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Saturday, August 2, 2003
Conformation - The Ideal Andalusian Head
Equine breeders whose horses are registered in the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association Registry, have an awesome responsibility in North America. In comparison with other countries, these minority breeders of “Pura Raza Española” (P.R.E.) and Puro Sangue Lusitano (P.S.L.) in the United States of America, must continue to preserve, protect and promote the genetic integrity and breeding standards for these ancient and historically significant pure bred horses.

Generally these horses are known worldwide as Andalusians -- an English and American assigned name, to these two equine breeds. Some competitive breeders in the United States have introduced a special cross combining these two pure bred horse lines. These Spanish/Portuguese horses are only registered in the United States, and are promising to be a most unique “sporthorse,” so sought after by many different horse riders in pursuit of their individual performance disciplines.

The recent international attention and focus of interest over the past five years in these two athletic horse breeds has risen from their recent performances during the Atlanta Olympics and the European World Cup Driving events. The highly competitive “open to all breed” competitions of dressage, saw a historic breakthrough for the Pure Spanish Horse (P.R.E.) in dominant Warmblood breed competition. Competitive carriage driving in pairs and four “in hand,” is where the Pure Sanguine Lusitano (P.S.L.) have in the past few years beaten most challengers.

The present worldwide interest in Andalusians repeats a most historic trend. It is no different from Greek and Roman times when these horses were sought out for their well founded and innate abilities to serve in warfare. Now European and American buyers and breeders are placing Andalusians high on their list to improve the performance qualities of their own breeds. Horse breed requirements such as courage and bravery, also needs lightness, elegance and trainability. These are most desirable goals for performance horses, in these highly demanding international disciplines.

The specific characteristics nurtured by the parent breeders of Spain and Portugal, are traditionally being followed and maintained by a most competitive group of American breeders. It is the beautiful head that specifically outlines the racial characteristics of each pure-bred line. The eyes set are in a triangulated orbital arch. The upright yet rounded outer edge shape of the ears, with the long narrow “inverted comma” nostrils, and the almost “prehensile” shaped longer upper lip, form a rounded profile with a proportionately rounded jowl. The frontal straight to slightly convex nasal bone requires an ever so slight arch on horizontal and vertical axes. One slight arch between the eyes and one slight arch from the poll to the bottom of the nose, make the rounded facial silhouette appearance. The head has been measured extensively for hundreds of years. It is these Andalusian head shapes and proportional body variations that have repercussions in resultant roundness, balance and harmony, unmatched in other horse breeds.

An idealised average dimensioned head profile is best illustrated based on eight basic skull dimensions. This is the PRE head illustrated on this web page. From this basis other proportionate dimensions can be determined to better define what constitutes and differentiates a beautiful P.R.E. head. The illustrations in the next article will show four frontal widths and ten lengths. Historically some of these measurements have been recorded annually on approved breeding quality mares and stallions by the Spanish Cria Caballar Revision team.

Ruy d’Andrade (1880-1967) the legendry Portuguese horseman and breeder studied equine skulls and teeth of the Spanish Garrano (Pony), Spanish Horse, Spanish-Arab cross and Arab. He reconstituted the “Sorraia” horse over 40 years of patient breeding, toward the ancient Iberian convex profile. This unique and only remaining herd in the world is becoming an endangered species, because of unavoidable inbreeding. They can be seen at the Alter Real farm near Alter do Chao, in Portugal.

Recent studies at the Veterinary School in Cordoba, together with researchers in Spain, have revealed that the eye angle of the P.R.E. horse has a connection with forehead convexity. A conclusion of three convex variants were drawn, with progressive eye angle changes for the Pure Spanish horse head profile, from “off straight” to convex. J del Castillo found that “the greater the subcovexity, the smaller the aperture of the bisector that crosses the main axis of the eye.” Hofrat Dr.med.vet Jaromir Oulehla, Director of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna at the Federal Stud at Piber, has for over 25 years measured the head length, jaw perimeter and depth, amongst 35 other horse dimensions, to help reconstitute the Lipizzaner breed.

The Andalusian equine breeder's attention to these details have to be maintained to reproduce an extraordinarily beautiful looking horse, with matching exquisite movements. The P.R.E. breed much like other distinct horse breeds, relies on “pedigree,” measurement of hereditary features and in some cases performance characteristics, as the basis of practical and objective breeding pair selection, for present and future horse production. Suspension, extension, elevation and flexibility are all qualities desired to reach the goal of combining aesthetics, skeletal structure and power in performance for one superb horse.

The long term goal of a few American Andalusian breeders has been to produce a special individual horse, that will represent the United States in major international equine events. Other breeders maintain small herds of horses bred for their purity within their respective Spanish or Portuguese heritages. They, voluntarily follow the rules and regulations that have been part of these breeds discipline and heritage for many hundreds of years.

Historic horse husbandry breeding practices are still adhered to in the foundation stock of Spain and Portugal, as well as other foreign countries and on some local American horse breeding farms. This has resulted in successive generations of this horse prototype being maintained worldwide, by the most disciplined attention to standards of the Andalusian (P.R.E. & P.S.L.). These adopted methods of breeding, include evaluation for breeding quality animals, severe culling practices and performance testing. These practices have proved and maintained the purity of this Andalusian’s genetic dominance for equine futures.

As did the Greeks and the Romans in the past, so will international equine breeders in the 21st century, examine and possibly turn to reconstitute beauty, balance and athleticism, found in the Andalusian, in their own particular horse breeds. They will draw from the Andalusian's blood again, to either improve their own respective horses performances, as has been the case in the past, or they might even buy the individual Andalusian. They are no different from any other horse breeders, riders and owners, who are perpetually on the eternal quest to find the ideal Pegasus.

One hopes that all horse breeding dreams and ideals will be achieved by the Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse and American IALHA breeders in this, a lifetime pursuit of perfection. This is after all “The Dream Horse.”

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