The Colonial Spanish Horse is an intelligent, capable breed that has fallen by the wayside of North American horse breeding and use. Yet this breed’s genetic conservation should not be neglected locally or globally.
A number of registries specialize in breeding horses with unique conformationsal features that set them apart from more commonly encountered North American horses, typically those characterized by excellent riding conformation.
Some Colonial Spanish horses currently present in North America are descendants of those brought over by early explorers and have proven invaluable as genetic relics from Spain for modern horse breeders worldwide. This historic resource provides significant value as genetic links back into Spain for horse breeding enthusiasts worldwide.
In the United States, most Colonial Spanish horses found here are comprised of feral (wild) herds gathered as distinct strains by mustangers like Bob Brislawn and Monte Holbrook, ranchers such as Ilo Belsky or specific Cherokee or Choctaw families – their herds having similar conformation and styles as those originally found in Spain.
Breeders of Colonial Spanish horses include Kiger, Pryor Mountain or Cerbat breeders as well as Native American tribal families like those of Bryant Whitmire or Darlene Rickman. More recently, DNA or blood typing studies of these horses offer non-subjective ways of determining if they match up to the Colonial Spanish type.
Roan and dun horses are consistent with the overall phenotype of Colonial Spanish horses, though they may appear lighter than bay and chestnut horses in many breeding programs. Roan/dun horses typically feature solid color or pattern horses such as frame overo or blanket patterns.
Purebred Spanish Horses are medium-sized horses with distinct physical characteristics. Their sub-convex, rounded profile stretches from their long elegant nose all the way to their low set tail; close coupled, agile and capable of flourishing on high rugged mountain slopes or flat marshy areas such as coastal deltas. Although hot blooded, their personalities range from courageous and fiery to self preservation and respecting rider requests.
These characteristics make the PRE an equestrian favorite worldwide. These horses are known for being intelligent and quick learners, creating strong bonds between rider and horse. Spanish horses are also famed for their elegance and beauty – something which makes them popular choices in dressage, show jumping and pleasure riding activities.
Like other horses, Spanish Ponies present several health concerns. Their blood flow to their small intestines may decrease and they are predisposed to laminitis; to help mitigate these conditions, it is crucial that their diet be healthy while providing enough exercise and monitoring his or her blood work regularly through organizations like British Association for Purebred Spanish Horse (BAPSH). For Sale sections can also be found through BAPSH.
In 1972, ANCCE was established to give Spanish breeding a formal organization to represent its interests. Since then, Spanish breeding has become more recognizable to horse lovers worldwide through demonstrations, trade fair booths, team and individual silver medals won at WEG as a means of promoting PRE as an ideal sport horse.
ANCCE maintains a studbook for horses that adhere to stringent breeding standards, with young horses blood typed for identification at birth; although more reliable DNA testing will soon replace blood typing as the means of identification. A microchip implanted in their neck also serves this function.
Breeders must take extra precaution to prevent crosses with horses not registered with their studbook, which could compromise genetic integrity in the Colonial Spanish Horse breed. Crosses with non-registered stallions is a serious threat to its genetic purity; this issue affects multiple horse breeds but especially Colonial Spanish Horses.
Purebred Spanish horses must exhibit conformation that reflects their breed history. For instance, heads of these horses typically feature narrowed, straight to concave foreheads – something which helps distinguish it from other varieties.
North America is home to several conservation herds of Colonial Spanish Horses which are kept as distinct strains, drawn from feral, rancher, and Native American sources. Some herds based on Choctaw breeding can diverge significantly from what is considered typical Colonial Spanish Horse type.
Breeding PREs with the goal of producing foals that are sound, well-structured and healthy with clear breed characteristics is of utmost importance. To do so effectively requires using stallion that have passed the Court of Qualified Reproducers process overseen by specialists from Spain’s Mother Studbook; such a stallion must pass a series of assessments that include an optional ridden test to assess movement under saddle and self carriage; X-rays as well as physical exams to achieve this aim.
The Breeding Program at ANCCE-LGPRE is guided by its Rules and Regulations, which outline a stringent quality control system that applies to all breeding activities. As a result, Spanish Purebred Horses have earned themselves an international reputation as exceptional sports horses for both dressage and eventing disciplines.
Highlights for PRE horses have included team silver medals won at both 2002 and 2004 World Equestrian Games by riders riding them, along with being promoted through demonstrations and trade fair booths.
However, small island herds have been threatened by various factors. On Chincoteague for instance, non-Chincoteague breed stallions were introduced into herds to meet demand; similar trends have taken place on St Helena and Ascension although with less extensive introductions. DNA and blood typing studies on Banker ponies from Virginia’s outer banks or Carolinas has produced conflicting results.