Spanish Studs

Mother and foal happily grazing in Andalucia. © Michelle Chaplow
Mother and foal happily grazing in Andalucia.


Spanish Studs

Breeding of the Pura Raza Española all started with the Cría Caballar de las Fuerzas Armadas (Armed Forces Horse Breeding), which comprises a set of centres belonging to the Ministry of Defence, formed by military, civil servant and labour personnel.

The institution of Cría Caballar dates to 1864 and the origin of its functions and relationship with the army go back to the time of the Catholic Monarchs, with the aim of constant training of personnel and continuous research and innovation linked to equine breeding and reproduction. The goal was to improve the quality of horses according to breed, genealogy, morphology and test results.


Felipe II ordered the construction of a Royal Stable, based on those of King Almanzor, for a few selected stallions. In 1659 King Felipe IV created La Real Junta de Caballería (Royal Equestrian Council) with the idea that it would coordinate all activities related to equine breeding in Spain.

In the reign of Felipe V, horses joined the military forces, creating a Cavalry for the promotion of military riding. Fernando VI included among his Royal Cedulas the inspection of military studs, regulating the so-called Servicio de Paradas Caballares y Mulares (Horse and Mule Studs Service). In 1864, the first step involved maximum attention being given to the organisation of stallion deposits. A few years later the Military Stud, Yeguada de Córdoba, was created and its many missions included a reconstruction of the Pura Raza Española.

In 1847, a state military stud in Jerez de la Frontera was founded, creating the first genealogical registry book for Arabs, Thoroughbred and Anglo-Arab breeds, as well as the Pura Raza Española, in which each of the specimens must present a series of common breed characteristics.


By 1893, the state military stud farm, named Yeguada Militar, was established by Royal Order from the Spanish Minister of War in Moratalla, in Córdoba, with the primary goal of crossbreeding Arabians with Pura Raza Española horses to improve Spanish stock for the cavalry.

The original mandate was for 18 Pura Raza Española broodmares to be purchased, kept at Moratalla, fed grain and raised on land owned or leased by the Spanish military. All costs were to be paid by Spanish Military Horse Services and the cavalry would provide staff. Stallions found to breed with these mares were deemed to have the most appropriate blood, analysing thoroughly and scientifically all measures considered to contribute to the objective of improving the equine population. By 1949 there were 84 Pura Raza Española broodmares at the facility.


It was originally General Franco's idea to create a program in which, every spring, these prize stallions from the Yeguada Militar would be conveyed to the four Andalusian provinces of Huelva, Cádiz, Málaga and Seville, in order to allow Spanish horse owners to cover their mares with the aim of improving the quality of their bloodstock. The stallions tour these provinces for approximately three months and, since its inauguration, the program has proved to be highly successful. In each town, between four to six stallions will cover some 40 mares twice daily during the season and the cost is kept deliberately low. The public are allowed to visit the stallions as well as be present for their covering duties: The local Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) or Oficina de Turismo (Tourist Office) will be able to tell you the dates.


An association abbreviated as ANCCE (National Association of Purebred Spanish Horse Breeders) was established in 1972, based in Seville, and it functions as the parent association of the Pura Raza Española at a national and international level. The association is in charge of the Libro Genealogico PRE (Purebred Spanish Horse Studbook): a public register that is the property of the Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs, where the genealogical data of model specimens, as well as their ancestors and descendants, is collected. Only the Libro Genealogico Studbook is authorised to issue official documentation of Pura Raza Española model specimens at international and national level. ANCCE also organises the annual International Horse Show (SICAB), which has been held in Seville since 1991.


Andalusia, with its wide open spaces is the perfect place for horse breeding.
Andalusia, with its wide open spaces is the perfect place for horse breeding.

Today, although horses are no longer used for military purposes, they are still used at a competition level as well as for general riding. The primary goal of the Yeguada Militar remains to produce stallions to improve the bloodstock of horses throughout Spain, keeping about 35 Arabian broodmares and between 100 and 120 Pura Raza Española broodmares. They also own about 100 stallions kept at the stallion depots to cover mares owned by private breeders. Private breeders may also ask the government to be allowed to stand a resident stallion of the Yeguada Militar at their own stud for a limited period of time.

Nowadays the selective process has become more and more technical and the stallions are selected after vigorous testing so that only the best are selected. The stud has an agreement with the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art to train the stallions and provide horses for exhibition and dressage competitions. They keep the best fillies for broodmares, selling the rest to private owners. Following an assessment of the breeding stock, there is an annual auction of surplus mares and fillies.

When colts and fillies reach three years of age, owners can request the Studbook for Aptitud Básica (Basic Aptitude), the potential model specimens for breeding. Once the assessment is requested, veterinarians of the Libro Genealogico Studbook are delegated to examine these potential model specimens and issue an Aptitud Básica certificate for breeding. Therefore, future descendants of those model specimens may be registered in the Libro Genealogico Studbook. Those which do not receive the basic breeding certificate are still registered in the birth registry, and still considered as Pura Raza Española, but they do not have the right to register future offspring.

Once the Basic Aptitude breeding certificate is obtained, a colt or filly can then be registered in the Registro de Reproductores Calificados del Libro Genealógico (Register of Qualified Breeding Stock of the Stud Book), subjecting them to an additional valuation in the Courts of Qualified Breeding Stock (TRC). This consists of valuing morphological and behavioural characteristics, as well as movement, functionality and ability under saddle. Likewise, a veterinary control is carried out to detect possible transmissible pathologies and to evaluate the reproductive characteristics.

The ANCCE today has well over 200 registered national and international breeders and studs, as well as hundreds of model specimens registered in the Libro Genealogico Studbook. All registered breeders and studs can be found on the ANCCE website and many welcome visitors, the most popular being the Yeguada de la Cartuja - Hierro del Bocado in Jerez de la Frontera.

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