Azteca Horse Breed
Taking on the title ‘The National Horse of Mexico’ may be no easy task but for the new, developing breed, the Azteca is a perfect icon for Mexico; a combination of the old world and new. At first glance it looks like a typical Spanish horse. At second glance it looks too rugged to be a Spanish horse but more like a rancher’s horse. A combination of Quarter Horse, Andalusian and Mexican Criollo bred for a little over four decades.
Born in 1972 at the Domecq Center for Equine Reproduction was a stallion by the name of Casarejo. Casarejo would become the foundation sire to the Azteca breed. A cross between an Andalusian stallion and a Quarter horse, Casarejo set the standard for what the breed would strive to maintain. What may have started as just crossing Quarter horses and Andalusians, an evolution occurred into a distinct breed.
It was Mexican vaqueros, or cattle ranchers who have spent their lives in the saddle, working cattle in Mexico’s countryside for hundreds of years, atop horses of unregistered, unknown pedigrees that were interested in defining what they preferred in a Mexican ranch horse. As history shows, Spanish conquistadors brought well bred Spanish horse stock to the new world but the pure breeds of the once imported horse became quickly diluted.
Criollos were the common ranchers horse in Latin and South America but lacked the beauty of the old Spanish horse blood that they had descended from. By the 17th century, feral horses evolved from the stock of imported Spanish Andalusians and Lusitanos into their own type of horse. Criollos are typically small, with dense bones, a short back and croup and incredibly resilient to harsh weather conditions from years of living in the thick South American and Latina American wilderness. They are the Mustang of Latin and South America. Recent registration and selective breeding of the Criollo horse has led to a more refined and taller horse that is more preferred by breeders of the Azteca. Also by the early 1900s, the American Quarter horse became the popular mount for cowboys and ranchers in both the United States and Mexico and greatly influenced the breeding of Mexican horses.
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In 1992 the International Azteca Horse Association was formed and strict requirements both in conformation and performance abilities are required to register official, breed-able Azteca horses. At 6 months of age they are inspected for movement, conformation, color and disposition to be approved of a birth certificate. They are judged at about three years of age for again breed phenotype characteristics in order to finally be approved as Azteca breeding stock. Further documentation is noted with a letter A,B,C,D,E or F on Azteca registration papers to show how much of the horse’s pedigree is pure and balanced Azteca. The association has produced the letter chart to promote and maintain a balance of the three influential breeds, the Andalusian, Quarter horse, and Criollo. With the chart and the letter distinction in the registration papers, not one breed will be heavily dominant in the breeding of future Azteca horses.
Selective breeding by dedicated horsemen in Mexico produced the new breed that is now a beloved symbol of Mexico and a popular ranch horse among today’s generation of vaqueros. The evolving breed is becoming popular throughout the world, particularly in the United States and Canada and is seen in competitions including driving, dressage, reining, team penning, and pleasure riding.
Because of their medium build, their athleticism can be trained to perform in various disciplines. Early breeders of the Azteca stayed away from large, cresty Quarter horses that would not serve well for cattle work on the farm but focused on breeding and keeping the strength of the Quarter horse’s muscular flanks and hocks. Combining this with the refined, arched neck of the Andalusian produced a well-balanced ranch horse with an attractive face and calm, intelligent demeanor that was smart around cattle and nimble in the brushy landscape. The Azteca can be found in any solid coat pattern but spotted, paint coloring is not permitted in the Mexican registry, only in the United States as a result of Azteca and Paint horse crossings.