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The Native Horse of the Iberian Peninsula encompassing both Portugal and Spain has been ridden from more than 5,000 years, and is considered to be the oldest riding horse in the world. In 1885, Bernardo Lima, in his book on the Portuguese horse, used the term Lusitanian to refer to horses born and bred in Portugal.
The Portuguese Stud Book was created in 1889. In1966, the studbooks of Spain and Portugal were split along national lines. Spanish and Portuguese breeders agreed to use the terms Lusitano and Pura Raza Española, or Pure Spanish Horse, for the two new nationally-based breeds that sprang from the same ancient stock. The Lusitano breed officially began in 1967 with the first volume of the Portuguese Genealogy Book of Horses (Portuguese Stud Book).Since then, the number of registered horses has been steadily increasing, not only in Portugal, but in many other countries, including Brazil, France, Mexico, and recently in the United States of America.
This classical outline with short back and long legs gives the Lusitano a definite ability to comply with the rider’s wishes, an important advantage not only in high level dressage but in every other discipline that requires such gymnastic dexterity. Lusitanos are extremely intelligent and courageous, very sensitive to the aids. Their naturally sweet and willing temperament means they form a close rapport with their riders and “their” people.
The Portuguese Lusitano Breed
The Lusitano’s great versatility, coupled with docility, agility and courage, make it one of the best breeds to compete in nearly all forms of modern equestrian sports, but especially for dressage and working equitation. It is an extremely sensitive horse, which contrasts somewhat with the great courage that Lusitanos exhibit.
This courage makes the Lusitano one of the most prized breeds for bullfighting, being one of the horses preferred by “rejoneadores,” or mounted bullfighters. The Lusitano, with its giving nature and steady temperament, is also an ideal horse for equestrian tourism.
The Lusitano is a precocious breed, highly-fertile and long-lived. Growth lasts until they reach 8 years of age when the growth cartilages are completely closed. The Lusitano horse is frugal and maintains good physical condition, work status and activity, sustained only by good natural pasture, a situation that would be a significant handicap for other breeds.
The most prevalent color is grey, followed by bay and black. But while the Spanish breeders tended to breed out all but these colors, the Portuguese continued to value the more exuberant colors: chestnut, buckskin, palomino and the double-dilute color cremello, or “Isabel.”
Noble, generous and ardent, but always gentle and forgiving.
Agile, elevated, forward, smooth and providing a great comfort to the rider.
Well defined and long, with a smooth transition from the back to the neck. Always higher than the croup.