A look at how these fairy-tale breeds can be within reach of the everyday horse owner
For many people, owning a member of the Baroque family of horses is a far away dream. Known for their athletic ability, flowing manes and jaw-dropping beauty, they are often referred to as a “fairy-tale” breed. Despite Baroque breeds often being small in number and sometimes difficult to locate, we talked to some lucky owners and discovered that finding one of these beautiful horses to buy is a dream that could come true.
Andalusians, Lusitanos, Lipizzans, and Friesians all fall under the banner of “Baroque” breeds because they share the same ancient heritage, dating back to the Iberian Peninsula and 25,000 B.C. “Spanish” horses, as they were known, were used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans as cavalry mounts. As history progressed, the breed’s strength, agility and bravery made them favorites in warfare. Only in the last 100 years have these breeds started to reach America and now that they have, their versatility and temperaments are making them hugely popular. Despite this, breeding regulations are strict and if you are serious about owning a piece of history you have to have patience and the time to search.
Andalusians and Lusitanos
The breeds of horses known in the United States as the Andalusian and Lusitano are cousins, who trace their genetic roots back to two studbooks: one in Portugal, the other in Spain. For years, the studbooks in those two mother countries allowed cross-registry, and the horses were recognized as the same breed. When political maneuverings closed the studbooks of Spain and Portugal to each other in the late 1960s, people outside North America began to treat the two bloodlines as different breeds.
In 1967 Lusitanos were given their own studbook, and since then the number of purebred foals registered with the studbook has peaked at 1,800 in 2000.
The International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association believes that all purebred horses, whether of Portugese or Spanish descent, should be referred to as Andalusians and the association maintains the Purebred Andalusian Studbook, in which horses of both bloodlines continue to be eligible for registration. For the purpose of this article, the two breeds will be referred to separately.
Referred to by some as “the most versatile riding horse in the world,” Andalusians and Lusitanos made a name for themselves on the battlefield, where they were the favored mounts of war leaders and the nobility. Many paintings from the Renaissance feature generals and royalty astride their favored Andalusian and Lusitano warhorse.
As warhorses became obsolete, the breed progressed to schools of classical dressage and to the bullfighting arena, where once again their agility, intelligence, and bravery made them ideal participants.
Like Arabians and Thoroughbreds, Lusitanos are hot blooded, and according to the Lusitano Breed Society of Great Britain, were consistently used on the battlefield due to their compact body (which lent itself to being highly maneuverable). The Lusitano is a native of Portugal, and when warfare became less about precision the Lusitano progressed to the bullfighting arena, where once again their suppleness and nerve made them ideally suited. Today, the breed’s genetic disposition of maneuverability, according to one owner, means they can be “fantastic barrel racers and cowboy mounted shooting horses.” The breed is also known for its success in dressage, driving and show jumping, as highlighted by show jumping legend John Whitaker’s Lusitano stallion, Novilheiro.
Despite their steadily rising popularity and increasing numbers, Lusitanos remain quite expensive. According to Dr. Louise Turkula, owner of Lusitano breeding facility Casa Do Cavalo Real, a Lusitano may set you back between $10,000 and $25,000. However, don’t let this put you off if your heart is set on owning one of these versatile horses. They are known for their generous temperament and love for their owners; they are hardy and can weather the harshest climates and conditions. The breed is also known for their ability to remain calm and focused in stressful situations such as shows.
For Dr. Turkula, Lusitanos are well worth the money. “They are beautiful to look at, and the most comfortable horse to ride,” she says. Linda Denniston of the Eastern Region Andalusian Club says, “They are so sensitive to personal contact and they really enjoy being worked with. They are very much a rideable horse.”
Lusitanos average between 15.1 and 15.3 hands; however, they excel in high performance levels of training and have become champions in various disciplines. According to Linda, the breed is easy to train because of their intelligence. “They are easy as youngsters, and they will always remember you,” Linda adds.
Andalusians were imported from Spain, where their ancestry dates back to the 8th century Moors. Like their Lusitano cousins, Andalusians were used in wars because of their speed and agility. Due to the breed’s rarity and the Spanish wish to maintain Andalusian purity, there was an export ban until the 1960s and it wasn’t until 1965 that the first Spanish import was registered in America. Today, there are only around 2,500 Andalusians in the United States and the International Andalusian Horse Association registers around 220 new foals in America every year.
Interest in Andalusians, which range in height from 15.2 to 16.2 hands, is growing rapidly and while California and Texas own over half of the Lusitano and Andalusian population, the breeds are becoming more common in the east. Like the Lusitano, Andalusians are versatile and can be ridden English or western and have excelled in dressage, show jumping, cutting and driving. They are also known for their calm demeanor and family-friendly temperaments.
The International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association has recently begun an education program which aims to preserve the historical conformation and temperament of the Andalusian horse.
The IALHA is a great place to start your education on Andalusians and Lusitanos. Of course it is ideal to talk to someone locally who already owns one of the breeds, so that you can go and see them firsthand. Links to members and breeders across the country are provided on the IALHA website (www.ialha.org) to help you locate owners and breeders in your area.
Prices for Andalusians can vary greatly, from $7,000 for a purebred youngster to $55,000 depending on age, level of training and accomplishments. Unlike many common breeds, with an Andalusian you pay for their rarity.
The best advice for finding your first Lusitano or Andalusian is to buy one young and to do your research before you start making calls to set up appointments. Linda suggests you talk with your trainer and perhaps have them go with you to look at prospective youngsters. Dr. Turkula says, “Don’t just look for a color or long hair. Look at the gaits, listen to what the trainer has to say.”
Lipizzans are one of Europe’s oldest domesticated horses. This breed is best known for its high-stepping gait and its ballet performances, in which specially trained horses perform classic equestrian skills known as haute êcole. The 430-year-old Spanish Riding School in Vienna is, “the only riding academy in the world where the Renaissance tradition of classical horsemanship is preserved.” The school and its classic techniques are responsible for increasing awareness of this incredibly athletic, graceful breed.
The Lipizzan Association of North America estimates that there are only around 1,500 Lipizzans in North America and a mere 2,000 throughout the rest of the world. If you look into breeding programs for Lipizzans, however, you will see that their small numbers are by design: breeders go to extreme lengths to maintain the purity of the breed, and their rarity is what attracts many prospective owners. The United States Lipizzan Registry says that “much effort has been expended to develop educational programs to foster voluntary adherence to traditional breed goals and objectives.”
Described by the United States Lipizzan Registry (USLR) as having “a rare combination of courage, strength, ability, temperament and intelligence,” it is understandable why people continue to strive to own a Lipizzan. Sandy Heaberlin, director of the Lipizzan Association of North America says, “Lipizzans possess intelligence, coupled with classic beauty and an athletic, harmonious way of moving. Lipizzans excel at several different disciplines, and possess beauty, strength and a willingness to work. Additionally, they are a long-lived breed and can still be under saddle and working into their mid-20s.”
While Lipizzans do not grow higher than 16 hands, Sandy believes that the breed’s round physique enables a taller rider to be comfortable in the saddle. Sandy also credits the breed’s ease to keep with their “sparkling personality, sensitive nature and good temperament.” The breed excels at all levels of dressage and driving. They are also ideal for pleasure riding.
As is true with Lusitanos and Andalusians, Sandy’s advice for anyone who is daunted by the thought of the cost of owning a Lipizzan is to purchase one young. “The price for weanlings and youngsters average $7,000 depending on where you look geographically,” she says. “The advantage of purchasing one young is that you get to bond with them; Lipizzans enjoy a relationship with their owners. A horse ready to go under saddle will begin at around $12,000, which compared to most Warmbloods and other European imports is a bargain.”
You can start your search by talking to other Lipizzan owners or by checking print ads and browsing the Internet. The Lipizzan Association of North America (www.lipizzan.org) gives advice on buying a Lipizzan and lists breeders. It also gives up-to-date news on events and clinics. You can also go to local shows and watch for Lipizzans in open or dressage classes. Most owners will be more than happy to talk about their horses and offer their knowledge and experience.
Lipizzans are the definitive horse people’s horse, and if you have your heart set on owning a piece of history, with enough searching it is possible to find one without breaking the bank.
What most people notice about Friesians is their characteristic shiny black coats and their long manes. Today, the only white allowed for a Friesian to be considered pure bred is a small white star.
Friesians, originally bred as utility horses, are the only horse native to Holland and are easily recognizable by their beautiful black coats and their high step. Believed to be one of the oldest domesticated horses in the world, it is thought that Arabian and Andalusian bloodlines were introduced to Friesians to lighten the breed, giving them their characteristic gait and arching neck. This breed typically stands between 15 and 17 hands.
Andrea Harris of Pine Feather Farm in Acton, Mass., describes Friesians as “versatile, giving, forgiving and very light in their movements.” According to Andrea, no matter what discipline you enjoy most, your Friesian will be eager to please.
Friesians are known to be intelligent and very capable and the disciplines they excel in are dressage and driving, although they also compete successfully in saddle and hunt seat classes, western and dressage. While they are not widely known for it, Andrea says that some Friesians, particularly the modern ones, enjoy jumping.
“Friesians have become increasingly popular,” says Andrea. “They have been finding more support in local clubs and can be found competing in local open shows.”
As with the other Baroque breeds, costs associated with buying a Friesian vary widely. Andrea advises prospective buyers to purchase a youngster. “They’re quite easy to train,” she says, and for a Friesian with Ster status you will be looking at tens of thousands of dollars. A youngster can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 and for Andrea, a new owner has to determine what their goals are before they begin looking for their horse. “Look for something that could be the best at that discipline; your gut instinct with these horses is usually right. Once you’re a Friesian owner, you’ll understand,” she says.
A good place to start looking for your Friesian is with the Friesian Horse Association of North America, who can refer you to local clubs and associations. If you visit http://www.fhana.com you can look at the history of the horse and see how the rating system works. You will also find horses for sale and contact information for people who already own a Friesian who may be more than happy to share their knowledge and experiences with you.
Just like finding a pedigree breeder for the family dog, owning a Baroque breed takes time, dedication and research. A prospective owner must decide what they want to use their horse for and whether the breed is for them. None of the Baroque breeds are prohibitively expensive if you are willing to start with a youngster, and there are always local owners eager to share their knowledge and experience. If owning a horse is still a far-away dream, why not try to find someone who wants to lease out their Baroque horse? You could offer to help out at a breeder’s barn in exchange for riding privileges while you learn about the breed. Don’t let the small numbers put you off: Baroques are horse people’s horses, and once you own one, you won’t go back.
Thank you to the following people for helping with this article: Sandy Heaberlin, Director of the Lipizzan Association of North America; Dr. Louise Turkula, Casa Do Cavalo Real; Linda Denniston of the Eastern Region Andalusian Club; Andrea Harris of Pine Feather Farm; Courtney Tripp of Tempel Lipizzans; and members of the IALHA.