Spanish Horse Breeds

Spanish Horse Breeds

Bay Andalusian stallion cantering through a field of yellow flowers

Abramova_Kseniya / Getty Images  

Spanish horse breeds may owe their ancestry to Spain, but many of these breeds are now found all over the world. Most of these breeds are known for their strength and endurance, and some are also sought after for their comfortable gaits. Many are popular riding horses, and chances are you’ve probably even seen some of these breeds in your local stables.

Here are five popular Spanish horse breeds that you might want to consider for your next mount. 

  • 01 of 05

    Andalusian Horse

    Grey Andalusian horse wearing a bridle in a meadow

     AnakondaN / Getty Images

    Originating from the Andalusia province, the Andalusian is a descendant of horses that lived on the Iberian Peninsula of Spain. Explorers brought additional horses to the peninsula, influencing the breed that became the Andalusian in the 1400s. The resulting Andalusian was tremendously agile and fast, making it a favorite among European royalty. Today’s Andalusians are compact but still have that strength displayed by the original horses. That combination of strength and agility means the breed is well-suited for disciplines like dressage, driving, jumping, and much more.

    Most Andalusians of today are grey or bay, and they’re characterized by their long, flowing manes and tails. This breed has an elevated, elegant movement and an animated way of going. The Andalusian naturally collects, partly due to its compact build and its strength. This striking, eye-catching movement is ideal in parades, shows, and demonstrations. The Andalusian makes a popular cross with Thoroughbreds and other light breeds, producing a sport horse with strength, versatility, and stamina.  

    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

  • 02 of 05

    Paso Fino

    Bay Paso Fino wearing a headstall and prepared for a show

     THEPALMER / Getty Images

    The Paso Fino owes its heritage to the many breeds that Christopher Columbus brought to the Dominican Republic. Conquistadors rode Barbs, Spanish Jennets, and Andalusians throughout Latin America, and the offspring of those horses became the Paso Fino breed. The breed became highly popular with land owners who valued the horses’ smooth gaits during long days of riding across their plantations. Soldiers brought Paso Finos to America after the end of World War II, and the breed quickly gained in popularity here, too.

    Paso Finos are compact but strong horses with flashy leg motion. They perform a four-beat gait that makes for a smooth ride, since a foot remains on the ground at all times. This gait is natural, with foals being able to gait from birth, and horses can perform the gait in three different speeds. These eye-catching, strong, and beautiful horses are ideal trail mounts, but you’ll also find them in parades and show rings. 

    Breed Overview

    WEIGHT: 700 to 1,000 pounds

    HEIGHT: 13.3 to 14.2 hands

    BODY TYPE: Compact, strong, and athletic

    BEST FOR: Trail riding, showing, endurance riding

    LIFE EXPECTANCY: 25 years

  • 03 of 05

    Peruvian Horse

    The Peruvian Paso, also called the Peruvian Horse, is descended from horses that arrived in South America in 1531. The Jennet, Barb, and Andalusian were brought from Spain and Panama to serve as transportation for plantation owners and workers. All of these breeds combined to form the Peruvian Paso, a breed with natural ambling gaits that would allow plantation owners to comfortably ride all day long.

    Today, the Peruvian Paso is a popular mount in the United States. Its two ambling gaits make for a very smooth ride, and the breed is favored by riders who have back pain or other restrictions that make posting the trot uncomfortable. These gaits are natural and foals can perform them from birth. This breed is known for being easy to work with and for having a willing, pleasant temperament. 

    Breed Overview

    WEIGHT: 900 to 1,100 pounds

    HEIGHT: 14.1 to 15.2 hands

    BODY TYPE: Medium-sized strong, elegant body

    BEST FOR: Trail riding, parades

    LIFE EXPECTANCY: 20 or more years

  • 04 of 05

    Galician Horse

    Cantering bay Galician horse in a paddock

    TamaraLSanchez / Getty Images 

    The Galician Horse, also called the Galician Mountain Horse, originates from Galicia in Northwest Spain. This breed is believed to have descended from the horses that Celtic immigrants brought to the region in 500 BC. The Galician grew to be hardy and surefooted because of the rugged landscape of the area, and today the horses are bay or black.

    The breed has continued to reside in the area, but during the 1980s, stallions from other breeds were also introduced nearby. These stallions could have threatened the breed’s integrity and existence, so in 1993, the Xunta de Galicia developed a conservation plan to help preserve and protect the Galician horses. A stud book was developed for the breed in 1998, and the Galician government continues to work to preserve and increase the numbers of feral horses. Thanks to these protective measures, this distinctive, semi-feral breed with a history spanning thousands of years should continue to survive for years to come.  

    Breed Overview

    WEIGHT: 400 to 660 pounds

    HEIGHT: 12 to 14 hands

    BODY TYPE: Compact, short body with
    strong legs

    BEST FOR: Trail riding, pleasure riding

    LIFE EXPECTANCY: 30 years

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Colonial Spanish Horse

    Herd of Spanish Mustangs on grasslands

    MIMOTITO / Getty Images 

    Also known as the Spanish Mustang, the Colonial Spanish Horse originated on breeding farms in the Caribbean and in Mexico. These farms produced horses that conquistadors rode during their travels. These horses are descendants of the Iberian horse and the Barb. Horses were traded and stolen, and some escaped, living in feral herds. While some ranchers introduced breeds like the Thoroughbred into these herds, diluting the Spanish blood that the feral horses carried, some isolated herds went without being influenced by outside breeds. Many of these herds were tamed by Native Americans, and the tribes carefully bred and refined the horses.

    Today, the Colonial Spanish Horse remains popular in America. They make hardy, surefooted trail mounts. They’re known for their stamina and hardiness, and their short backs and uphill build make them powerful, compact riding horses. Some endurance riders have found that the Colonial Spanish Horse excels in the discipline, though you’ll also find these horses competing in both English and Western disciplines.  

    Breed Characteristics

    WEIGHT: 700 to 800 pounds

    HEIGHT: 13.2 to 14 hands

    BODY TYPE: Compact build with fine,
    longer heads

    BEST FOR: Trail riding, endurance

    LIFE EXPECTANCY: 20 years and more

Each of these Spanish horse breeds offers many positive qualities. Some of these breeds are ideal for even beginners, while others are often better suited for more advanced riders. Remember that the traits described here are common of the breeds, but you’ll find differences of temperament, trainability, and athletic talent within the breeds, too. When buying a horse, always view each horse as an individual and work with a trainer to make sure that you’re choosing a horse that’s right for you.