Andalusian Horse: Breed Profile

Training, Grooming, and Care Tips

Grey Andalusian cantering in a snowy paddock

Alexia Khruscheva / Getty Images

Once you’ve seen an Andalusian horse, it’s a breed that you won’t forget. Recognizable thanks to its long, flowing mane and tail and animated, beautiful movement, the Andalusian is a horse that commands attention. This versatile breed isn’t just at home in the dressage ring, but is also a horse that you’ll find out on the trails, competing in pleasure classes, and even being driven. It’s this combination of versatility and skill that makes the breed so popular today.

Breed Overview

Weight: 900 to 1,100 pounds

Height: 15.1 hands

Body Type: Compact and athletic

Best For: Jumping, pleasure riding, trail riding, dressage, and much more

Life Expectancy: 25 years

Andalusian Horse History and Origins

The Andalusian descended from Spanish and Portuguese Iberian horses, and it originates from the province, Andalusia, where it gets its name. Also referred to as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE, the Andalusian is closely related to the Lusitano, which was named after Portugal’s ancient name of Lusitania.

The Andalusian’s history spans thousands of years, originating with the prehistoric horses that populated the Iberian Peninsula in Spain during prehistoric time. The Iberian horse was influenced by horses brought to the peninsula by explorers, giving way to the Andalusian breed in the 1400s.

The Iberian horse was known as a tremendous war horse, and the Andalusian continued that legacy. Armies favored the Andalusian for its agility and speed, and those same traits made the breed a popular horse among European royalty. As riding academies formed and the art of riding became popular, the Andalusian made a popular mount and influenced breeds like the Lipizzaner, the Cleveland Bay, and the Connemara.

Andalusian Horse Size

Andalusians are strong, compact horses that average 15.1 hands high. Stallions and geldings tend to weigh approximately 1,100 pounds, while mares weigh slightly less at approximately 900 pounds. The Association of Purebred Spanish Horse Breeders of Spain requires mares to be at least 14.3 hands and stallions and geldings to be at least 15 hands in order to be registered. For horses to be approved as elite stock, mares must be at least 15 ¼ hands and stallions must be at least 15.1 hands.

Bay Andalusian mare and foal in a paddock
Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images 

Breeding and Uses

The Andalusian is a highly versatile breed, making it a suitable mount for dressage, jumping, trail riding, Western pleasure, English pleasure, and even driving. It’s a popular choice for parades and demonstrations, thanks to its eye-catching looks and commanding appearance. This breed is often used as a bullfighting mount in Spain and Portugal.

Grey Andalusian in traditional parade dress
 Andrew Lever / Getty Images

Colors and Markings

The Andalusian was once found in many coat colors, but those colors have been refined over time. Today, Andalusians are most likely to be gray or bay, though minimal black, dun, chestnut, and palomino colors do occur. Andalusians with rare buckskin or cremello colorations can be registered.

Black Andalusian cantering in a paddock
Abramova Kseniya / Getty Images 
Grey and bay Andalusians in a field of flowers
Abramova Kseniya / Getty Images 
Chestnut Andalusian cantering in a desert setting
 OlgaIT / Getty Images

Unique Characteristics of the Andalusian Horse

The Andalusian is favored because of its natural elevated, elegant movement. The breed’s compact body and great flexion of the leg joints makes for an animated, forward-moving mount. These horses tend to naturally learn collection and because of their intelligence, they often learn difficult moves easily and quickly. 

Diet and Nutrition

Andalusians tend to be easy keepers, and they’re often prone to developing metabolic issues. A horse’s diet will need to be carefully monitored to ensure the horse maintains a healthy weight. Horses will benefit from a quality hay and may need supplementation with grain or with a ration balancer. They may need to be restricted from grazing on too much lush grass, especially if metabolic issues emerge.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

The Andalusian is known for being well-mannered, intelligent, and largely agreeable. The breed is spirited, so in the wrong hands, these horses could become too much for their riders to handle, but they make great mounts for many talented riders.

Andalusians are prone to certain health issues:

  • Small intestine issues: Andalusians tend to experience issues with reduced blood flow to the small intestines more often than other breeds do.
  • Laminitis: Andalusians who do experience intestinal issues are also at a higher risk of developing laminitis, a highly painful hoof condition that requires long-term management and treatment.
  • Metabolic issues: Andalusians tend to be prone to metabolic issues, like Cushing’s, which often emerge as the horse ages. These issues often require careful dietary management and may require medication.

Grooming

Andalusians require significant grooming, mainly because of their thick and flowing manes and tails. Regular detangling, conditioning, and maintenance is necessary to keep these long manes and tails healthy. Some owners choose to braid manes daily to help minimize tangles, and tails may need to be tied up to keep them up off of the ground when horses aren’t being shown or displayed.

Like any breed, Andalusians will benefit from regular grooming, especially currying, which can help to bring out the natural oils and shine of the horse’s coat. With so many horses being gray or white, keeping them clean can be a challenge. Be prepared for regular bathing or spot-treating if you own a horse with a lighter colored coat.

Pros
  • Highly versatile and athletic

  • Intelligent and easy to train

  • Agreeable temperament makes most pleasant to work with

  • Eye-catching movement

Cons
  • Slightly more expensive than most other breeds

  • Forward movement can make this breed unsuitable for beginners

Champion and Celebrity Andalusian Horses

There are many well-known Andalusian horses:

  • Babieca, a white Andalusian stallion, was a prized mount of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar in medieval Spain. He was a favored war horse and, for 30 years, was instrumental in his owner’s victory in each battle.
  • Opus, an Andalusian stallion, was a tremendous bullfighting horse. When he retired, fans filled the stadium to see him take his victory lap.

Andalusians have been heavily featured in the media, too. Clint Eastwood rode them in many of his movies, and the breed has appeared in hits including Gladiator, Interview with the Vampire, Braveheart, and The Lord of the Rings films.

Is the Andalusian Horse Right for You?

The Andalusian is highly intelligent and often agreeable, but this breed is also known for its forward movement, so these horses are best suited to intermediate riders and above. It’s a natural fit for sports like dressage and carriage driving, and its animated movement and striking appearance commands attention in the show ring or in parades.

Trained, purebred, and registered Andalusians start around $10,000, though those prices can easily double or triple, with premium horses fetching even higher prices. Because these horses carry higher price points, they may be impractical choices for riders working with smaller budgets.    

How to Adopt or Buy an Andalusian Horse

You’ll have a few different options when buying an Andalusian. It’s possible to identify a quality breeding program and buy a horse directly from the program. Andalusian show barns often sell highly trained horses with established competition records, though these horses can fetch higher prices. It’s also possible to buy an Andalusian from a private seller, since these horses are popular and well-established within the United States. Consider joining an Andalusian club in your area, since the club may be able to connect you to reputable breeders and sellers in your area.

Andalusians are valuable horses, so they rarely come up for adoption through a rescue. Andalusian crosses may come up for adoption more often. When adopting a horse, it’s important to treat the process with the same caution you’d use when buying a horse. Research the rescue and read reviews by others who have adopted horses. It’s a good idea to have a pre-purchase exam performed on any horse, whether you’re buying it or adopting it from a rescue.

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