With its origins from the Iberian Peninsula, the ancestry of the Andalusian horse dates back for several thousand years. As an individual breed, the Andalusian has been recognized since the 1600s. Over this time, the conformation for the breed has changed very little. This includes the overall Andalusian horse temperament that is typically seen.
Most Andalusians tend to be somewhat docile. They are also very sensitive as a breed and extremely intelligent. Much of what is seen from the temperament are behaviors and actions that have been shaped by their trainers and owners. If an Andalusian is treated with respect, then they offer respect back in return. They are responsive, cooperative, and quick learners for virtually any task asked of them.
On the other hand, if an Andalusian believes that it is being treated with disrespect, there will be a certain stubbornness to their actions. They will be more aggressive with those they do not respect, lack responsiveness, and be quite uncooperative.
Do the Traits of the Horse Affect Its Temperament?
In the United States, about 80% of the Andalusian horses that are registered are gray. For the other 20%, most of those are bay. Just 5% of Andalusians are dun, black, palomino, or chestnut. Other coat colors are also possible, though considered to be extremely rare, and are recognized as an allowed color for the breed registry.
Because of the coat variations that are available in the Andalusian breed, there are certain superstitions that have existed over time that have focused on the coat of the horse. This includes the placement of whorls and white markings that are on the coat. Placement of these characteristics was believed to be an indication of good luck or bad lock.
Andalusians with white socks on their feet could provide good or bad luck depending on which legs were marked. Horses that had no white markings were believed to be ill-mannered and would not be cooperative. Certain facial markings would be an indication of the horse’s loyalty, their endurance, or their honesty.
Two whorls near the root off the tail were considered to be a sign of courage. Whorls that were in places where the horse couldn’t see them were considered to be bad luck, especially when placed along the shoulder, heart, or cheek.
Health Issues with Andalusian Horses and How It Affects Temperament
Andalusians are known to experience diseases which affect the amount of blood flowing to the small intestines at a much higher rate than other breeds. Stallions tend to have higher levels of inguinal hernias than other breeds as well. According to a 2008 study by Munoz et al, more than 190 Andalusian horses were compared to over 270 horses from other breeds and it showed that Andalusians are up to 30 times more likely to suffer from these health issues.
Andalusians are also known to suffer from a higher risk of laminitis because of these intestinal issues.
Because of this, the temperament of the horse can change somewhat if a health issue becomes present. How the trainer or owner responds to the condition of the horse will influence what its future temperament will be. Andalusians are highly spirited animals that are very sensitive to how they feel like they are being treated. If their health needs are not addressed promptly, then it is not uncommon for the horse to begin acting out in resentment.
Certain sub-types within the Andalusian breed, especially the Carthusian, may also see personality changes occur when health issues become present. Although the horses are still Andalusian, their genetic profiles have been separated from the main breed for more than 300 years in some instances. Because of this, they tend to be slightly more warmblooded compared to their counterparts.
Activities and How It Affects Andalusian Horse Temperament
For over 400 years, the Andalusian horse has been bred to be an active horse. They are consistently entered into various competitions, from jumping to dressage to pulling. In the past, Andalusians were also sought-after racing horses that could consistently win endurance races. One conformation standard, published in 1831, notes that horses at the age of 5 would be required to gallop for up to 15 miles without changing pace.
In 1925, the Portuguese military expected their horses to be able to cover 40 kilometers in just under 4 hours.
This means the Andalusian horse wants to be active on a regular basis. Negative behaviors will begin to develop if the horse is kept in its stall for a longer period of time than what is wanted. Even if you turn the horse out daily, if the horse feels like it isn’t getting enough free time, then it will begin to become uncooperative.
Andalusian horses also tend to be somewhat social, with their owners or trainers and with other horses. If Andalusians are left on their own for a prolonged period of time, their sensitivity will heighten the loneliness that is being experienced and they will begin to act out.
This issue will only continue to increase its effect on the Andalusian horse. Breeders are consistently looking to improve the competitive characteristics with the personality of the Andalusian, with an emphasis on classical dressage.
What Is the Future of the Andalusian Horse?
Andalusian horses will continue to be used for riding and driving, which has been their primary purpose since the breed’s inception. How these traits develop will be handled by the Spanish government, who is in control of the studbook. Since 2011, a lawsuit has been active to allow multiple associations to have and maintain a breed stud book, but the government has not approved any organization except one to maintain the breed.
This is despite the fact that Andalusian horses are extremely popular all over the world.
Part of the reason for this may be because of certain inconsistencies that other studbooks offer. In Australasia, for example, the registry includes purebred and partbred Andalusians, so the temperament of the horses is less consistent than with the traditional studbook. Some registries also allow for the Lusitano, a Portuguese horse that is similar to the Andalusian, to be registered alongside the Andalusian because it is believed to be genetically similar.
Whatever the case may be, the Andalusian horse temperament is one that is generally calm, willing, and social. When they receive the respect that they want, they are ready to offer it back in return. This means if an Andalusian seems to be acting out, it is because something has happened to them and they are displaying an emotional response. In many cases, the best way to interact with this breed is to address the emotional triggers instead of the behaviors that are on display.
In doing so, one is much more likely to enjoy the cooperation of the Andalusian over time.