Due to a happy coincidence, the Western lowlands of the Iberian Peninsula remained spared from the effects of the most recent ice age. The horses that survived this period were the forefathers of the first domesticated and ridden horses and are the foundation of the Iberian horse. Due to the isolation of this small part of Europe, these horses could survive and evolve more than 15,000 years with a minimum influence from the outside. In the reverse, influences from the Iberian horse can be found in many other (Baroque) horse breeds, including even the warmblood sport horse.
The Iberian horse was ridden for the first time 4,000 years before Christ and were used in the centuries that followed as warhorse, horse for the nobility and workhorse.
The current Lusitano or Puro Sangue Lusitano (PSL) is a direct descent from this Iberian horse that, except in Portugal, also appears in Andalusia (Spain) and is known as the Pura Raza Espagnole (PRE). Only in the last 300 years has a difference arisen between the horses from Spain and the horses from Portugal. An important reason for this difference is that since the 18th century, bullfighting in Spain is no longer done on horseback, while this is still the tradition in Portugal to this day. In Spain, this has led to a breeding policy where exalted and more expressive gaits became more important and the horses became more long-lined in terms of build.
Sons of the Wind
In classical Greek ancient times, people believed that the best horses came from the shores of the Portuguese river, the Tagus: there the mares were fertilised by Zephyr (West wind) and there the Lusitano was born – the fastest horse from the ancient times. The Lusitano horses are still called “Sons of the Wind”. This exceptional horse, with its long and rich history as warhorse, royal horse, workhorse and sport horse, is a rare sight in the Netherlands.
The Lusitano has remained much closer in its development to the Iberian horse, from which it originated. As a result, the Lusitano, due to solid breeding policy and extremely good genetic material, is a horse with good health, good character and the will to go through fire for its rider.
Today, three blood lines, which are also crossed, form the basis for the “modern” Lusitano: Veiga, Andrade and Alter.
The Lusitano with Veiga blood is a horse that is considered the most as “typical Lusitano”: a slightly convex head, small, fast, agile, obedient and fearless. These horses are often used in the bullfighting that is still done on horseback in Portugal and in the Working Equitation sport.
The Andrade horse is a Lusitano with a straighter nose line, larger, more elegant and powerful. These horses are also used in the arena for bullfighting but also perform well in other areas of sport such as dressage and working equitation.
And finally, the Alter Real is the horse used in the Royal Horse Breeding operation in Portugal. These horses are always chestnut brown in colour, longer-lined and exceptionally suited for the (higher) dressage, classical equitation and horse and carriage sport. The most well-known Alter Real is Rubi, ridden by Gonçalo Carvalho and participant in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The Pura Raza Española
Horse for kings
The PRE has a noble appearance and in the past, was the horse for the nobility and royalty. The typical masculine and feminine appearance that the stallions and mares have is striking. The stallions are sturdy and muscular and the mares are, in general, more beautiful.
The horses have, also due to the soil conditions in Spain, elevated gaits with a lot of knee action and great inclination toward collecting. The “normal” gaits are much less natural for these horses and must be properly trained.
The PRE is suited for all sport disciplines. They are intelligent, temperamental but controlled, have a “will to please” and adapt themselves to their rider.