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Lusitano horses – the pride of Portugal

Felix Brasseur (BEL) on his way to World Gold in Aachen 2006.

Felix Brasseur (BEL) on his way to World Gold in Aachen 2006.

The Lusitano breed is the pride of Portugal and they have a magic that is all their own.

Long flowing manes, powerful compact bodies and proud heads are all characteristic of this world-famous breed of horses that continue to charm and astound.

From the same origins as the Spanish horse – the Andalusian – the Lusitano was developed for war and for bull-fighting but today this member of the equine family also holds his head high in the world of international equestrian sport, much-admired not just for his extravagant movement but also for his great courage and his willingness to co-operate with humankind.

Until 1967 the Lusitano shared its studbook with the Andalusian, and both are sometimes referred to as Iberian horses. The two strains can be traced back to the primitive Sorraia, and there is archaeological evidence of their existence on the Iberian Peninsula as far back as 25,000 BC. Ancient Greek and Roman writers spoke of them in glowing terms, and in 370 AD the famous Greek cavalry officer Xenophon praised the exceptional techniques employed by Iberian horsemen and their agile steeds who could start, stop, gallop and turn quicker than any other.

The influence of the Arabian on the horses of the Iberian Peninsula has been much-debated, and there are those who believe that it was the Sorraia migrating to North Africa from Spain and Portugal in prehistoric times that heavily influenced the creation of the revered Barb bloodlines long before the Muslim-initiated invasion brought Barb horses across the Straits of Gibraltar into Spain in 711 AD.

Whatever way you look at it however, Iberian horses have played a significant role in the development of equestrianism world-wide. The Conquistadors brought them, together with the “la jineta” style of riding, to the Americas while at the European riding academies in France, Germany, Italy and Austria they helped create the art of classical high-school equitation that so influences our sport today.

The Lusitano derives its name from Lusitania which was the Roman administrative region of modern-day Portugal and since the Lusitano Stud Book was established in 1967, with the express desire to strengthen the breed and re-emphasise its unique qualities, numbers have been growing steadily. And so has its popularity and success.

The entire Portuguese Dressage squad at 2006’s FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen competed on Lusitano horses as did Spanish team member, Juan Antonio Jimenez, but it was the gold medal winning performance of the team driven by Belgium’s Felix Brasseur to take the individual World Four-in-Hand Driving title that proved beyond doubt the versatility and talent of the breed. The courage, stability and tenacity so typical of these great horses is frequently called upon in this demanding discipline and, once again, they responded superbly under fire.

Spectators at the Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas in 2007 had the opportunity to watch another true ambassador show his paces as N-Galopin de la Font, the 13-year old approved stallion, has earned a wild-card for Portugal’s Daniel Pinto. And Joao Oliveira, son of the legendary Portuguese classical master Nuno Oliveira, showcased his four Lusitano stallions in a display which highlighted the attributes of willingness, suppleness and great presence that makes this horse the pride of Portugal.

 

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