The Spanish Horse

Zoological Treasure of the Americas
by Neil UiBreaslain

Throughout Europe of the Middle Ages, the Spanish horse was distinguished as a horse of quality blood. Avidly exported to all parts of the Western world for the breeding of light horses, the fame of the Spanish horse continued to grow.

The Spanish horse of the Middle Ages ( after the Roman invasion but before the Moorish invasion of 711) had four forms:

*Jaca or Garrano: preserving even till today the characteristics that it had in the Paleolithic Age.

* Castillia horse of central Spain; brown, plump and of elevated movements.

*Andaluz horse of the South; barb type but faster; with an almost straight head.

* Marismeno, a native group along the middle and southern streams; an indigenous element.

Horse breeding, in those early times of the MIddle Ages,was done especially in the fertile lowland rivers, where green ranges ensured an abundance of grass in the summer. Thus, areas such as the Vale of Ebro, Calagurria, Celtiberos, and Guadalquivir, along with numerous other river valleys, made up main regions , up to the 7th or 8th century, that had good breeders of horses.

* The Garrano horses of northern Spain were most utilized by the Romans as transport in their travels because of theirs special qualities of fast movement and ease of riding. There were called Veredi by the Romans and were exported as reproductive stock to England, Germany, Ilirians, and as far as Syria for the purpose of breeding gaited horses for traveling.

*The larger Castilian horses, Tieldones, as they were called at that time, were very often taken as reproductive stock to African, Italy and Galias. They were much appreciated by the French.

* The Romans also took Spanish horse to North Africa and elsewhere to us as race horses because of their speed, manageability and nerve. The horse from the south of Spain held the greatest fame in the Roman 'circus', or horses races. During the period of the Visgoths, 5th to 7th centuries, horse breeding continued as before because of the Visigoth codes and the Roman laws for the protection of agriculture.

It was stated by roman authority (Isidoro) that the Spanish horses were the world's best; though after the time of the Romans innumerable crosses with brood stock from other countries, from the 18th century to this day, has made the homogeneous Spanish horse group of whatever type exceedingly rare. One insensate circumstance, however, the occupation of the americas significantly furthered the preservation of the purity of blood of the indigenous Spanish horse.

Columbus, by deceit and deception by his suppliers, took to Hispaniola the most natural and hardy horses in the world--The Spanish Marismeno. These Peninsular horse were in direct descendant form those segregated in Iberia during the Wurmiense glaciation, so,e 115.00 years before our time. Accustomed , therefore , as these small SPanish horses to the cold and humidity of winter in the Iberian woods along the rivers, accustomed to the north wind; the dryness of summer with its south wind from estrammadura, Alentejo, and Andaluz; having endured temperatures from well below zero to 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun of open country, without shade or shelter; having lived only on plants that were few and rotten in the winter, straw dry in the summer, have undergone intestinal worms,, parasites, and flies that kill Arabian and English horses; and having worked hard and patiently in the hands of man; in all seasons, with all weights; they furnished the Spaniards with their best instrument for the occupation of the Americas. Environmental forces, as diverse as the region and terrain of the Americas, gave season and field to the extraordinary profusion of qualities engendered and stored in this uninterrupted stream of life. A tributary that began in the pleistocene era in the Americas--migrated into Asia, probably during the Riss glaciation 230,000 years, ago, and thence into eastern Europe and Iberia--returning home again, at the the beginning of the 16th century, to its long forgotten home in the Americas.

The campaigns of Cortez in Mexico and Yucatan; Desoto in FLorida: of Darien in the Caribbean; Pizarro in Peru; Valdivia in Chile, Bolivia and argentina; all were the result of endurance, the rusticity, and the acclimatization ability of these horse from the Peninsula. These Spanish horses of the most rustic kind were able to live from the snows of the Andes. to the tropical heat of Panama, Columbia, and Venezuela. They were unfaltering at altitudes of 19,680 feet in Ecuador and PEru. They thrived in the cold of Patagonia, and the dirt of Pogo; were untroubled by the frozen plains of North America or the deserts of Arizona and Sonora. Everywhere they survived without anyone taking care of them, even hidden in the canyons of Colorado and Utah where human beings were hardly able to go.

In all these places, in every possible environment, the mares gave birth with such fertility that from 300 mares brought to the Americas at the beginning of the 16th century, South, Central, and North Americas were, within 100 years, occupied by millions of horses.

Wars of conquest within the Americas continued, always on the backs of these horses. In the north, the Mexicans rode them to occupy Texas; while the Norteamericanos used the in violation of all else, resulting in the near annihilation of the indigenous peoples and the feral horses.

Near annihilation, but not all, for in the end , the blood of the Spanish horse can still be found nd, if vaguely tainted and scattered, reaching all the way from their native Sorraia in Iberia, through the Argentine, Brazil, Chile, Peru; Venezuela, Columbia; Central America; the Caribbean; Mexico and the U.S. In the U.S. it is much of the foundation behind the Palomino, the Appaloosa, the Quarter Horse, the Spanish Mustang, the Narragansett Pacer, The Morgan and those other later originated in the Americas.

Among the many breeders of Spanish horses today, including specifically the Spanish Mustang Registry, there is to be found, in this America of the North, the ancient Spanish horse.

--Neil uiBreaslain, 1995.

Reference: al rededor del Caballo Espanyol, by Ruy De Andade, Liboa, zportugal, 1955.