Galiceno Horse

Horse Galiceno History: What is Known; What is Believed to have Occurred

In 1519, when Cortez landed in North America with the Conquistadors, they brought with them, several small framed horses to work the mines of Mexico and to carry wounded and dead from the fields of battle. This reference to the smaller framed horses is in the original documents related to the Conquistadors. These are now believed to be “galicenos” which had been captured in the mountains of the Galicia region of Spain. Galicenos were primarily solid colors, with a rapid, smooth forward gaiting that is characteristic of other Spanish breed horses and that belied their heritage: according to modern theories, galicenos are believed to be a cross between the wild garrano type mountain ponies of Spain and Portugal, the wild Sorraia horses of the swamplands and the war horses and preferred mounts of the soldiery, the Andalusians.

Hundreds of years prior to the sailing of the Conquistadors, the Spanish shepherds would drive their flocks into the hills using their favorite breed of horse as a mount: Andalusian. The shepherds rode their stallions up into the hills, then released them at night where they would often breed with the wild small mountain ponies. The mix was further complicated by the wanderings of the Sorraia stallions from the lower lands of the Iberian penninsula.

As a result, unique to the Galicia region, the mountain ponies exhibited a more refined head, body and movement than other wild ponies: a result of their blend of Sorraia, Andalusian and Garrano heritage. The Garrano and Sorraia are also “gaited” breeds meaning that they show the smooth rapid forward Spanish gaiting once referred to as a “running walk” but which is now referred to as a Spanish gait. Today’s galiceno, depending upon the individual horse’s heritage, may or may not show this movement, but it is written into the breed’s standards because most of the horses originally captured in the Mexican interior in the 1950s showed this Spanish movement.

The small horses of the Conquistadors, the galicenos, so named for the region of their capture, were released into the mountain regions of Mexico’s interior by the Conquistadors, where they remained wild and relatively isolated for several hundred years. Occasionally, they were captured by some groups and during the movement into the American frontier during the 1700s and 1800s, many Galicenos were released to the prairies during conflicts or brought in by Spanish missionaries and were released in that manner. There are references to smaller Mexican ponies that resembled the Barb in much of the literature of these times.

The galiceno is one of the original Indian ponies and many references to it in combination with the mustang are made in the old 1800s literature that details the horses of the plains of the developing West. It is impossible to know how much variation occurred in the lines of the galicenos released into the Mexican interior by the Conquistadors, just as it is impossible to determine the entire lineage of the mustangs or many of the horse breeds: records were rarely kept back then. But several facts seem to be in agreement concerning the Galiceno: it originated in the mountains of the Galicia region of Spain, a small horse with a characteristic smooth rapid forward movement unique to Spanish breeds and the combination of its genetic background: Sorraia, Andalusian, Garrano, and possibly Barb, of Africa, is currently being studied. The galiceno as we know it today was imported from Mexico in the 1950s by several different ranchers and the registry for the breed was started in Texas in the late 1950s.

At the Hardcastle Ranch, the stallion NDs Windfire, has been bloodtyped by the University of Kentucky to match offspring of a known stallion captured in Mexico and brought out by Walt Johnson and John LeBret with an original herd of 135 horses in the mid-1950s. Windfire’s dam was out of this stallion called El Capitan. El Capitan was a palomino. Windfire’s DNA shows evidence of Spanish markers and he has the rapid smooth forward gaiting common to the breed, once referred to as a “running walk”. His sire, Flame of Lochinvae, was imported to Canada by Diane Fitzgerald and was captured in Mexico. Flame was a sorrel stallion and was registered. Windfire’s dam was honey buckskin and is shown on the index page of this site.

The Hardcastle ranch is working with registered Galiceno mares, of proper coloring, conformation and height {small, 12-13.3 hands} to produce registered galiceno foals that can also be registered with the American Indian Horse Registry. Since galicenos are still a rare breed and may be considered for the endangered list, availability is limited. Galicenos are intelligent, easily trained, and very “aware” animals – they make excellent mounts for children, and for small light framed adults. They are hearty animals and very easy keepers.

Several foals have been born: colts and fillys, many exhibiting the lineback markings of NDs Windfire. Whether they show the forward movement Windfire has, will not be evident until they are older. Windfire is also registered with the American Indian Horse Registry, currently “AA” being considered for “O” the highest rating based on documentation of his sire’s origin.

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