The Hispano-Árabe Recovery Strategy
The core source of this report is from the translation of an article by
Commander Juan Manuel Lopez
'Los Hispano-Árabes en la Yequada Militar'
The breed Hispano-Árabe(Há) receives its name from the two breeds it originated from; namely the
Spanish and the Arab. Its earliest conception as a breed in Andalusia dates back to the Muslim
invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. In 1883 formal deliberate creation or selection for the breed in
Spain started, partly as a result of the importation of Arabian horses specifically to upgrade and
expand other horse breeding programmes (although there are some archive records showing earlier
Hispano-Árabe breeding stocks as far back as 1778). From those early days to today despite its
popularity as a working horse for the cattle men and military of Spain its expansion and consolidation
as a breed has been slow.
Part of this has been due to lack of quality of the stock produced in some of the earlier breeding lines.
Another factor possibly influencing its slow expansion as a breed was the popularity of its own
Thoroughbred part-bred the Tres sangres “Three bloods” (AHá)/ Anglo Hispano-Árabe that was
very much in demand by the military both as a Cavalry horse and sports horse and also greatly
demanded by the cattle breeders for working their livestock.
With these factors and the increase in national and international demand for the Pura Raza Español
(PRE), the Hispano-Árabe breed of horses were themselves dwindling in number and effectively
by the mid 1980's a minority rare breed. In 1986 the Hispano-Árabe (Há) was officially given
consideration as a breed requiring “special protection”; and consequently given their own Stud Book.
In 1990 Spain, the Cría Caballar (a division of Spain's Department of Defence; specifically assigned
responsibility for breeding/rearing equine young stock) started a number of strategies on military
stud farms to conserve several indigenous breeds of equines and to aid the recovery and
improvement of the Hispano-Árabe breed.
As the numbers of Hispano-Árabe mares were very small, an urgent breeding strategy was
implemented to increase the number of Hispano-Árabe's being produced, using PRE and Pura
Raza Arabian(Prá) mares to produce (F1) 50% generation Há and to try and obtain further
established Hispano-Árabe mares of fixed phenotype to add other bloodlines to the programme.
From this beginning of a small established handful of broodmares a designed Plan for the recovery
and improvement of the Há breed was set up based on two strategies:-
First: selection of stallions to be used; dividing their use between breed selection stages of
4-5 years, revisable every 2yrs; and weighing up which stallions to cover the new mares.
Second: define the aptitude tests that would be applied to the new generation of mares and
stallions allowing for the changes due to the breeds of mares and stallions being used
in the recovery programme, but would also be acceptable to the requirements of the
Registration Book and subsequent valuation for grading and approval for breeding.
From 1992 to the present day Spain's Plan for the recovery and improvement of the Hispano-Árabe
breed has passed through three stages and currently nearing the end of its fourth stage.
Stage 1: (1992-1995) - is marked by the use of foundation Há stallions being bred with
(F1)50% mares bred out of PRE dams x Prá sires.
Stage 2: (1996-1999) – in this second stage, five selected Prá stallions were used to cover
the Há mares and a PRE stallion selected to cover Prá mares.
Stage 3: (2000-2005) – was dominated by the use of PRE horses for covering more than 80%
of the Há mares.
There was also a dedicated breeding programme producing F1 Há from PRE mares
being covered by both Prá stallions and five new generation Há stallions of 50 and
75% ratios. (note: the % ratio refers to amount of Arab blood.)
One military herd of Prá mares was also being covered by PRE stallions, as in the
previous stage not many of this type of crossing had been produced.
Alongside all these controlled breeding strategies some mares had been freely covered by Há
stallions with the aim to producing quality F2 and F3 stock to progress and improve the breed.
Stage 4: (2006 – present day) has had to be designed to deal with the matured F2 stock with
the percentages of Arab blood that previously was very difficult to find in the
Hispano-Árabe horses; such as 62.5% and 37.5%, and is an occurrence of the breeding
stages involving foundation lines of Há and natural progression of out-breeding the 25%
and 75% Há stock to PRE or Prá.
**It should be noted here that the 25 -75% breeding ratio originally applied as a guide in the
regeneration plan is facing anomalies of progeny outside of the limits; however the strategy is to
breed for the breed standard not for a paper calculated ratio. The breed evaluation system
throughout the years has been modified to take account of the new generations and has in fact
shown that the successive generations regardless of %Arab blood are consolidating into
exceptional examples of the breed standard.
It must also be remembered that the Hispano-Árabe is not passing down a simple quantifiable
amount of Arab and PRE genetic codes but a 50% genetic amalgamation unique to the breed
and no longer definable in ratio terms as either from Arab or PRE; it is simply all Hispano-Árabe!
The second strategy of the Military Plan for the breeds recovery and improvement was looking at
defining tests to evaluate the qualities in the Hispano-Árabe stock being produced through this
programme to ensure that they reflected the breed standard.
In the early years the Military Training Centres applied the same tests to the Hispano-Árabe as they
were devising for the Anglo-Árabe(Aá), another breed project they were working on. After several
years gaining experience, a different set of tests were devised for the Hispano-Árabe assessing them
as they grew, through early training/backing and through a complete range of classical ridden work.
When a young 50% Hispano-Árabe stallion Ultraje proved himself qualifying and completing in tests
for ANCADES (Asociación Nacional de Criadores del Caballo de Deporte Español, ie Spanish
Sports Horse Association ) testing young horses in a complete test of riding skills and obtained very
promising result, the Military modified their initial strategy.
Now future stallions will have a duty to demonstrate that they do pass their traditional quality and
qualities on to their offspring in the same way other breeds do, without in principle resigning the
horse to any discipline.
In effect the Hispano-Árabe is to retain the qualities that made it a versatile working horse and
show aptitude to become an all round sports horse. In this respect the Cría has continued a project
they started in about 2006 in collaboration with several military horse farms to compare the
Hispano-Árabe stallions in recruitment for sports competition.
At the time that Commander Lopez produced his article on the recovery programme he noted that
the Hispano-Árabe stallion Relámpago from Jerez was already involved in a career as a competition
It is important to note that alongside this strategic Plan for the recovery and improvement of the
Hispano-Árabe, exists the premise year after year that all the decisions taken by the Technical
advisory Board (the Junta) regarding the military stud farm mares is by necessity a 'Drastic
Selection' process. Apart from helping in the recovery of a breed the studs involved in the
programme must determine the Hispano-Árabe model that will be present in any horses of the breed
The implication is that in future the selection of stallions and mares will become far more demanding.
The original article Commander Lopez wrote was aimed at and taking consideration of the Spanish
Hispano-Árabe breeders; predominantly the ranchers and cattlemen for whom this breed is so vital.
He noted that the requirements of the military for an exceptional sports horse exhibiting beauty and
distinction as well as the greater bone development and seriousness for the competition discipline
had to coexist with the requirements of the stock men for a horse of great nobility that makes daily
handling pleasant, without being sluggish, the requirement for a comfortable ride, a good mouth,
endurance and a great capacity for learning.
His article concluded with a postscript referring to the important changes affecting the Cría Caballar
in Spain (this would be in reference to the designation of the Stud books to independent
organisations with specific interests in those breeds of horses the Cría had originally been assigned
responsibility for) and the importance of cattle ranches to become pro-active in promoting the
reputation of the breed, and to take serious measures to recreate the breeding stages for their
Hispano-Árabe mares such as that started by the Cría in its Plan. He exhorts the ranchers to likewise
evaluate their resultant stock and do as much as possible to expand the Hispano-Árabe breed.
In 2002 with the results of the Cría strategies to regenerate and conserve the Hispano-Árabe breed
proving successful the Ministerio de Agricultura, Pescay y Alimentación MAPA(Spanish Ministry of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) issued Order APA/3277/2002, of the 13 December setting out the
definitive regulations of the breed profile and evaluation standard. MAPA then set about organising
the system the Cría had set up to be brought into action and applied to all Hispano-Árabe breeders,
running a high profile publicity campaign about the Hispano-Árabe to heighten awareness of the
need for its own people to work towards protecting the breed.
Prior to this, it appears that not all the ranchers/cattle stations in Spain were co-operating with the
Cría breeding plan; more out of wariness that it might not take account of the agricultural
requirements of the Hispano-Árabe and thus ‘create’ a breed that was not of use as a working stock
horse for the vaquero. However, the strategy applied did take consideration of these requirements,
while at the same time applying the breed’s adaptability and versatility to implement changes
regarding its breeding and commercial viability to the modern market as an all around sports horse.
The concerns of the ranchers were taken seriously and in 2006 the Studbook for the Hispano-Árabe
was passed into the care and control of the Unión Española de Ganaderos de Caballos de Raza
Hispano-árabe UEGHá (Spanish Union of Cattle Dealers and of Pura Raza Hispano-Árabe).
Effectively these are the men who by their work shaped the evolution of the Hispano-Árabe horse
and for as long as the demands of their work and leisure (as seen in the sport of Doma Vaquera)
continues then the breed is safe and unlike other horse breeds will not become distorted by the
ever changing fashion of whatever ‘look’ is in vogue.
The Hispano-Árabe is a breed in its own right formerly recognised worldwide and given special
consideration for protection hence the concerted efforts of Spain to implement an expanded
breeding programme involving reintroduction of Pure Spanish and Arabian bloodlines in an effort
to drag the breed back from the edge of extinction! It should also be noted that when it is considered
that Spain has restored the Hispano-Árabe population and breed type to a secure path of breed
development, the measures of introducing permissible PRE and Prá breeding for first generation
F1 horses to improve and expand the Há population could well be removed altogether or retained on
a controlled basis much like the Lipizzaner studs retain a controlled use of PRE stallions.
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