Breeders of Baroque
horses have many reason for becoming interested in their breed of
choice. Perhaps it was the history of the animal, or their
athleticism, or maybe they were captivated by the horses' beauty. Tina
Veder, who operates Caballos de Los Christiani, an Andalusian and
Lusitano breeding farm near Saratoga Springs, New York, has a family
tradition of owning these breeds. But her family's relationship with these
horses was perhaps unconventional by most American standards.
"My family had
Andalusians and Lusitanos in Europe, in the circus," says Veder.
"They are show biz friendly -- they have an easily trained temperaments
and super personality, and they're beautiful. They really capture the
romance." Veder says that even still, many prospective owners calling
or visiting her farm have seen these two breeds in an exhibition at some
point in their lives.
For Linda Hamid and her husband Allan, the
Spanish-Norman was a
creation they saw in their minds' eye long before they saw it in the flesh.
As the co-founders of the breed, the Hamids have a unique perspective on why
the Spanish-Norman is so captivating.
"These are the horses of the
knights," says Linda Hamid. "My husband is a historian. He
determined that the knights' horses must have descended from Spanish
stock." With the help of Dr. E. Gus Cothran of the University of Kentucky, the Percheron and Andalusian were genetically types as descendants
of the now-extinct Norman horse of the knights. Both breeds share the
genetic markers of Spanish horses. By crossing the two, the Spanish-Norman
was created to simulate the horses once ridden by knights and nobility. This
crossing results in a horse that possesses substance, bone and an athletic
personality. They are popular as field hunters, according to Hamid, and are
also used in medieval games and recreations.
According to information from the United States Lipizzaner
Registry's website (Lipizzaner is sometimes spelled
there horses are one of Europe's oldest domesticated breeds of horse, with
over 400 years of selective breeding resulting in the horse of today. The
breed traces it's Spanish roots back to Archduke Charles, who established a
stud farm in Lipizza (now Lipica) using imported Spanish Andalusians, Barbs
and Berbers to cross with the native Karst horses. The Karst horse was
small, white and slow to mature, and featured a high stepping gait -- all
traits the Lipizzaner shows today. During the land's occupation by Napoleon,
the breed was infused with Arab blood as well. Their longevity, willing and
gentle temperaments, and natural flair for dressage have made the Lipizzan
and it's crosses highly popular riding horses in Europe and the United
Training of the Iberian Breeds
Breeders of Baroque horses almost
universally agree that their early training is critical to their future
development. For starters, they tend to be late bloomers. Neither Hamid nor
Veder will begin training their youngsters before they are three years
horse in every breed has its good qualities and its obstacles," says
Veder "and because the Iberian horse was bred for centuries to perform
collected movements, their natural balance is set on their hindquarters.
That is why their talent reached is zenith in the upper FEI levels of
dressage". Veder believes that the correct early training is critical
for the Iberians to reach their full potential.
The advice that Veder gives to anyone
wanting to train an Iberian for competitive dressage is to spend the
required time developing their "pushing power" and their toplines.
Once you have that foundation in place, the rest of the training follows so
easily. For example, Veder says "We don't expect suspension in the trot
until the horse reaches the level to learn the passage, because we believe
that suspension should be developed out of roundness".
Hamid agrees that her babies need to be
started correctly. Since Spanish-Normans must have at least fifty percent
Andalusian blood in their pedigree, it stands to follow that the new breed
would share some of the development characteristics with its foundation
stock. Hamid says that her breed has a tremendous work ethic.
"They are almost anxious to work,"
says Hamid. "All different types of trainers endorse the breed for this
Lipizzan is perhaps the slowest to mature of the Iberian breeds, with
animals not being fully grown until seven and not fully mature until ten. It
is not uncommon for members of this breed to live late into their thirties,
however. Similar to the Andalusian and Lusitano, the Lipizzaner displays
obedience and a desire to please his trainer, yet without losing their proud
manner and presence. They show power and grace under saddle and a docile,
gentle temperament on the ground. Early training must emphasize a long,
lengthened stride with the head stretching toward the bit to allow the
maximum strengthening of the neck and flexibility later in life.
According to the USLR, choosing a trainer
carefully is critical for the early training of this breed. They are highly
intelligent, naturally athletic and very proud. Their trainer needs to be
flexible, respectful and use an individualized approach to each animal's
training. For example, cues to perform a particular movement must be given
only once, as the breed quickly will become dull to the aids if used in a
Lipizzan features a natural piaffe and passage, and excels in collected
work., making them a prime candidate for upper level dressage careers. They
are also successfully shown in jumping events, eventing and in harness.
A Glimpse of Fame
The Iberian breeds have always been known
for their extravagant appearance and generous attitudes. They were the Horse
of Kings, prized in the courts of Europe. They were the Fountainhead of
Classical dressage, revered by the Masters of past and present. However, in
1996 the Spanish Equestrian Team competing in their first Olympics in
Atlanta, showed the equestrian world first hand the talent, willingness, and
athleticism of their beloved Andalusian horses. Since that time, more and
more famous competitive riders and trainers are looking to the Iberian
breeds and have acquired Andalusians and Lusitanos for their future dressage
California, these horses have been promoted as the horses of the
celebrities," says Veder. "But in the northeast, horses must be
functional to sell. For so long, as the northern European countries
dominated dressage, there was a prejudice against these horses. But as the
upper level dressage tests have changed, and dressage has evolved, even the
Europeans realized that horses which could naturally do the collected
movement will get the high scores.
"The piaffe and passage lead to high
scores. Judges now look for a horse that must sit, lowering his hind end and
elevating the front; they want a horse that is more classically
points out that the Iberian breeds are naturally more uphill, not so
horizontal. The slant of their pelvis, and the manner with which they come
under themselves both help them to be more classically correct in the
collected work than even many warmblood breeds.
The Lipizzan has been famous since the
Spanish Riding School Vienna, Austria moved their stallions back in 1955.
The school has toured internationally, showcasing the breed's heritage,
dressage talent and their natural "airs above the ground". These
airs allow the stallions to show their inborn ability to sit onto their hind
end and elevate the front as well as leap into the air and kick out their
legs, among other feats of strength and flexibility. Breed fans may also
remember the Disney film The Miracle of the White Stallions,
which tells the true story of General Patton's 1945 rescue of the Lipizzan
stallions from a war-torn land.
The Spanish-Norman breed exploded on the
national radar when the Hamids' stallion, Romántico
HHF, became the only
American bred horse of Spanish descent to win a USET ribbon. And the amazing
piece was that the ribbon came at the Festival of Champions in Gladstone,
New Jersey, in freestyle reining, a sport typically dominated by a relic of
our cowboy heritage -- the American Quarter Horse.
"We took him to the Quarter Horse
Congress in 1999, " says Hamid. "He took a fourth place in
freestyle reining there. He was the only non Quarter Horse out of 8500
horses at the show." Hamid says that when Romántico
entered the arena,
you could have heard a pin drop, and for a moment they thought they had made
a mistake in bringing him to the Congress.
"I think the overall reaction was
respect that a larger horse could still be so agile," says Hamid.
Obviously, the Baroque breeds have excelled
as dressage horses, partially because they are among the original horses to
have performed in the sport, and partially due to the international renown
of the Spanish Riding
School. But dressage is not the only sport where
Baroque and Baroque crosses have been appearing.
The Spanish-Norman in particular has been
breaking barriers with Romantico's success in the freestyle reining arena.
The breed has proved popular especially with men, who Hamid says look to the
Spanish-Norman as a field hunter.
"I think they appreciate its substance.
I have heard so many stories of men looking for a horse of another breed,
then choosing the Spanish-Norman," says Hamid.
The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington,
Kentucky now is featuring a Spanish-Norman mare, Victoria of Fox Run, in its
daily Parade of Breeds. Victoria, owned by Victoria McIntire and Ronald
Phillips of Fox Run Farm in Richmond, Kentucky, is also being trained to
demonstrate many of the medieval games this breed was once used for. The
Horse Park is currently working on a program that will demonstrate and
showcase these games.
"My biggest market is people who really want to start enjoying
their riding," says Veder. "Look at the Olympic tapes, and
you will see horses that look more Iberian than ever in their structure.
Mostly I get calls from women who ride warmbloods and are just tired. They
want a horse they can dance with. A horse with lightness, that they don't
have to push."
The Lipizzaner has become popular in dressage especially because of
its natural self-carriage and even, steady, rhythm and tempo. They have a
quiet, steady way of going that appeals to both amateur and professional.
Their unflappable nature makes them for show or exhibition.
For more information about any of the
exciting Baroque breeds, contact the organizations listed below, or any of
the breeders advertised in this issue.
International Andalusian and
Lusitano Horse Association, 101 Carnoustie North, Shoal Creek,
AL 35242; 205-995-8900 (ph) or 205-995-8966 (fax); www.ialha.org; firstname.lastname@example.org
Spanish-Norman Horse Registry,
Inc., P.O. Box 985,
Woodbury, CT 06798; 203-266-4048 (ph); www.spanish-norman.com
United States Lipizzaner Registry, 707 Thirteenth St.
SE, Suite 275, Salem, OR 97301; 503-589-3172 (ph), 503-362-6393 (fax); www.lipizzan.com/uslr.html;