In 2010, my parents bought me tickets to go see the dressage freestyles at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington KY. I was 17 years old and was in complete heaven. I got to see all of my favorites including Totilas, Parzival, Warum Nicht and Ravel. All of these European horses looked amazing in the ring and performed beautifully. But one of the last riders to come in the ring was going to bring the whole crowd to their feet and rock the dressage world. In came Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz aboard Fuego XII. The rider from Spain could not have looked more proud to be riding his Spanish bred stallion in the ring at WEG. The PREs name means “fire” in Spanish and that’s what he brought down centerline with his freestyle. After an evening of classical type musical freestyles, Juan’s upbeat Spanish themed music demanded everyone’s attention. I sat in awe and watched him perform a flawless freestyle. The horse seemed to only get better and better as it went on, he was giving more and more every step. You could barely hear the music as he made his final passage down centerline because the crowd was going insane (as Juan was raising his hands encouraging everyone). I’ve never seen a horse and rider so incredibly proud. They both knew they had just killed it.
Prior to the WEG, the Spanish breed was well known but not exactly accepted into the dressage world yet. Everyone still expected to see a big warmblood come down centerline and not a smaller type, baroque horse. I believe that Fuego started to change that. While he did receive good scores at the WEG, a lot of people believed he did not receive what he deserved. Slowly but surely we started to see more and more Spanish horses coming onto the dressage scene after the WEG. Professionals learned to love them for their natural talent for collection and amateurs loved them for their comfortable gaits and safe dispositions.
In 2014, I had the privilege of leasing an 18 year old Lusitano stallion. I was looking for a horse to ride U-25 on and I came across “Quincas’s” sales ad. I contacted his owner and she was kind enough to let me come try him to see if we meshed. She told me several people had tried him but he had not found his person yet. I later learned that if he did not like the rider, he would just stand in the middle of the ring and refuse to move. Luckily for me, Quincas thought I wasn’t too bad. I had barely ridden any of the GP and Quincas had been on the back burner for about a year. We had a lot of learning (and getting fit) to do in a short amount of time. Even though Quincas tested me for an entire show season, I fell madly in love with the Spanish breed. He was a classically bred Lusitano, bred for bull fighting. He had such a drive in him, he just wanted to work all the time. He would only perform a movement if I rode it absolutely perfect. He absolutely loved showing off at the horse shows and he thrived off of the crowds. While he was a hot and sensitive horse, he was basically un spookable and was not a physically exhausting ride. I learned so much from that horse in a short amount of time.
I realized that the Spanish breeds were exactly my type. They have a hot, sensitive nature without being too crazy. The majority of them are on the smaller side. They have an unreal, natural talent for all of the collected work. They love to work. I was seeing more and more amateur riders looking for Spanish horses for all of these reasons. So, I found a PRE breeding farm and bought two young horses for re sale projects. I sold one fairly quickly and am bringing the other up the levels. I love training them. Their brain works so quickly and they always want to be learning something new. They also love having a “person”. I read that Juan Munoz does all of the care for Fuego himself because Fuego does not like for anyone else to do it. After having PREs and Lusitanos, I now completely understand that. The breed in general connects with their “person” fairly quickly. Because of that, you get an amazing feeling of trust between you and the Spanish breed. I have been riding my 6 year old stallion for almost 2 years and I would trust that horse with my life and I think he trusts me with his. And that is an amazing feeling to have with a 1200 pound animal.
So if you are searching for your next horse, give a Spanish horse a try. I can guarantee you will fall in love.