Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Spanish Barb?
Quoting from D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, “...Spanish Horses descend from horses introduced from southern Spain, and possibly North Africa, during the period of the conquest of the New World. In the New World this colonial resource has become differentiated into a number of breeds, and the North American representatives are only one of many such breeds throughout the Americas. These horses are a direct remnant of the horses of the Golden Age of Spain, which type is now mostly or wholly extinct in Spain. The Spanish horses are therefore a treasure chest of genetic wealth from a time long gone. In addition, they are capable and durable mounts for a wide variety of equine pursuits in North America, and their abilities have been vastly undervalued for most of the last century. These are beautiful and capable horses from a genetic pool that heavily influenced horse breeding throughout the world five centuries ago, yet today they have become quite rare and undervalued..Read more
What do these horses look like?
The Colonial Spanish Horse has several distinctive characteristics. They have wide set eyes and a refined muzzle, a narrow chest forming an A as opposed to many horses which would be described as having H shaped chests, Barbs are noted for their short backs enabling them to perform well athletically and they have a deep heart girth which makes them exemplary endurance horses, i.e. Padre Kino is purported to have ridden as much as 70 miles a day on these horses. For more detailed information please go to the What is a Spanish Barb page.
Are these the same horses that are used on Mexican ranches?
The horses of Mexico came from the same stock as our Colonial Spanish Horses. Today the remnants of these horses live though out the rural areas of Mexico. They are used on ranches and for every other imaginable use. The Mexicans have developed a modern horse they call the Azteca which is a Colonial Spanish Horse mixed with our Quarter Horse. Like the Quarter Horse of America the Azteca is larger than the Barb however it does have the Spanish look.
What are the coat colors of the Spanish Barb?
Spanish Barbs come in all horse colors. It is through the Spanish influence that many other North American horse breeds gain their distinctive colors. The Barb comes in a full range of solid colors including black, bay, brown, chestnut, grullo, zebra dun, red dun, buckskin, palomino, and cream. Other solid colors such as the champagne colors, and even silver dapple, occur rarely. It is consistent among most populations of these horses that black and colors derived from it are relatively common. This contrasts with the relative rarity of these colors in horses of Arabian or Thoroughbred breeding underscoring the genetic variety of the Spanish Barb.
In many horses these base colors are combined with white hairs or patches to result in gray, roan, paint (tobiano, overo, and sabino types), pure white, and the leopard complex of blankets, roans, and dark spots usually associated with the Appaloosa breed. The frame overo pattern is especially interesting, since it is almost entirely limited to North American horses or their descendants. From that origin the color pattern has spread to other regions and breeds, but all evidence points to its being a Spanish pattern originally. Different breeders select for several of these colors and patterns, but all can be shown to have been present in the Spanish horses at the time of the conquest and they are all part of the heritage of this horse.
Linebacked duns (zebra, red, and grullo) are frequently associated with Spanish Horses, largely because these colors do indeed betray a Spanish connection in Western North American horses. These colors are very widespread in pony and some draft breeds throughout Europe and Asia, and so are by themselves not an accurate predictor of Spanish breeding in horses. They are attractive colors, and common in Spanish Horses, but are a very inaccurate indicator of relative purity of breeding.
Some people insist that solid colored (those lacking white marks) zebra duns and grullos are a throwback to Sorraia type breeding. These are sometimes attributed special significance as the Sorraia is considered by some to be a primitive foundation for all Iberian horses. The status and role of the Sorraia is controversial, however, and individual zebra dun and grullo horses do indeed segregate from herds of very mixed colors. The resulting solid colored duns and grullos are no more nor less Spanish in breeding than are their siblings of other colors.
The leopard complex of patterns is usually associated with the Appaloosa breed, and these patterns are not controversial as a part of the array of colors of North American Spanish Horses. Very few detailed descriptions of early imported horses are available, although some few that are available are certainly consistent with leopard complex patterns. Several foundation horses in many of the North American registries sported these patterns, and were considered to be of typical Spanish conformation by those that began this conservation work. The presence of these in North American populations while absent in South American populations is not necessarily a reflection of relative purity, as the two continents received slightly different foundation stock during the early importations.
Where can I see these horses?
You can see these horses on this website and to visit one of our breeders go the the SBHA Breeders page.