By Morgan Smith
In November, my wife, Julie and I had the opportunity to visit the most important location for these horses – the Fundación Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre in Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia in southern Spain. For the Andalusian horses, this school is a blessing; for visitors like us, it’s a marvel.
Although there are approximately 58 million horses in the world, the most beautiful, in my opinion, are the purebred Andalusian horses. They have been recognized as a separate breed since the 15th century, they were great warhorses, much favored by the nobility and have had their purity maintained through the centuries. They are extremely docile, highly intelligent and easy to train.
In November, my wife, Julie and I had the opportunity to visit the most important location for these horses – the Fundación Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre in Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia in southern Spain. Thanks to the assistance of our editor, Eva Tejada, we were able to participate in a special tour as well as take photographs during their show.
The United States has the most horses in the world with about 9.5 million and the state of Texas has close to one million. The number of horses in Spain is only about 660,000 and the number of registered purebred Andalusian horses is approximately 185,000 around the world. (There are 5 million quarter horses worldwide that have been registered by the American Quarter Horse Association)
This is a small breed that has come close to extinction several times. In 1832, for example, an epidemic killed all but a small herd that survived in a monastery in Cartuja, near Jerez. In fact, monks have always been very involved in the preservation of this breed. For centuries, they kept the breeding records because they were among the few members of society who would read and write.
Our guide, Javier Nuñez, was a real fountain of information. First, we went to the Museo del Enganche or Horse Carriage Museum which has an enormous display of carriages and saddles, harnesses and equestrian clothing. The most important carriage was built in France and used in the wedding of Princess Elena, the oldest daughter of former King Juan Carlos for her wedding with Jaime de Marichalar in the Cathedral in Seville on March 18, 1995.
Although visitors come to see the horses, this is actually a working school with five different programs – dressage, driving the carriages, training the horses, learning blacksmithing and making harnesses.
The highlight, of course, is the exhibition which is entitled, “Cómo Bailan los Caballos Andaluces” or “How the Andalusian horses dance” and it is an unforgettable experience.
First, there is a demonstration of riding and then the horses are brought out by trainers who are on foot. Finally, there is an exhibition of the carriages, one with one horse, one with two and one with six. For those who are lovers if the National Western Stock Show, this is reminiscent of the Budweiser horses. In fact, I believe that Andalusian horses participate in the National Western in the horse dancing.
The school is run by a foundation that was established in 1973. The stability of the foundation is critical today because once again horses are under threat in Spain. In 2007, there were 436,000 horses in Spain. That number increased to 750,000 as the Spanish economy surged. Now the country is in crisis and many owners simply can’t afford to maintain their horses. As a result, by 2013, the number of horses had been reduced to 660,000. For the Andalusian horses, this school is a blessing; for visitors like us, it’s a marvel. These particular horses are a key part of Spain’s history and heritage and, there, it’s essential that they be protected.