The Lusitano walks into the 21st century very much the same horse it was hundreds of years ago. Like its great ancestors, it is still admired for its beauty all around the globe. Besides its beauty, the modern Lusitano has a splendid ability for outstanding performance in every equestrian discipline. If you ask us they are still as much “the kings of horses” today as they were hundreds of years ago.

Luis Valença show

Luis Valença show

A versatile horse

Today’s Lusitanos do dressage and jumping at all levels, as well as being excellent carriage and endurance horses. They do eventing and are the primary choice for working equitation and bullfighting. Modern Lusitanos present themselves well in the Olympics and in championships around the world. At the same time their kindness and calm spirit make them excellent family horses and leisure rides. On top of this the Lusitano is today one of the favourite horse breeds on the big screen and you might have seen them act in movies like The Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, Gladiator, The Mask of Zorro and many more.

A functional mind

Bullfighting lusitanoThroughout its ancient history the Lusitano has been bred with functionality and temperament set as the primary characteristics. This has given them a mind that is set on working. Besides their great working mind and their willingness to cooperate with the rider, they are horses of great courage; a history of wars and bullfighting has given us a horse with the rare ability to stay and work with us even in highly threatening situations.

Gonçalo Carvalho and Rubi AR got a spot in the finals of 2012 Olympic Games

Gonçalo Carvalho and Rubi AR got a spot in the finals of 2012 Olympic Games

A small but growing breed

The Lusitano breed is quite small today as there are only about 5000 mares of breeding age. Of that number, around 2500 are located in Portugal, 1200 in Brazil and around 600 in France. The rest is spread throughout Europe, Mexico, Canada and the USA. However, the breed is growing and the number of Lusitanos is, at the moment, rising both in its homeland and around the world.

Two types of Lusitanos

The Lusitanos easiness for collection can not be matched by the warm-blood breeds and in recent years demand for Lusitanos as dressage competition horses has increased. This has led to a tendency of two different types emerging. The baroque type is kept in its original form, while the other type is more “sporty”; a taller horse with bigger gaits fitted for the competition arena. This is however done with care and with the breed standard in mind, so to not take away any of the breed’s strengths.

Lusitanos during a horse Fair in Portugal

The modern Lusitano in Portugal

The Lusitano stands today as one of Portugal’s most cherished prides and our favourite horse is often called “The Living Treasure of Portugal”. The Portuguese people are very traditional and the horses are a part of this. Like in the ancient days Lusitanos are still used in traditional farm work, bullfighting and classical dressage, yet they are also a part of everyday life. Owners can take a ride to the local café to have an espresso, a beer or a glass of wine while talking with friends. They often organise big trail rides, “passeios”, with all the horses in the village present. The horses are even an important part of feasts and fairs. The biggest and most well known of these is “Feira Nacional do Cavalo” that takes place in Golegã every year in November. For ten days this normally so quiet small town transforms into a boiling horse inferno. The Portuguese people also love to show their horses off, be it a piaff in the street in front of friends or a pretty girl, or a full classical display in 18th century costumes, including all the airs above the ground in front of big audiences.

 


Sources: APSL; The Andalusian & Lusitano by Tina Veder; Horsetalk; International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds by Bonnie Hendricks