(Note: There are many more pictures below the post.)
I had a very vague idea when we moved to Spain that I would love to bring home a Pura Raza Espanol (Spanish pure blood, A.K.A. PRE or Andalusian) horse. It was definitely more of a pipe dream than an official plan. Over the past two years I've casually surfed the web on various sites looking at horses for sale in Spain.
Recently I decided to buy one. Life is short. Prices are low because of the poor economy. And I will likely never again have the rare opportunity to find an Andalusian horse from Andalusia in southern Spain where the breed originated. Of all the websites I visited I liked http://www.andalusianhorsedirect.com/
the best, as it had an enormous offering of horses that were each described in great detail and had accompanying pictures and videos.
I contacted Dawn from Andalusians Direct via email and spent the next few weeks making lists of the horses I might be interested in. Initially my list was about fifteen horses long but I watched and re-watched all of the videos, and eventually whittled it down to seven that I wanted to see and possibly try out.
Dawn is located in the U.K. and spends much of her time helping U.K. clients import Spanish horses from Spain. She works closely with a colleague Rikki-Lee from another website and business The Best Spanish Horses (http://thebestspanishhorses.eu/
). Rikki is located in Malaga, Spain. Dawn and Rikki have developed a close collaboration and list many of the same horses on their sites. Rikki is available to show horses in Spain to Dawn's clients. They were both a pleasure to work with.
Before I knew it, the time had come to fly to Malaga to look at the horses. I returned exhausted from a work trip to Turkey, came home and slept three hours, and headed back to the airport for a flight to Malaga. I had just had a horrible bout of shoulder and neck pain from a prior riding injury earlier in the week, that had required round-the-clock anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxers. I really wasn't sure I would be able to make the trip, but the pain had improved my midweek. Armed with a bottle of anti-inflammatories and therapeutic heating pads for my recovering injury, I was able to make a weekend work trip to Istanbul and the horse-hunting trip. I spent two days with Rikki looking at horses.
The experience was fantastic beyond words. I literally kept asking myself in my head if it was really happening, or just a dream. We visited numerous private horse yards to view the horses. It was very eye-opening to see how horses are handled in Spain. I now realize much of what we each see as reality and truth about horses is only a product of the culture we come from.
I can tell you it is a myth that Stallions are inherently dangerous. They are if they aren't raised and handled properly. But in Spain, almost all male horses are left intact and are kept safely in mixed yards. Some are even ridden by children. All of the horses I looked at were stallions and I would have felt 100% comfortable handling most of them intact (as stallions). Two horses, Odioseo and Benzu, were among the calmest horses I have ever seen and about 100 times calmer than Ebro. Most horses are kept in stalls, some of which are quite small. The horses all looked to be happy and in good health. The Spanish take great pride in their horses. They don't put up with much nonsense and expect the horses to be calm in all situations. And they are. It was really amazing to me.
The horses fit exactly with their descriptions from the websites and were very accurately represented in terms of training and temperament. I wanted to buy them all. Of course, this was not an option (at least not yet!), and I had to pick just one. I ended up narrowing it down to two polar opposites...Herrador, a big, grey five year old stallion with personality to spare, and Benzu, a four year old stallion that is one of the calmest horses I've ever seen. Benzu may have been the safest choice, but it was love at first sight with Herrador. In the end I went with my heart rather than my head. True to his description as "cheeky" on the websites, Herrador's character made him stand out as a shining star. Benzu was really amazing and will make a great purchase for someone else.
Due to my lack of experience handling stallions, Herrador's size and vibrant personality, my situation, and at the advice of Dawn, Rikki and Herrador's trainer, I decided to geld (castrate) him. He has recovered beautifully and will arrive in Barcelona in a few weeks. In the meantime, I've had fun shopping for all of Herrador's equipment. Ebro isn't going anywhere, he just has a buddy now.
I would highly recommend both Dawn of Andalusians Direct and Rikki of The Best Spanish Horses.