Philip II’s horse breeding

On the 28th September 1527 King Philipp II of Spain published a decree that a new horse breed should be created. He wanted to breed a distinctly magnificent horse, a horse for Kings, a horse that would demonstrate at parades and marches already from afar, what important person were sitting on its back. He wanted to finance the new breeding with taxpayers’ fund, and he justified these expenses to the people that the creation of this breed would represent a proliferation of public wealth. The Spanish horse as such should be made in the type and improved, and the number of horses should be enlarged, by which means the prices for the horses should fall. The people in turn could take advantage of low horse prices.

Philip II founded the State breeding real Yezuada de Castilla (Royal Horse herd) and commanded in his statement from 1572 to buy for the studs 1200 stallions from the most important breeders as breeding animals. This however turns out as a hard-to-solve problem. Apparently, there were not enough horses, which could satisfy the new, high standards. The horses bred in Spain at this time varied significantly from region to region. Ultimately, there was previously no breeding program that would have set up one or more specific types, and the external characteristics of the horses were only adapted to the particular use or taste in certain regions. Thus, the King decided that the money, that should have allowed the purchase of breeding animals, would actually be used for the building and reconstruction of the Royal studs in Corduba. Isolated lines came relatively close to his ideal – Guzman horses and later the famous Valenzuela line. Philip II’s new breed was based on these horses, whereby he replaced the name of Valenzuela by the designation “Spanish horses”.

Spain was at the height of its power. The conquistadors conquered South – and Central America, and created the Empire where the Sun does not go down. The Spanish horse was the world’s most popular riding horse: the demand from abroad was so outrageous, that it created difficulties to satisfy the requests.

Philip II.’s noble intention to help the Spanish people by improving its national horse, turned out to be a pretext, considering that the breeding horses at this time were used exclusively by him or for his interests. Most of the horses began their journey to European countries as diplomatic gifts or medium of exchange, a custom Karl I. had already begun. The simple people hardly came close to the Royal horses, for which tremendous tax revenue were used for their breeding. For the On the other hand the Spanish horse left its footprint in the entire world: at the beginning of the 16th century, the Spanish governors of Cuba and Venezuela took their noble Spanish horses to their new areas of domination. In 1502 the first Spanish Governor of Santo Domingo brought his ten Andalusian horses on the island. At the same time, the entire european nobility rode during the Baroque age on Spanish horses. With their spectacular beauty and its striking passages, they represented exactly the taste of the time of splendor and magnificence.

While it became fashionable to European courts to arrange lavish parades and circus games on horses, in 1532 Frederic Grisons’ first riding academy with Spanish horses emerged in Spanish-Naples, and in 1594 under Pluvinel the School of Versailles opened. In 1565, the Spanish riding school of Vienna was formed on the present Joseph square withtin a wooden riding area, which later has been replaced by a magnificent building. Because at this time there were only Spanish horses ridden, the Institute got the name “Spanish riding school”. In the Czech Republic of today, Klauber horse breeding (1579) and in the today’s Slovenia the breeding of Lipizzaner (1580) were founded by using Spanish horses.

Under Philip III., Spain’s passionate horse breeding began to develop strange flowers. Due to the large and purchase-to-satisfying demand for Spanish horses from abroad and fancy ideas, Andalusians were crossbred with foreign races. Philipp III was taken by very large, heavy horses, that were from the Nordic type and started to interbreed Normans, Frisians, Frederiksborger, Holsteiner and Neapolitans. The elegant, slender type of Spanish horse changed, became more massive and warm-blooded. Temperament and character became also more cumbersome.

At the same time, a focused colour breeding, especially Pinto and Isabella, was created without taking in consideration anymore any other external or internal values of the respective breeding specimens. The Spanish horses slowly changed their type and degenerate rapidly. Especially the Isabella became in the following generations brighter and brighter, developed glass eyes – i.e. light blue – and showed also other signs of degeneration. As time went on, the rare Isabella were considered as the last cry at European courts, tensing them representatively in front of state coaches. Its name the Isabella owe from Philip II.’s daughter, Isabel Clara Eugenia, who allegedly swore during the three-year occupation of Ostend to change her shirt only after the conquest of the city. After this time has elapsed, the shirt had supposedly just a color as the yellow coat of that golden horse with white mane.

Many of the horse portrayed by Diego, Velazques among the various members of the Spanish Crown, give already clearly testimony of Germanic or Normanic crossbred horses which appeared to be too heavy and stout, though noble for pure Andalusian horses. The uniform type of the Andalusian horse, which was present at least for a certain time period, was divided into different subtypes. Significant racial characteristics had been lost. Many southern Andalusian breeders refused until well into the 16th century to perform foreign blood crossbreeds. Contrary to all trends she followed which continued by Philip II adopted guidelines for horse breeding.

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Horse breeding Philip II The Carthusian or Cartujanos Cartujano – a living legend


Excerpt from the book by
Catherine of Leyen
, Thomas Kilper
Publisher BLV