Widespread Influence and Widespread Appeal
by Christina Keim
The term “Baroque Breeds” is an umbrella that includes such horses as the Andalusian, Lusitano, Lipizzaner, and Spanish-Norman. What these breeds share is a common heritage, docile personality, and striking good looks. But the slight differences between the breeds are perhaps what make them most unique, distinguishing themselves not just from each other but from the horse world in general.
For Linda Hamid and her husband Allan, the Spanish-Norman was a creature they saw in their minds’ eye long before they saw it in the flesh. As the co-founders of the breed, the Hamids have a unique perspective on why the Spanish-Norman is so captivating.
These are the horses of the knights,” says Linda Hamid. “My husband is a historian. He determined that the knights’ horses must be descended from Spanish stock.” With the help of Dr. E. Gus Cothran of the University of Kentucky the Percheron and Andalusian were genetically typed as descendants of the now-extinct Norman horse of the knights. Both breeds share the genetic markers of Spanish horses. By crossing the two, the Spanish-Norman was created to simulate the horses once ridden by knights and nobility. This crossing results in a horse that possesses substance, bone, and an athletic personality. They are popular as field hunters, according to Hamid, and are also used in medieval game recreations.
Since Spanish-Normans must have at least fifty percent Andalusian blood in their pedigree, it stands to follow that the new breed would share some of the development characteristics with its foundation stock. As of 2002, there are 92 Andalusian sires that have been approved as foundation sires for the Spanish-Norman. The offspring of any registered Percheron mare and one of the approved foundation stallions can be registered with the Spanish-Norman registry. All 92 sires are recognized by the I.A.L.H.A. Hamid says her breed has a tremendous work ethic.
“They are almost anxious to work,” says Hamid. “All different types of trainers endorse the breed for this reason.” Hamid emphasizes that this breed is a sport horse breed, and it’s representatives are athletes. “These are performance animals, not just halter horses,” says Hamid.
The Spanish-Norman breed exploded on the national radar when the Hamid’s stallion, Romántico H.H.F. became the only American-bred horses of Spanish descent to win a USET ribbon. And the amazing piece was that the ribbon came at the Festival of Champions in Gladstone, N.J., in freestyle reining, a sport typically dominated by a relic of our cowboy heritage — the American Quarter Horse.
“We took him to the Quarter Horse Congress in 1999,” says Hamid. “He took a fourth place in freestyle reining there. He was the only non-Quarter Horse out of 8500 horses at the show.” Hamid says that when Romántico entered the arena, you could have heard a pin drop, and for a moment they thought that they had made a mistake in bringing him to Congress. “I think the overall reaction was respect that a larger horse could still be so agile,” says Hamid.
The Spanish-Norman in particular has been breaking barriers for Baroque breeds since Romántico’s success in the freestyle reining arena. (Romántico has left the reining arena behind for now and is in dressage training.) The breed has proven popular especially with men, who, Hamid says, look to the Spanish-Norman as a field hunter. “I think they appreciate the substance. I have heard so many stories of men looking for a horse of another breed, then choosing the Spanish-Norman,” says Hamid.
This past year saw a prominent German national equestrian magazine run a feature on the Spanish-Norman. Hamid says that this milestone shows that the breed is generating international interest. “We are beginning to see some breeding in Europe and some exporting of American bred horses,” says Hamid.
The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky is featuring a Spanish-Norman mare, Victoria of Fox Run, in it’s daily Parade of Breeds. Victoria, owned by Victoria McIntire and Ronald Phillips of Fox Run Farm in Richmond, Kentucky is also being trained to demonstrate many of the medieval games this breed was once used for. The Horse Park is currently working on a program that will demonstrate and showcase these games. The mare is often one of the flag bearers in the parade.
For the tenth year, the Spanish-Norman Horse Registry recognized an outstanding member of the breed with it’s 2001 High Point Award. This honor is given to the Spanish-Norman generating the most points in their given discipline. This year’s recipient as Sir Norman of Tiverton, a hunter/jumper gelding owned by Hummingbird Hill Farm and JoAnne Fiola of Tiverton, R.I., and trained by John Blair. Hamid says that this is a very competitive award, and horses are earning points in several disciplines.