HEIGHT: Male horses 15–16.1 hands, mares 14.3–16 hands
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Mexico
SPECIAL QUALITIES: Spirit, intelligence, agility, power, strength, elegance, and style
BEST SUITED FOR: Dressage, bullfighting, reining, cutting, team penning, roping, polo, and pleasure riding
Although the Azteca is the national horse of Mexico, it is not every man’s horse. The breed first appeared in 1972; it was deliberately created to serve as the horse of the charro, or “gentleman cowboy.” It is a breed of comparatively few registered horses, in part because requirements for registration are extraordinarily difficult to meet. The foundation breeds used in its development were the Andalusian, the Quarter Horse, and the Mexican Criollo, all chosen to produce physical beauty combined with an ideal temperament and athletic ability. No registered Azteca may carry more than three quarters of the blood of any foundation breed.
The most common cross used to produce the first-generation Azteca is an Andalusian stallion on a Quarter Horse mare. The offspring of that cross, which is half Andalusian and half Quarter Horse, may be crossed back to any of the foundation breeds. If the cross is back to an Andalusian, the resulting offspring is three quarters Andalusian and one-quarter Quarter Horse. If that second-generation horse is crossed back to an Andalusian, the offspring, a third-generation cross, is known as a pure Azteca. It will be five-eighths Andalusian and three-eighths Quarter Horse.
In addition to having the correct bloodlines, all horses must strictly conform to the phenotype that was developed by the association. Phenotype is the way an animal looks, the observable traits, based on his or her genotype (genetic background). Both the Mexican association and the International Azteca Horse Association require a rigorous evaluation and inspection process before a horse is accepted for permanent registration. Just because a foal has two registered parents does not mean that it will be accepted for registry. A foal must be inspected at seven months. If he passes this inspection, he is microchipped with a registration number. The horse must then pass a second and much more rigorous inspection at three years of age before permanent registration papers can be granted.
The International Azteca Horse Association praises the Azteca for excelling at activities that require spirit, intelligence, agility, power, strength, elegance, and style. The breed has repeatedly done well at dressage, bullfighting, reining, cutting, team penning, roping, polo, and pleasure riding. Aztecas are widely known as horses that are ridden and treasured by their owners. Once acquired, they are rarely sold.
Male horses stand about 15 to 16.1 hands and mares are 14.3 to 16 hands. Typical weight is 1,000 to 1,200 pounds. The head is lean, elegant, and aristocratic, with a straight or convex profile, expressive, intelligent eyes, and small pricked ears. The neck is well muscled and slightly arched. The withers are high, the back fairly short and straight, the croup broad and well rounded. The chest is deep and broad and the shoulders long and sloping. Muscular legs end in feet that are hard and well proportioned. The mane and tail are long and flowing, with a medium-low tail set.
A relatively new breed, the Azteca combines the finest qualities from its foundation breeds: the Andalusian, the Quarter Horse, and the Mexican Criollo.
The Azteca has a strong, lean head, with intelligent eyes and small ears.
BREED ASSOCIATION FACTS AND FIGURES
Figures were unavailable directly from the association in Mexico City. The following figures were collected by the Texas Department of Agriculture in 2005.
• The Azteca Horse Association in Mexico has registered between 10,000 and 15,000 horses.
• About 1,000 horses a year pass the rigorous inspection process and are added to the registry.
• The vast majority of Azteca Horses are in Mexico.
The original organization for the breed is the Asociación Mexicana de Criadores de Caballos de Raza Azteca, in Mexico City, which also maintains the worldwide registry for the horses.
In 1992, the International Azteca Horse Association was created to further the development of the breed worldwide. It is the only organization approved by the government of Mexico to register Azteca Horses and to legally use the name Azteca. At the same time, regional affiliates were developed.
A separate and distinct breed organization, the Azteca Horse Registry of America, has rules that differ somewhat from those of both the Mexican association and International Azteca Horse Association. The American registry accepts horses of all colors, not just solid colors, and will allow some Thoroughbred in the pedigree, while the Mexican association strictly excludes them.
An Azteca horse may be any solid color, although gray is the most common. White markings are permitted on the lower legs and face.