians in Ramona, California, and train PREs using traditional bridle horse technique for ranch roping and other Western disciplines. They say the price of a PRE can be higher than most stock horses because the breed is not as prominent as Quarter Horses and other breeds. They also note, however, that a well-trained Andalusian can yield a higher return on the initial investment. Aztecas can be less expensive and have the best qualities of both the Andalusian and Quarter Horse, they say.
For more information on purebred Andalusians, visit the Karma Andalusians PRE Breeder and Chino de Vargas PRE Stallion Facebook pages, or the ANCEE website at ancce.es and click on the English version.