The relationship between morphology and functionality

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The keystone of the PRE breed.

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Ignacio Bravo García (above) with his father Ignacio Bravo Martínez, his sister Marta, his wife Eva Navarro Villamor and three collaborators Samuel Castellano, Jorge Rivera Bancalero and José Carlos Rubio Borrallo

Ignacio Bravo García is a rider, equine trainer and breeder. We asked him to tell us about the relationship between morphology and functionality of the horse. One of the most difficult topics for PRE breeders. The focus of the question is: respecting the beauty codes and race proportions are the premise of functionality of the horse in sports?

The Pure Spanish Horse
The PRE is a breed that allows a variety of destinations of use of the horse. Contrary to other breeds, it is not strongly focused on one discipline only, like jump or racing on track. A PRE is used for dressage, jump, pulling or simple promenades. It is a complete horse; therefore the evaluation of its qualities is more articulated. It is not easy to choose an excellent PRE.

Eva Navarro Villamor on the track with Nota doing a few dressage steps

Morphology of the horse
The search for the relationship between morphology and functionality starts with Ignacio Bravo Martínez, a visionary, sometimes a dreamer, who summarized his experience in the book El Hipometo Aureo that aims at explaining how the proportions of a horse’s body have a strong connection with its sports performances.

Ignacio Bravo Martínez, 85 years old, an intact sense of humor and the inventor of the ‘golden hippometer’ (click here to see website)

Solera Bravo, the breeding farm
Excellent rider Eva Navarro Villamor lives in the breeding farm in Burguillos del Cerro with her husband and father-in-law. Ignacio is one of the few Spanish to have an international career in the equine sector. He has worked in Argentina, Italy and many other countries and continues doing so. The extensive résumé of the rider can be found on the webpage The day we spent with Ignacio and his family started with a visit to the pasture where we met the foals with their mothers, all living supervised by Atiza II (click here to see his genealogy), the house champion, national champion in 1999.

Atiza II, one of the champions of the farm (24 years old) lives in the fields with broodmares and foals

Judging morphology
Morphology contests are a central and ambiguous discipline, sometimes criticized, some others praised: a total consensus by breeders on judgement procedures, can’t be agreed on in Spain, even if the collective feeling converges on the importance of the topic of judging the animals. Ignacio says “the problem lies in the competition rules. Dividing the horse in body areas to which points are given is belittling. The animal is not some beef of which you judge fillet and ribs. It is a live being in which the different parts are related and inter-functional. Therefore the mark must be overall. A significant defect in a specific area must exclude the animal from the higher side of ranking, but today things don’t work that way.”

Ignacio Bravo García and Eva Navarro Villamor

Morphology analysis
“A well proportioned horse” says Ignacio “will probably move well on the track.” The work done on the weaknesses of the horse “allow trainers to compensate flaws and often get to an admirable result on the track.” Rear paws that don’t give strength to movements, and front ones that don’t lift up in the Spanish step probably have a muscular or articular reason that is visible in morphology. The idea provided with no hesitations by Ignacio leads to a conclusion “Morphology is the starting point to evaluate a horse.
Morphology and functionality don’t contradict each other.” Beyond morphology there is character, personality and heart. This “emotional” factor, just as for morphology, is the element completing the animal.

Family and education
The “line of the horse” is important. The horse is an animal that transfers a lot of its character to its offspring therefore knowing its genealogy is important to foresee character. Then there’s education. We personally verified how foals in Ignacio’s fields “imitate their father Atiza II.” They move similarly, it is clear that somehow they wish to “be grown-ups next to their father.” In this way, the opportunity to grow in the first months of their life next to a style maestro is a premise for the future. Then factors like diet and the type of work the horse will do will influence the animal.

From where do we start analyzing a horse?
The identifying characteristics of the PRE are the balance of shapes and the brave and talented character, as well as their love for relations with humans. It is a beautiful horse with a courageous temperament. The breed is “young” in terms of sports competition and therefore the selection in this sense still has to give its own best results.

What is it looked for?
Hooves that can take the weight in a balanced way. Paws well planted on the ground and straight down are an excellent premise of duration, even under exertion and give balance during exercises. A “square proportion of the body,” with elastic shoulders, the pelvis able to push forward paws, the soft top line, a powerful neck that also has a strong flexibility of the joint with the head, an oval rib cage, good musculature of the abdomen. The keyword is “balance.”

Ignacio’s collaborators José Carlos Rubio Borrallo, Jorge Rivera Bancalero and Samuel Castellano

Competition levels in dressage
The PRE is growing in international competitions, some examples like Lovera’s Norte and Cárdenas’ Fuego have already won a lot in dressage. Others are ready to follow thanks to a breed selection that is granting satisfaction to Spanish trainers. At present, the great and apparent advantage of the PRE over other breeds is that it allows amateurs to obtain excellent results on track without being professionals. The horse “contributes” to the success in competition thanks to its strong will and intelligence, able to compensate the rider’s flaws.

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