The first impression given by the Lusitano horse is one of balance and harmony. That may be why it seems to correspond to most people’s “idea of a horse” even when they have absolutely no previous experience of the breed.
Lusitanos are considered the “Sport Model” of the Iberian breeds, as demonstrated by their victories in show jumping, dressage, driving and cattle competitions. They also dominate bullfighting in Europe, Mexico and South America. Portuguese breeders, some of them with centuries of family experience, have employed careful breeding practices to preserve traits that enhance skill in these arenas.
The Veiga Line (MV) is world-famous for its facility in bullfighting, a traditional Iberian equestrian sport requiring a high level of athleticism.
The Alter Real line (AR) produces mounts for the Baroque high school exercises displayed by the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art. These require intricate precision.
The Andrade line (AD) is known for its excellent dressage gaits, developed through the Lusitano’s response to complex training. Horses in this line were originally selected with the help of Classical Dressage Master Nuno Oliveira.
The Coudelaria Nacional line (CN) – National Stud) selected horses for amenable temperament and high-stepping gaits.
Here’s what sets the Lusitano apart:
Its special qualities are a generous temperament, a human-oriented disposition and a flexible body. It is always eager to work and to please, anxious to learn, and quick to remember the exercises learned even years earlier, seemingly without much prompting. The Lusitano’s degree of intelligence, developed by a long selection, is high because it is combined with the goodwill to work.
The Lusitano must possess an uphill balance to facilitate the constant transitions of dressage or in the bullfight. It must be resilient enough to cover long distances at great speed and work with a high degree of energy for a long time, as in a three-day event. It must be brave, so as not to mind when he occasionally gets hurt by a bull or an obstacle or gets threatened by another horse and rider in sports like polo or horse ball. The horse must be patient in order to tolerate incessant demands from the rider during the bullfight or other event without becoming irritated, fearful or sullen. He must be extremely careful not to touch the poles of the show-jumps and to stay away from the bull’s horns, yet bold enough to jump willingly and to approach the bull with daring courage.
Lusitanos are docile and can be ridden by young children, whom they obey purely out of gentility. The psychic qualities of this horse are as important as the physical ones, if not even more. It is “people oriented,” willing to perform and works hard to constantly please the rider.
One of the particular abilities of the Lusitano is to easily understand the intricacies of high-level training. It also has the temperament to react with passion when necessary and calm quickly. This particularity of temperament is unique to Lusitano horses, and is very different from “hot horses,” which, once excited, do not calm down easily.
The athletic requirements of La Gineta — combat, hunting, bullfighting and working with cattle — have shaped the Lusitano’s body through centuries of traditional use. It possesses great physical adaptability can perform instant departs, dashing gallops, complete stops, pirouettes, spins and brilliant piaffers. It is capable of sudden starts in any direction at practically any gait.
Obviously, these exercises require blinding speed, acrobatic agility, a solid constitution and above all, limitless flexibility. Modern breeders have recently put a greater emphasis in their selection on the quality of the gaits, without losing the traditional ability for collection of the Baroque type.
The Lusitano’s history as a warhorse has resulted in a selection of animals that are easy to manage, even under rough conditions and tense situations.
To end where we began though, the overriding impression given by the Lusitano horse is one of balance and harmony.