Pura Raza Española

The Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse

4001 Juan Tabo NE, Suite D

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87111


The Pure Spanish Horse is a strong, athletic, and beautiful horse in both appearance and character. It is also called the Pura Raza Española (PRE) in Spain, the United States, and Canada. Perhaps its best quality is its willingness to work with the less than perfect human companions, exhibiting the nobility and grace it joyfully offers while performing anything requested of it, even after days unexercised. This is horse that is easily trained and easily ridden. When riding a PRE, the rider immediately feels a sensation so special that it is like a dream. With any indiscreet cue, the horse responds instantly, compensating its movement to best fit the rider. Immediately, the rider feels as one with the horse.

The PRE is impressive, with its gallant presence and long flowing mane and tail. It comes in all colors, but mostly gray or white, and has been bred for centuries to bond with, understand, and relate to humans with timeless generosity. It was the majestic horse reserved for kings, queens, and elite government officials to make them look impressive and important. The PRE remains a magnificent animal, deserving of honor for all times.


The PRE is descended from one of the most ancient of equine breeds living on the Iberian Peninsula since prehistory, dating back thousands of years. In northeastern Spain, the prototype Spanish horse was painted on the cave walls being led by early man. The Pure Spanish Horse dates its ancestry back to these ancient horses that were esteemed for their quality and appearance since Roman times.

The Pure Spanish Horse’s historical use in Spain was first as a farm horse to work with the brave bulls destined for the bull rings. The breed is still used in Spain to fight in the bull ring and still used to work stock on the farms. Back then, it was also used to carry lords into battle, and later in parades, it proudly carried the victors in their moments of triumph. In the Middle Ages, it carried knights and later became the treasured mount of European nobles.


The Pura Raza Española is a graceful breed, best known for accommodating the rider. Paco Rey

The Pure Spanish Horse was unified as a breed between 1567 and 1593 by the Spanish king, Felipe II. He decided to bring to life the universally idealized historic horse whose image had endured for so long in both bronze sculptures and paintings. He looked at the basic horse bred in Spain, selected the best of those examples that came closest to the ideal, and directed the production of this type horse. He formally established the standards for the breed, which are recognized today in the Pure Spanish Horse.

Concurrent with his breeding program, the humanistic approach was spreading through Spain, and the teachings of the ancient Greek, Xenophon, were put into practice for the treatment and training of these carefully bred horses. This resulted in the Pure Spanish Horse being known and respected for its submission to the aids and the assistance it contributed to its rider.

Horsemen soon realized that the same qualities that made the Pure Spanish Horse a versatile war-horse in its early history could also be valuable in times of peace. It soon became the favorite of the grand riding academies, where dressage and high school riding began and flourished. It was used in dressage competitions and competitive driving in a single- or four-horse hitch. It was also utilized in the distinctly Spanish discipline called the Doma Vaquera—the formalized show ring version of farm work, most closely related to a reining pattern with combined dressage elements.

Today, the Pure Spanish Horse is considered one of the national treasures of Spain, an inheritance handed down from father to son through generations.

In the United States

The first time the Pure Spanish Horse was brought to the United States was in the cargo holds of the voyages of the conquistadors, beginning with the second voyage of Christopher Columbus. Despite its popularity, it did not make its second official appearance in the United States until the late 1960s. In fact, the PRE is one of the rarest breeds in the United States. As a result, many Americans have only seen one in Hollywood films, such as The Lord of the Rings, or television programs like Wizard’s First Rule, with perhaps only a very few having seen a PRE in person.

The PRE, however, is experiencing a rapid growth in popularity in response to an active promotion. Many new owners are discovering the wonderful attributes of the breed at competitions that present an opportunity to show off in dressage and other performance classes.

In the United States there are no bullfights, but PRE horses are found to be adept at all the disciplines one could expect: dressage, hunt seat, saddle seat, driving, parades, trail, and western and English pleasure. Some even excel as open jumpers. The 2008 Summer Olympics brought two PRE horses into the spotlight. The stallion Rociero XV was the first PRE to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Selection Trials, and the stallion Fuego XII represented Spain in dressage at Beijing.

History of the PRE Name

The name “Andalusian” was used interchangeably in the past with “Spanish Horse” when describing the breed. The name “Andalusian” fell out of favor when two major events occurred: one national, one international. The national event in Spain was the growth of the breed in numbers, which meant that it expanded from its ancestral birthplace in the province of Andalusia—specifically the royal stables of Córdoba—to the entire nation of Spain. So as not to show partiality to the breeders in Andalusia, the horse became known as el caballo de pura raza española, or the PRE.

When the official Spanish studbook for the breed was first organized in 1911 and published in 1913, the name given to the registry was Caballos de Pura Raza Española (Horses of the Pure Spanish Breed). This is, to this day, the only correct name for the breed. The name has remained the same throughout the twenty-two published volumes of the stud book. It is the official, government-accepted, owner-recognized, national breed association–endorsed name of this breed of horse that is historically and currently produced throughout Spain and now in other countries around the world that adhere to Spanish breed standards and protocols. Even so, some owners continued to refer to the breed as Andalusian.

With the international event of the restoration of democracy in Portugal, there coincided strong national fervor, which ensured that Portugal’s horse was named by the ancient Roman name for Portugal, Lusitania. The Portuguese horse from the mid 1970s was from then on formally known as the Lusitano, making a distinct and permanent international separation of horses in the two countries. The Portuguese stud book, (volume I, published in 1989), was entitled the Livro Genealógico Português de Equinos: Stud Book da Raca Lusitana.


A Pura Raza Española stallion shows his stylish capabilities. Jorge Monaltvo

From this point forward, the breeders in Spain formally endorsed the idea of no longer using the regional name of Andalusian, but to uniformly use the national name Pura Raza Española (PRE), thereby encompassing breeders in all provinces of Spain. It was owners outside of Spain, who, perhaps because Pura Raza Española was more difficult to pronounce, chose to continue using the easier Andalusian name when referring to the breed. All over the world, however, the breed is called the Pura Raza Española, or PRE. This name has international recognition and translates to English as the Pure Spanish Horse.

Breeds Associated with the PRE

Lusitano, or Puro Sangue Lusitano (PSL): The Lusitano is a purebred horse of Portugal that is closely related to the PRE, as many Spanish horses served as foundation horses for the Lusitano; Portugal, however, considers its breed pure and separate from the PRE, and similarly, Spain recognizes the Puro Sangue Lusitano (PSL) as a pure breed separate from the PRE.

Pure Spanish Portuguese (PSP): The Pure Spanish Portuguese (PSP) is a cross between the PRE and the PSL, although the ratio need not be fifty-fifty. It is recognized in the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association (IALHA) as a purebred Andalusian. This horse is not eligible for the revision or valoration process conducted by the Spanish government for the PRE, or for the similar process held by the Portuguese for the Lusitano.

The Spanish Horse Brand

There was a great confluence of events in 1998. In the United States, the Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse was formed, and in Spain, D. Juan Carlos Altamirano published his monumental treatise, Historia Y Origen del Caballo Español: Las caballerizas reales de Cordoba (The History and Origin of the Spanish Horse: The Royal Stables of Cordoba).

In this seminal and definitive work, Altamirano describes the codification of the Spanish Horse under the reign of King Felipe II. Beginning with his royal decree of November 28, 1567, the breed was formalized, the standards were set, and a royal stable was established in the city of Cordoba. The brand for this stable was an “R” for Real (Royal) inside a “C” for Cordoba. A corona (crown) was added to the top of the “C” as an additional royal stamp. This brand was placed on horses that were produced in the royal stables, and was the first brand used on the first horses of the now organized breed.

Centuries later, when the royal stable of Cordoba was no longer a breeding station, the brand fell into disuse, then oblivion. It was Altamirano, who, in his studies, found the brand and re-registered it in his name. On hearing of the works and efforts of the Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse in the United States, he generously donated this brand to the organization for its sole and exclusive use.

Four years later in 2002, the royal stables in Cordoba were reopened and now serve as a home to the breed again. Altamirano has made a second and final gift of this logo to the royal stables for its use.

So the circle is complete: the brand associated with the birth of the breed has been revived and helped with the education of owners around the world through the works of the Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse. It is now again at home in the place of its birth: the royal stables of Cordoba, Spain. Its use is authorized for only these two entities.

Registry Requirements

PRE horses registered with the Spanish stud book in Spain should have a Spanish passport for equines, which includes the carta, or registration certificate, within it. In 2007, the management of the Spanish PRE stud book was transferred and assigned to a Spanish breeder’s group as the managing entity. Horses of the Spanish PRE stud book are qualified for inclusion by virtue of birth to registered parents and have the opportunity to be included on their own merits as reproducers by compliance with the requirements of valoración at their maturity.

In the United States in 2008, a new and independent worldwide PRE registry, the PRE Mundial, was created and is administered by the Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse. Horses registered in the PRE Mundial Registry receive a carta mundial.

PRE horses have to pass a physical inspection and genetic testing as foals to receive their Spanish passport or carta mundial, which are recognized internationally as a guarantee ensuring a horse’s lineage and authenticity. This process is called Inscription and is most often done when the foal is still nursing from its dam. When the horse reaches adulthood (usually three or four years old), it is examined again for minimum size, quality, transmissible faults, and breed fidelity. When it passes this approval, it is said to be apto, or qualified.


The PRE horse’s physical appearance and flashy action make it one of the world’s most desirable riding horses. Its conformation hints at the breed’s capabilities. It is strongly built, yet elegant.

Size: Minimum height at the withers for males is 1.52 meters (59.84 inches, or almost 15 hands) and for females is 1.50 meters (59.05 inches, or 14.3 hands). The typical PRE stands 15.2 to 16.2 hands.

Color: About 70 percent of PRE horses are gray or white, 20 percent are bay, 5 percent are black, and 5 percent are chestnut, palomino, or dun. Grays and whites are born dark and lighten as they age, often going through various lightening stages. Some do not stop changing when they turn white, but continue on to develop freckles.

Head: The classically beautiful head is unique and an instant identifier. It is of medium length, rectangular, and lean. In profile, the face is straight or softly convex, moderately narrow, and without excess flesh. It has a broad forehead and well placed ears. The eyes are large, alive, and triangular, placed within an orbital arch. The comma-shaped nostrils can expand downward to bring in quantities of air, providing strength for extended efforts. The unique breed characteristics are obvious in the shape and dexterity of the upper lip, the sensitivity of the mouth, and the point of the chin.

Neck: The neck is reasonably long and broad, yet elegant and well crested in stallions. The mane is thick and abundant.

Body: Well defined withers precede a short back, and the quarters are broad and strong. It has strong boned legs, good slope to the shoulder, deep heart-girth, and round, powerful haunches. The croup is rounded and of medium length. The tail is abundant, set low, and lies tightly against the body.

Disqualifications: Having a fallen crest (accumulation of excess fat in the crest), inverted or U-neck, monorchidism, or cryptorchidism will be grounds for disqualification of a horse.

Credit: The Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse and Gareth A. Selwood

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at admin@erenow.org. Thank you!