HISTORY OF THE SPANISH BARB HORSE
Queen Isabella Mounted
On Her Barb Horse
Spanish Barb Horses are a very old breed that was brought to this continent by the Spanish explorers. To survive the extremely stressful voyage from Spain to the New World, they had to have a very strong will to live. They had to be sensible, thrifty, healthy, strong and adaptable. The Spanish Barb was first used by the Conquistadores, then the mission fathers, the Native Americans, and the Cowboy. For many years there were thousands of Barb horses that successfully ran free and wild. Today, they are known collectively as Colonial Spanish Horses.
"One thing is certain; of all the monuments which the Spaniard has left to glorify their reign in America, there will be none more worthy than his horse". (Frederic Remington, 19th century painter and sculptor who illustrated the history of his day).
The unusual history of this breed began in North Africa, the home of the Berbers. The long occupation of Spain by these invading warrior horsemen brought about the creation of a superior horse. The agile desert bred African Barb horse was crossed with existing Spanish stock, resulting in a horse that became world famous by the Middle Ages and was much sought after by the Royal Stud Farms of Europe.
By the year 1492, the Spanish had regained possession of their
country and began their own invasion forces, the Conquistadores, (the conquerers). By royal edict, horses were transported to the New World and breeding farms established. Upon the backs of these horses, Spain determined to widen the scope of their power and wealth. The Spanish Horse proved vital to Spain's explorations and settlement of the Americas. Originally transported by the daring Spanish Conquistadores to the islands of the Caribbean, the Spanish Barb was then introduced into what is now the United States, Mexico and South America.
The Origin of the Spanish Barb Horse
The Impact of the Spanish Barb in America
During the 16th and 17th centuries several impacts on the Spanish Barb horse occurred. The Spanish dominated the majority of the territory of North America. The eastern coast of America was being colonized by the later arriving English. The Chickasaw, the Choctaw and the Creek Indians acquired many Spanish horses. The English acquired Barb horses from capturing strays and from the aforementioned Indian tribes. For the most part, the English were unaware that the horses of the Spaniards had been the first to set foot on the continent. They apparently considered the finely bred horses they acquired to be native horses. The blood of the Spanish Barb can be found in the early framework of the Thoroughbred, Standardbred, Morgan, Quarter Horse and the Plantation horse. The English thoroughly-bred horse, the Lippizan, the Andalusian and the Lusitano all received infusions of Barb blood. The Spanish Barb horse is responsible for the outstanding coat color of many of the color registries. Until the time of the American acquisition of the Spanish held western territories in 1803, the blood of the Spanish Barb flowed in the veins of more early American horses than anyone would have dreamed at the time.
Queen Isabella of Spain.
Throughout the six centuries the Spanish Barb has survived in North America, the valuable traits and abilities first established in the breed have remained intact. However, these ancient bloodlines were very nearly annihilated during the 19th century. The Americans that pushed ever westward knew little of the long history of the ancient breed that belonged to the Spaniards, nor of the contribution made to the foundations of both American and European breeds. The "native" horses of America's south and east, crossed on later English imports had become completely Americanized in the eyes of their owners.
Horses were seen as an advantage to the Indians during the federal government's war against them and they sought to eradicate their horses.
Slaughter and extensive cross breeding very nearly destroyed the pure, old-time Spanish Barb by the Late 19th century. Had it not been been for the foresight of a few western ranchers who valued and admired the traits and unmatched abilities of the pure blooded Spanish barb horse, this historic breed would have remained only a legend in North America.