Epona is world renowned for its depth and quality of classically trained, yet kind and generous, Spanish horses. Epona owns a large number of horses to offer to guests.
We have around 30+ horses presently in work with guests, this number contrasts with the small groups we host at Epona, which normally, on average, are of 6 to 8 riders. We find that this large number is necessary not only to cover the needs of the variety of riders that come to Epona, from beginners to advanced dressage riders, but also that this large number will ensure the horses are well rested and never overworked. This we find is key in keeping them happy in their work and consequently, willing and light.
In addition to these 30+ horses working in the programmes, we always keep a small number of younger horses in training who will join the team in the future.
At Epona we retire all our horses once their working days are over. As a part of our family, to us its important that they live their last years in an environment they know feeling safe, cared for and valued. It is the least we can do after a life service..
Epona is home to a large number of High School trained dressage horses, available to riding guests for lessons, this is something that is not very commonly found. This is made even more special by the fact they are Spanish horses, many of them purebred, and that most of them have been trained at Epona by Vivi Garcia, Epona’s Principal Instructor and General Manager.
The Garcia family have personally selected every stallion, gelding and mare you will ride. They look for temperament, trainability, ridabilty, suitability, a kind and gentle manner, a willingness to please and, because they are Spanish horses, they will help you look and feel like Royalty.
Vivi is responsible for the training of all the horses. She knows each and every one in depth and she often rides even the most established of Epona’s horses, to keep their training fine tuned.
As a result, Epona is able to offer a large number of schoolmaster horses, of all ages, who are trained to teach riders the correct feel for the more advanced movements as well as the basics.
Due to their inherent kind and generous nature, many of the horses also regularly help less experienced riders improve their skills, confidence and abilities.
It is not unusual for 12 or more individual horses, across just one day of lessons, to give their riders a feel for Piaffe, Passage, Canter Pirouettes, Flying Changes and of course, Spanish Walk.
It is this depth of horsepower that helps make Epona stand out from the crowd.
Epona’s Trail Ride horses are well mannered, forward going, well schooled (many are also used in lessons or for lunge sessions), kind, generous and full of personality.
They like nothing better than travelling the trails that date back to Roman times, or even earlier, whilst sharing with their riders the peace, quiet and natural beauty that surrounds Epona.
Whichever training programme you choose, you will be forever in awe of the horses you meet during your time at Epona.
History of the Andalusia horse
Although the breed is commonly referred to as "Andalusian", in Spain, it is usually referred to as Pura Raza Española, simply meaning "Spanish Pure Bred", and you will often see it abbreviated to P.R.E.
The origin of the Spanish horse does not have a specific date but goes back long before the birth of Christ, as suggested by vestiges in the Iberian Peninsula from the Paleolithic era. They are presented in the form of cave paintings that already show the importance of horses in prehistoric life systems.
The Spanish horse began to take shape in the hands of the Carthaginians, who incorporated Equids in large numbers in their armies for their enormous strength and power.
Later, the Romans greatly appreciated the value of the Spanish horse and enhanced its role both as a means of transport in civil life and in the frequent war conflicts, and as a sign of distinction for Kings and Emperors. They were also selected for circus games. Roman authors such as Plutarch, Pliny the Elder and Seneca spoke of the horse of Hispania as a beautiful, docile, arrogant and brave specimen, ideal for war and for the games of the circuses during that time.
The Moors organised an army with a light cavalry consisting almost exclusively of Spanish horses. This cavalry was important in the Arab expansion in Spain and they admired the virtues of the Spanish horse. Their aim was to preserve and enhance the characteristics of the breed, creating important studs and even sending horses as gifts to Constantinople, Baghdad and other major cities of the Islamic empire.
The modern day Spanish horse is the product of the ﬁrst genetic project in history undertaken in order to obtain a breed of horses with certain specific morphological and mental characteristics.
It began with the Royal Warrant of the 28th of November 1567, by which the King, Felipe ll , ordered the royal horse master in Cordoba, Diego Lopez de Haro, to purchase 1,200 mares and the stallions necessary to create a new breed of horse that would be obtained through crosses between the different types of horses existing in Andalusia at that time.
While up till that moment, man used to look for specimens that would serve only as means of transport, attaching little importance to shape, King Felipe ll embarked on a task to create the type of horse that had been idealized for centuries.
The model of the horse to be obtained was developed some four hundred years before Christ by the ancient Greeks such as Simon of Athens, Xenophon, and later on by Columella and Saint lsidore of Seville among others, who maintained that the perfect horse should possess features such as “small head, black eyes, tiny and straight ears, ﬂexible, thick and not too long neck, thick mane, wide chest, round belly, elevated movements, long, silky and wavy tail. and round croup”.
This model of horse, inexistent in reality, was represented on drawings, engravings, paintings, and in sculptures by all known civilisations as an ideal prototype for an equine.
Precisely this model, mythyﬁed for over a thousand years, was the one King Felipe II ordered to be achieved in the city of Cordoba.
King Felipe II laid the definitive foundations for the Pura Raza Española, more commonly known as the Andalusian. He achieved this through the creation of the Caballerizas Reales de Córdoba (Royal Stables of Cordoba), where he grouped the best stallions and mares of the Andalusian provinces that border the Guadalquivir river , which at that time, were the most prolific in breeding horses. This is how the Yeguada Real (Royal Stud) was born. These stables are still in existence today.
These horses became much desired in all the European courts and were greatly valued. Every King, Queen and Emperor desired to ride and own the Spanish Horses. In 1580 King Felipe gifted 27 mares and 9 stallions to his nephew Maximilian, Emperor of the Austro Hungarian empire. These horses were taken to the region of Lipica (now in Slovenia but formerly part of the empire) and a breeding programme was created. The cross of the spanish horses with the autochthonous breed, eventually gave way to what we now know as the Lipizzaner horse.
These horses were the ones chosen to perform in the Newly formed “Spanish Riding School” in Vienna, the Spanish blood of its horses, giving the school its name. But there are many more horse breeds that originate from the Andalusians. Like the Friesians, the Royal Horse of Denmark, Neapolitan (when Naples was under Spanish rule from 1504 to 1713), Austrian Kladruber and some of the British breeds, notably the Cleveland Bay, Hackney, Connemara and possibly the Welsh Cob, to name a few. The Lusitano only separated as a breed from the Spanish horse in 1960, until this year, spanish breed horses born in Portugal were registered as Andalusians, from this year on, they went on to being called Lusitanos.
At present, the world population of Purebred Spanish Horses registered in the Stud Book amounts to over 185,000 specimens, in more than 50 countries.
It has been a tradition for many years in Spain for male horses to be ridden and for mares only to be used for breeding.
Males will commonly have the characteristically long flowing mane, forelock and tail, not forgetting that distinctive thick neck.
Breeding mares were left out in large herds to produce their offspring. Their manes are customarily shaven off, as is the top section of the tail.
Over the years there has been an increase in the number of mares competing in dressage or just used as general working horses, as breeders are starting to realise that the mare must also prove her functionality as breeding stock and not just the stallion. In addition, some prefer the slight fineness of the mare’s body for competing, not to mention their character, which can be considered stronger than that of the stallions.
Many breeders are also opting for a slight change to the morphology of the breed, breeding finer built stallions and mares to create a more refined shape of Pura Raza Española, similar to that of a Central European sports horse, ideal for competitive dressage.
About 50 percent of Purebred Spanish horses are the well known grey colour, most of the rest being different shades of bay and black. There are also more and more chestnuts, dunns, cremelos and albinos, since the absurd ban for these coat colours was lifted from the stud book in 2002. Roans and piebalds are still totally excluded from the Stud Book.
The Andalusian or Purebred Spanish horse has great natural beauty. This is combined with a kind and generous nature, a willingness to please, great trainability, and a calm outlook on life.
These qualities are why the Andalusian is the horse of choice for film work. His willingness to stand, unfased, with the clamour of a film set all around him, and to then instantly morph into a stunningly beautiful, fiery looking mount, whose presence steals the scene, is unsurpassed.
Purchasing a Spanish horse in Spain
We are regularly asked to help source a quality PRE Spanish horse by our riding guests, their friends and various contacts.
We are not horse dealers and we are not a livery yard. However, over the past 35 years we have sold numerous quality PRE Spanish horses, all of which have found wonderful new homes throughout Europe, Australia, North America, South Africa and even India.
As a result, we are fully conversant with all aspects of shipping horses overseas from arranging the documentation, any required blood tests, vetting, permits, quarantine, insurance requirements and first class transportation. This all helps to take the worry and hassle away from purchasing a Spanish horse from Spain.
Many of you reading this will already be fully familiar with the virtues of the pure bred Spanish horse, also known as the PRE or Andalusian. For those of you who are less familiar with this amazing horse, we will try to explain our love affair with this extraordinary breed.
The Spanish horse is probably the most photographed, painted and sketched breed of equine in the world. His powerful looks, strong arched neck, flowing mane and tail, liquid brown eyes, intelligent ears, breathtaking movement and their wise yet generous outlook, all combine to make them an artists dream.
The Spanish horse has been bred for centuries to combine his amazing looks with an intelligent temperament that is both kind and generous. He is good company on the ground and under saddle and develops strong bonds with his carers.
The Spanish horse is renowned for his desire to please both under saddle and on the ground. His calm temperament alongside an ability to quickly learn new skills is why he has always been the 'go to' breed for the film industry as well as display work, free riding and liberty work. His desire to collect his paces is legendary, making piaffe, passage and canter pirouettes seem effortless. They are extremely quick learners and never forget what they have been taught.
Throughout history the Spanish horse has been the choice of horse to ride from royalty to actors, and pleasure riders to serious competitors. They are generous, easy to train, comfortable to ride, fun and responsive, yet, inherently safe. The small Spanish horses feel and ride like a much larger horse with plenty of neck and barrel to compliment their power. The larger horses feel balanced and responsive way beyond what you would feel from most regular horses of a comparable size.
The Spanish horse is kind, generous and sensible yet powerful, cadenced and full of presence. The Spanish horse is a very robust breed who manages to keep out of trouble better than most. He is a 'good doer' as he has been bred over the centuries to thrive on parched pasture, often in very hot conditions. He has hard tough feet, good dense bone and a strong conformation. These all combine to produce a sound tough horse that is usually working happily and correctly well into their mid 20's.
The Spanish horse has always had a precocious ability to perform the advanced and high school dressage movements. Indeed, the Spanish horse has been represented in all the modern Olympic games. Though the traditional blood lines may lack the ability to extend their paces to the extent of the warm blood breeds, there are now numerous Spanish horse breeders producing a more sport horse type, with international level competition their goal. Both the more traditional type and newer sport horse type are regular advanced dressage competitors. If correctly trained, they gain consistently high percentages, throughout the dressage world. Equally, if you are wanting a fabulous all round horse, his strength and stamina combined with his natural balance and sure- footedness make him a wonderful trail ride horse. Working Equitation, side saddle, driving, numerous showing classes, in-hand work, liberty, bridleless work etc and even some jumping, are all within his comfort zone. If your competition days are behind you, or of no interest, but you are looking for a stunning yet sensible equine companion, on which to have great fun, whilst being the envy of your friends..... The Spanish horse will be hard to beat.
Though we always hope our horses find their forever homes, in the event of a change of circumstances, the Spanish horse is relatively easy to rehome. His wonderful qualities make him a fabulous choice for serious riders through to a family horse and he is usually equally happy in either role.
Whilst we may be a little biased, after all we have been training, riding and teaching with the Spanish horse for 35 years now... We are not alone in our adoration of the extraordinary PRE or Andalusian horse, as he is often known. Just as they have been throughout history, they are revered by classical horseman and competition riders alike. They are extraordinary. They are magnificent. They are remarkable. And at Epona, we have been honoured to have them in our lives for decades.
How we can help you
Vivi Garcia, Epona's Master Horse Trainer and Chief Instructor, has ridden, trained and taught riders on Spanish horses for over 25 years. She knows them intimately. She knows their capabilities as well as their likes and dislikes. Having trained dozens of horses to advanced dressage level, Vivi has the skills, experience and resources to source and produce her horses to a very high standard.
At Epona we do not sell our own School masters, but normally have a couple of horses for sale on-site, however, if the horses we have at Epona for sale at the time being, do not meet your criteria, we can help you find your horse dream from other breeders and trainers in the area. We have very good contacts for both the traditional Spanish horse and the more sport horse type.
We can advise on whether you should purchase a stallion, gelding or mare, which could be influenced by your home country's requirements.
We can refer you to bilingual equine veterinary services so you can discuss your new horse's health in person. You are also welcome to source your own vet if you prefer, and if they are Spanish speaking, we are happy to translate for you. We are always happy to give follow up support and advice after purchase. In fact , many buyers like to leave their horses at Epona in training for a few months before transport. This also gives the opportunity for buyers to ride the horse at Epona if they wish to before taking him home. Vivi´s guidance towards working with your new horse, is a great opportunity to get to know him, his strong and weeks points and how to communicate with him. This tends to be a great starting point for the future partnership.
Whether you want a school master or a young advanced competition prospect, we can help.
We offer you our experience, connections and prestige, to help you select the right horse, and very importantly, at the right price.
As we try to have no more than two to four horses in training for sale at any one time, please contact us, with no obligation at all, if you are thinking seriously about purchasing a Spanish horse. If you would like any further help, advice or information, with no obligation and no hard sell involved, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Why choose Epona
Horses for all levels
Our large number of highly trained horses and well thought out programmes, enable us to accommodate beginners through to advanced riders.
Our qualified instructors bring a wealth of riding and training experience to the lessons.
Personal and close attention from the García family, will make you feel like a valued guest and friend.
World class facilities
Top class facilities (including covered arena) and ancient trail riding routes, are complemented by luxury accommodation in the medieval town of Carmona.
Our programmes combine riding with the historical, cultural and scenic experiences our unique location offers.
Ideal riding holiday climate
We enjoy an average of 300 days of sunshine.
Unique in Spain
The only riding holiday centre in Spain officially approved by the British horse society.
We offer 35 years of uninterrupted experience in hosting and training riding holiday guests from around the world.
Came back from our 10th visit in March, and plan to go back next year. Need I say more, it´s just the most amazing place.
Dressage Clinic with Rafael Soto
Fernando, Jane, Caty, Vivi, this has been the best trip I have ever taken, everything was perfect, the horses, the land and the hospitality.
Classical dressage and High School training
Could it get any better? Great horses, fantastic instructor, wonderful meals and a real family feel. A gem to be treasured.
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