Andalusian versus warmblood as a dressage horse in a modern competitive sport.
Spanish horse versus warmblood, what are the differences?
I know I have probably touched a bit of a sensitive spot here, but I am of the opinion that the PRE horse needs a bit of backup in this field. Even though people within the professional dressage world are getting more and more accepting when it comes to seeing the Spanish horse as a fully functional dressage horse, there is still a lot of prejudice aimed towards Iberian horses.
I think the biggest concern towards the PRE in terms of dressage is how they move. The most common misconception is that
the Spanish horse can’t extend and trots like a sewing machine…
The Andalusian horse breed is one of the oldest breeds in the world. It has gone through stages of fashion and functionality just as any other breed. There are horses with good movement and horses with bad movement in every breed. This is also the case with the Andalusian. To mark my point I would like you to have a quick look at the videos below.
1. This video shows a few amateur horses that I have for sale or that have been sold, plus one bonus of a very famous PRE horse..
2. This video shows the most famous warmblood horse in the world; Totilas, versus the most famous PRE horse in the world; Fuego..
Can you see any difference?
No I didn’t think so!!
I am glad we sorted that out. Now we can proceed to talking about the actual differences between the two breeds.
And before I start.. What I’m saying below, are my own thoughts taken from many years working within the horse industry and my own studies on horses. I am not claiming to be right.
Let’s first look at the basis of the horses. The breeding.
What does the breeding focus on?
Northern European Warmblood: Performance and movement. Only a few of the best professionally performing horses will be used in a breeding program. Who doesn’t want a horse that has the potential of getting up to a Grand Prix level in dressage or jumping? If you are a professional rider, you would beg for such a horse as they are far and few between. To a dedicated amateur rider these horses may look like a easy way to a professional career. Truth be told, many of these horses belong in the hands of professional riders. I.e. a person that has made horses his or her profession and is riding and training horses 8 hours a day. For all other riders it may be that the line with the best movements is a tad to hot to ride, or even handle for that matter… In many ads for warmblood horses I have read “needs experienced rider”. What that really means, is that this horse has a strong character and/or is not suitable for most amateur riders. If a breeding program is focused on performance horses, there is a high likelihood that a degree of inbreeding has occurred to preserve a certain trait (amazing movements, ability to jump etc.) that is the “mark” of the line. As we know in humans, inbreeding can cause a range of physical and psychological problems in the child. It’s the same with horses. This in combination with a high level of agility could be a potential death trap for an inexperienced rider.
Andalusian: Character, character, character! The Spanish horse has been a working animal for centuries and has always been bred to be social and cooperative with the human. Any horse with a bad character has traditionally not been used for breeding. Most Spanish horses have an agreeable character from the start. This is a formidable ground to start looking at the horses with the best movement for dressage. Even if we chose a hotter, more sensitive PRE for performance sport, the basic character and predictability is still there. You can expect less surprises on the character with a Spanish horse. The Spanish horse is a kind breed. Some say that they have a human soul.
Can you have Performance and movement in combination with safety and good character?
Yes with the Andalusian I think you can. I believe you can find a remarkable horse with outstanding paces.
Bio mechanic and conformation…
Northern European Warmblood: From the start engineered to pull carriages and work farm land. Later refined with the use of Arabian horses and thoroughbred horses.
If we look at the conformation of a horse designed to pull, in short we can often see a lower set neck, a straight shoulder with a big wither, a longer back and back legs designed to push forward. This is a great horse to work in an “open shape” letting it reach forward to the bit and getting “his shoulder into it” and those back legs pushing forward (as if pulling), getting him into a good rhythm with a good cadence. He can work for hours that way and be happy with it. In that shape the back is following through the movement, which makes it swing up and down as the horse is reaching forward into his working position.
Preferably he works in a straight line, but he can also be taught to work comfortably on a bent track. He can do shoulder in and halfpasses and it looks fabulous. He is big and strong and is designed to pull and requires a support and steady contact with the riders hands. Because he has a higher degree angle in his shoulder, his front leg will take a longer stride under his body and the movement will travel more through the shoulder of the horse and up through the wither. This could give a jerky sensation for the rider if the horse is a big mover. Many times these horses can be hard to sit for amateur riders.
Take a look at the images above. First of the beautiful driving horse with cart. It fully demonstrates the “pull forward motion” I have been trying to explain. Then look at the Andalusian horse also pulling a cart and compare the position of front and back legs. Then look at the world champion dressage horse (amazing performance btw) at WEG and look at his front leg position in the extended trot. Then look at the front leg position of another world famous Spanish horse…
Andalusian: From the beginning bred and used as a “war horse” adapted to carrying a rider in arms to battle. To be able to turn on his haunches in a millisecond to face an opponent or to sprint away from the danger to protect his rider. In those days the horse was the reason for life or death. The horses were built for collected work, speed and agility. Since the warrior would spend days on end at horse back, the horse had to be comfortable to sit on and have a soft stride. The Andalusian has an advantage for collection. This means that it’s easier for the Andalusian to tuck his bum in and lift his own back and the rider up. He was designed to carry more weight on the rear. Because of it being no effort for him to carry a rider in this position, he will naturally work with more suspension and he will feel softer to sit on. This has got to do with basic conformation. When a horse is working in this collected higher position with the rider he will feel lighter in the hand and softer to sit on.
Are you saying all warmbloods are harder to collect and hard to sit?
No. In general it has nothing to do with the actual breed how comfortable the horse is to sit on. It’s all got to do with the basic build of the horse; it’s conformation. The Spanish horse was from the beginning designed to carry a rider, and to collect. The northern European horses were designed to pull a cart, even though they have been modernised a lot since then. The content of this is that it’s probably easier to find a PRE horse that will be light in the hand and comfortable to sit due to the above stated.
Interest in work and cooperation…
Having talked about choosing the right conformation for a dressage horse it means very little if the horse is not willing to cooperate.
As they say in Spain, the important thing is to “tener corazon” which means to have a heart, a spirit that will try his best and work with you until the work is finished. A horse with “corazon” is worth a million more than a horse with good conformation. It’s what makes a winner.
The Spanish horse was born with a heart for both of you. He will try to please you until the end of time, and when he is too tired to work he will give another 100%. Unlike a warmblood who will put you on the floor of the arena if he is unhappy, if the Spanish horse hurts he will not tell you. He will still try to do his best until he can’t walk anymore. Owning a PRE horse is therefore a big responsibility for you as his “guardian” because he doesn’t have the “heart” to tell you if he is not feeling well. You need to learn to read him and understand him so that you know when to stop the training and when he is tired.
Taking them out and about.
There is a reason as to why the most common horse you see in the movies is a Spanish horse. They learn quick and they are focused and levelheaded to be able to endure the stress during a film set. With your Spanish horse it takes no time to teach them the exercises. When they get it (and that’s fast) they remember till next time. It’s that combination of “corazon” and intelligence that makes them feel like they have a human soul. In a movie set there is only a short time of action, the rest of the time is spent waiting around, whilst people, cameras, lifts and all sorts of funny stuff is right next to you and around you. That is a stressful situation for an anmial. This wont faze a Spanish horse.
A Spanish horse is a versatile horse more suitable for any form of dressage riding than any other breed due to it’s high ability to collect and extend. It’s also the breed most suited for amateur riders due to it’s docile character.
Absolutely beautiful my most favourite horses
in the world, could never in a million years afford one.
The light in my life is my seventeen year old Brazilian-born Lusitano stallion.
Long story short – why are the spanish horses simply chanceless in dressage competition unless that sole mentioned exception: Fuego?
Oh but there are…
We have the very famous PRE horse Evento ridden by Ignacio Rambla here competing in Atlanta…
And further… Invasor ridden by Rafael Soto. Here competing in Athens… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmU6VIPqb4U
And not to mention even an American rider Kristina Harrison-Naness chooses a PRE horse before a warmblood to enter into the trials of the Olympics 2008. The horse is Rocinero.. Here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcaZgFpJHpc
Yes you are right, these are exceptions confirm the rule. Even this article is necessary to explain the advantages of an Andalusian vs. a warmblood. My view is not on that top events like Olympic games or Chio Aachen, but on that standard horse shows. Where are the spanish horses? Of course here and there you find one or two – but not very often. Certainly I only can speak for Germany, maybe Netherlands. Don’t missunderstand me, I am a fan of PREs especially because I own some of them but in terms of competition against warmbloods it seems to me as tilting against windmills.
Yes and this is why I think it’s important to show that the modern Andalusian actually can be used in dressage sport. I think many riders are afraid of taking an Andalusian to a show because they think the judges won’t like the horse, and therefore they will not get the points they deserve.
as they sing “It’s all about the money money money”.
Germans a lot of power, influence and big pockets, at least in comparison with Spain or Portugal. Who are we anyway? what effort do we make to promote our breed? what money do we have to sponsor our riders, shows, breeders, etc? to project them out into the world? none! Up untill a short time ago, the Lusitano could be considered an endangered breed! so few were the number of registered breeding mares. Plus, although the Andalusian is prettier, more docile and forgiving than the Lusitano, the Lusitano has in turn more spirit, generaly better croup comformation and more breeding pressure for functionality than the Andaluz. So some of the faults atributed to the iberian horse are simply due to the general poor functionality of the Andaluz in the past and the ignorance about the Lusitano. These days however, both breeds have excellent horses but it’s such a recent development that it’s still widely unknown through the world.
We only have to thank the Brazilians who have in recent years put a lot of effort and their HUGE resources into raisining the Lusitano up to his well deserved glory.
Also worth noting that up untill very recent years, dressage judges had prejudices against baroque breeds and actually refused to give high marks to horses such as Lipizzaners or Iberians. So it’s easy to understand why people who’s aim is competition, still shy away from such breeds.
Great article! Thank you so much for posting! Love, love, LOVE the baroque horse for his movement AND temperament.
Spot on! A very good article!
Spot on its a bit of horse snobbery me think’s against the Wonderful Spanish horse !
Think I will be getting an Andalusian next !!,,,
I HAVE TRAINED AND RIDDEN ALL TYPES….IF I AM GOING TO CHOSE A HORSE TO DANCE WITH ME….THE ANDALUSIAN IS MY CHOICE ….YOU DO NOT NEED A SEAT BELT LIKE YOU DO FOR WARMBLOODS ….THEIR LARGE MOVEMENT CAN THROW A RIDER OUT OF THE SADDLE MAKING HARD WORK ON THE RIDER!!!!!!
THE SOFT MOVEMENT OF MY ANDALUSIANS NEVER LEFT ME TIRED I COULD RIDE THEM ALL DAY….AND THEIR INTELLIGENCE TO CONNECT AND PLEASE IS FOR ME THEIR MOST OUTSTANDING ATTRIBUTE….I WOULD TRAVEL ACROSS THE SEAS TO RIDE ONE…Michele Holiastos ….NSW Australia
I HAVE TRAINED AND RIDDEN ALL TYPES ….IF I AM GOING TO CHOSE A
HORSE TO DANCE WITH ME …THE ANDALUSIAN IS MY CHOICE …YOU DO
NOT NEED A SEAT BELT LIKE YOU DO FOR SOME WARMBLOODS…THEIR LARGE
MOVEMENT CAN THROW A RIDER OUT OF THE SADDLE MAKING HARD
WORK ON THE RIDER!!
THE SOFT MOVEMENT OF MY ANDALUSIANS NEVER LEFT ME TIRED..I
COULD RIDE THEM ALL DAY ….THEIR INTELLIGENCE TO CONNECT AND
PLEASE IF FOR ME THEIR MOST OUTSTANDING ATTRIBUTE..I WOULD
TRAVEL ACROSS THE SEAS TO RIDE ON..Michele Holiastos…
I have owned PREs exclusively since 1997. I would own no other breed for their love of humans, generosity, quality of gait. I’ve ridden TBs, WBs, TWs, SBs, and grades, no horse compares to the PRE.
First, thank you for the great article. I own an Andalusian and Dutch warmbloods as well and I’m seeing the difference at the rated shows that my dutch WARMBLOOD defiantly gets the higher score. This is a comment made by my trainer, who is from SPAIN and has been at the 2004 Olympic games which their team was silver medal , after he videoed my rides last weekend at a show in SC. How regular was the SPANISH horse in the collected and medium trot and shoulder in, VERY. He said he would have given me 7, the judge gave him 5 or 6.
On one occasion the was an ATV that was raced past the arena just as I had turned to do the medium trot HXF and my horse bolted. He didnt recover well in that test and instead of the judge acknowledging the reckless ATV people he said:” Hot, Tense horse with no work ethic!” That really made me mad because the horse has got TONS OF WORK ETHIC.
So I’m needing to find shows in the mid atlantic region 1, USDF that have more IBERIAN FRIENDLY JUDGES. SO FAR IVE FOUND 2.
My bocado Andalusian has changed my life as a rider. His gentleness, fine character and rideability have rekindled my delight in riding.
Emma Brooks and your Lusitano Zimbral
I’m looking for the fair and balanced Dressage judging in OPEN DRESSAGE shows here in the EASTERN part of the USA.
My wonderful PRE in the ERAHC show in 2014 was RESERVE CHAMPION and was USEF Region 6 Andalusian horse of the YEAR! In 2015 in the IALHA show he was 5 th in his group of SENIOR SPANISH SPECIALTY GELDING. His work ethic has grown tremendously and his work improves faster that the warmbloods. I routinly take my coach with me to shows and have things videoed for comparison and we are very fair and balanced people he’s always lower in marks that my Dutch warmblood.
Any guidance for showing infront of more than 2 or 3 judges that see him as an adjustable powerful horse.