My name is Romano Imperator – but everyone calls me “Rosie”. First of all, I’m a gelding so, don’t let the name fool you. I should probably explain WHY everyone calls me “Rosie”. My color is referred to as “rose gray”. When I was younger, a lady saw a picture of me and said I looked “rosie”.
Gray horses change color as they mature. Think of it as getting a surprise gift year after year!
Here is a picture of me when I was young, I’m the horse in the lead. The lady driving me is the person who brought me to America from Spain when I was five years old. Her name is Gloria Austin. Her trainer is sitting next to her. His name is David Saunders. He was the head coachman to Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh.
And here is a picture of me now. I still have my rosie mane and tail!
I think Rosie is the prefect name for me because I also have a very cheerful personality. But a lot of that has to do with my breed. I am a PRE. PRE stands for “Pura Raza Española” (Pure Spanish Horse). I was born in Spain at a farm that breeds PRE horses. I can trace my ancestors back to the 1500s!
Beginning in the late Middle Ages, Carthusian monks, in Spain, started breeding horses. Since they were among the very few people who could read and write at the time, they kept careful records of their horse breeding. Some of the earliest written pedigrees in recorded European history were kept by these monks. The horses bred by the monks were highly sought after by many people, including kings! Through the years the Carthusian monks guarded their bloodlines with passion; even denying an order to breed horses owned by royal stud farms into their stock. About eighty two percent of the PRE horses in Spain today contain some of this same Carthusian blood.
Have you ever heard of a man named El Cid? El Cid means “The Lord Champion” but his real name was Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar. As a young boy he was a ward of Prince Sancho, the oldest son of King Ferdinand of Spain. Rodrigo was trained to be a knight by Sancho and he became a very good knight! When the Muslims defeated the army of Castile, Alfonso, who was the king of Spain at the time, asked El Cid to help. El Cid put together an army of four thousand and defeated the much larger army of the Muslims in 1094 AD. This was just the beginning of his victories over the Muslims. There were many more and eventually most of Spain became Christian again. El Cid’s horse is as famous as he is. El Cid’s horse, Babieca, was bred by the Carthusian monks that I just told you about! Babieca came into the world spindly and weak. The monks thought he was worthless, so they named him Babieca, meaning fool or stupid. One of the monks, Pedro El Grande, named for his largeness, was the uncle of Rodrigo (El Cid). When Rodrigo was a young man Pedro El Grande told him that he could choose any horse from his fine stables to raise as his own. Much to the monk’s surprise, Rodrigo picked the little weakling colt his uncle had named Babieca. As Rodrigo grew to become a fierce and well-respected soldier, Babieca grew to be a well-trained and devoted war-horse. After the death of El Cid, Babieca was never ridden again and died two years later at the age of 40; a remarkably long life for a horse who’d seen so many battles. I think it is pretty incredible that I am related to such an amazing horse!
I have lots of stories to tell about horses throughout history - horses like Babieca - so I’ve been busy writing books all about horses and history. One of the books tells many more stories about horses in the Middle Ages!
So, back to my “rosie” personality and more about my breed. A PRE is gentle, caring and willing. The most outstanding characteristic of the Pure Spanish Horse is, without any doubt, temperament. A PRE has the unique willingness to work with his human companion. I try very hard to please my humans when they ride or drive me. I listen carefully to their cues and try my best to do as they ask. My humans think I am pretty clever and funny too. I have them well trained into thinking that I am in need of treats whenever they bring me in, turn me out, groom me, ride me…well, I need treats all the time actually! Whether ridden by a professional or a child, a PRE is truly a horse that always offers his best. The PRE is known as the Horse of Kings too. It was the choice mount for many kings in battle and was the original classical dressage horse. Dressage is a French word that means "training". It is a highly skilled form of riding performed in exhibition and competition. Sometimes it is pursued solely for the sake of mastery.
Did you know that many of the dressage movements of today were originally taught to horses as offensive and defensive moves for battle? The movements are natural to the horse – the trick is getting the horse to do the movements with direction from a rider. The rider’s legs, hands, seat and voice are the steering wheel and gear shift of the equine vehicle. These are called the rider’s “aids”. By using the aids, the rider can ask for specific types of movements.
The war horse needed to have good conformation to do the required movements for battle. Conformation means the build of the horse – how he is put together. Ideally a war horse needed to have a shoulder slope at a good angle. This allowed the horse to have greater reach with its front legs, making the horse more agile. A war horse needed to have a “fighting stance” too. This “fighting stance” is called “collection”. In collection, a horse’s energy is evenly balanced between the front end and rear end. This allowed the horse to be very light and maneuverable for the rider. A horse that had a rounded and slightly sloping croup (topline of the hindquarters) was suited for doing movements in collection. Without collection, it was not possible to execute the maneuvers required in battle.
This is what collection looks like. This horse is Fuego XII. He is a PRE too - just like me! He is one of the top dressage horses in the world today and represented Spain in the Olympics and at the World Equestrian Games. I grew up at the stud farm where he lives. He is my half brother - his sire (Dad) is my Dad too!
Collection was also very important for a cavalry charge. The horses needed to maintain the same speed and stay in rank in order for the charge to be effective. The horses also needed to be maneuverable while being so close to each other; all of this was possible if the horse maintained collection
Much of dressage riding is done on a circle. While that may seem boring and silly, there really was (and still is) a purpose for this. The practice of riding figures teaches the horse and rider a feeling for tempo (speed), intervals and distance. Figure riding was a part of military training which taught riders how to maneuver and how to move as a group in an orderly fashion.
Lateral movements, that are used in dressage today, were very important in battle too. A horse would need to do a leg yield to move away from a swinging sword. A shoulder-in would allow the knight to use his lance more effectively against an advancing foe. Travers and renvers helped to place the horse in position for defense as well as offense. The half pass allowed the horse and rider to advance forward quickly as well as at an angle.
Today PRE horses are evaluated based on the horse’s conformation, movement and pedigree in relation to the strictly established breed goals. They look at things like the slope of the shoulder and the angle of the croup. These standards have been adhered to for hundreds of years! You can even watch a video all about how they measure PRE horses HERE Can you see why the PRE was the choice mount for many kings in battle and was the original classical dressage horse?
The PRE is still successfully shown in dressage today. I am going to my first dressage show soon. I’d love to have you follow along with me on all of my adventures! I’ve been working very hard with my trainer to get ready for the show. She really likes me and laughs a lot when she rides me – I think that’s a good thing. My owner is helping to get me ready too; she bought me a new bridle and a new saddle pad to match my rosie color. She says I need to look good at the show even when I am schooling (that means practicing) so she bought me a saddle pad just for schooling – it has pink roses on it. Oh dear! What I won’t do to make my owner happy.
Looking forward to seeing you again soon!