The Lusitano Horse and the Working Equitation  


The Lusitano is an ancient Portuguese horse breed, which until the 1960s shared its registration with the Spanish Andalusian horse. Sometimes both are called Iberian horses, as they originated from the Iberian Peninsula. They were developed for military purposes, and later used for dressage which had its origins precisely in military practices, bull fighting, show jumping and lately in Working Equitation (Equitación de trabajo) which was born as an equestrian sport 15 years ago in France and Italy. In the beginning different breeds of horses were used for the Working Equitation, particularly those used commonly for regular work at farms or at the fields. When some other countries joined the Working Equitation, it evolved and common rules were developed and they have been used in different championships: 13 European, 10 Brasilian and 6 Mexican. They have been also used in 2 world championships.

The Lusitano derives its name from Lusitania, the name which Romans gave to the part of the Iberian Peninsula that corresponds roughly to modern Portugal and part of modern Spain. Lusitanos were separated in 1960 from the Spanish Stud Book as at that time Portuguese breeders sought to strengthen the breed and re-emphasize the distinct qualities of the Lusitano.

In the 17th century the Spanish ceased fighting bulls but not the Portuguese who still do fight bulls from horseback and thus kept these distinct historic characteristics in the modern Lusitano.

The Lusitano has a reputation for courage, stamina, with a tendency to move forward toward that which threatens (a bull for instance), combining calmness with great character while ridden. Lusitanos are reputed to be intelligent, to possess a sensible, levelheaded temperament and tendency to bond strongly with humans. They have great balance and very comfortable gaits.

The Lusitano often has a convex profile referred to as “Roman nose” a trait that has been found to be tied genetically with an aptitude for "La Gineta," the ancient equestrian art defined by the necessities of mounted single combat or its contemporary counterparts: bull fighting, dressage, jumping and now, Working Equitation.

In regards to their conformation, they are compact, with powerful hindquarters, some with high-stepping action, and a thick mane and tail. They also have a sloping croup and low-set tail, as well as short backs. They have a low set cresty neck, a broad chest, well-sprung ribs. They are extremely powerful and strong, due to their muscular hindquarters and strong, long legs. When well trained, the Lusitano is a very easy to manage horse due to all of its qualities. They come in a variety of solid colors and usually stand 15 to 16 hands. Palomino, buckskin, and cremello are typical colors, and black is one of the most popular.

The Lusitano is proficient at the high levels of dressage and also competes in show jumping. As a matter of fact, British equestrian and Olympic Show jumping champion John Whitaker won the World championship with a Lusitano named Noveillero. Now the Lusitano is being used too for the Working Equitation in Mexico

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