El Cid and His Andalusian Horse Babieca
Various Festivities are taking place this week in Spain celebrating the legendary El Cid who died on the 10th July 1099. In the 11th century El Cid rode into battle, always successfully, on his Andalusian horse “Babieca”. It is suprising to learn that one of Spain's most famous horses has a name meaning fool or stupid! Bred by the Carthusian Monks who were so influential in the development of the Andalusian horse, known as the breeders of the finest horses in the World. as a young horse, he was weak and considered of no use.
A young man called Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar from a noble Castillian family, was invited to choose a horse from the stables of Monk Pedro El Grande. To everyone’s surprise, Rodrigo chose Babieca. Together, they went on to many great victories, Babieca defied his name and became a great war horse, Rodrigo so great in battle was named as El Cid Campeador (Lord, Champion of Warriors). Together they fought Christian Kings and Muslim Invaders in many epic battles including the taking back of Valencia from the Moors.
Upon the death of El Cid, he was strapped to the saddle of his horse, and the troops still rode behind him, the horse bravely going forward to battle. This was to be their final ever ride, Babieca was never ridden again, and died shortly after the passing of his master.
Babieca and others like him were the epitome of the war horse of the time. Just as today, the horses brave nature, their willingness to work, their athleticism and agility, and strong relationships with people were highly valued. No doubt also as today, warriors loved their beautiful looks and impressive presence.
The Spanish horse over time lost favour as the pure war horse as knights began to wear heavier armour, and the horses became a little bigger and stronger. But still the Spanish horses were crossed with for example French draught horses (Spanish Normans) to keep some of the traits but with the ability to carry greater weight.
The pure bred Spanish horse is now referred to as the PRE – the Pure Raza Española. Some of the horses still carry the ancient Carthusian lines (Cartujano) especially in the area around Cordoba. Some are considered pure Cartujano but only once verified by the University of Cordoba.
The Moors ruled Cordoba for a long time, from from 711AD until Ferdinand III of Castile entered the city in June 1236. Some time later, in 1567, the Royal School of Cordoba was founded by Felipe II by Royal Decree. It is considered the cradle, the literal birthplace of the modern, pure bred Spanish horse. All of this ancient history is deeply interwoven in the horses and culture especially in Cordoba. We are extremely proud to have presented Córdoba Ecuestre from the Royal Stables of Cordoba here in the UK for the very first time in 2023.
You can always look forward to seeing the finest Spanish horses at the Festival of the Iberian horse taking place at the end of August every year.