Use and characteristics of the Azteca
Azteca horses stand between 15 hands (60 inches/152 cm) and 16.1 hands high (65 inches/165 cm). Mares tend to be slightly smaller. All solid colours are acceptable, though many people choose to buy an Azteca that is grey. Their looks combine the qualities of the three foundation breeds, with very fine, expressive heads and straight or convex profiles. Their musculature is not as obvious as that of the Quarter Horse, being lean, yet extremely powerful. The fire, intelligence and athleticism of these horses mean they can succeed in many demanding disciplines, from roping to dressage. Breeders who sell an Azteca horse focus on retaining the quality of their unique horses.
Origin and history of breeding Azteca horses
Mexican horsemanship draws largely on the Iberian tradition and horses have for centuries played an important part in Mexican culture. Horses are appreciated here for both their beauty and their utility. The three foundation breeds of the Azteca - the American Quarter Horse, Mexican Criollo and Andalusian - each represent centuries of breed development in Europe and America. From 1972 onwards, horses from these breeds were selected carefully to produce the Azteca. From the beginning, the project involved both the state and individual breeders, and the Azteca Horse Research Center was set up at Lake Texcoco. Casarejo was the first official foundation stallion of the breed. The Azteca originally represented the great equestrian tradition of the Charro, the South American gentleman cowboy. A noble horse reflected their status and authority. As well as upholding the Charro traditions, Mexican equestrians have competed successfully at high levels in traditional sports such as show jumping and dressage. After World War II, Mexican show jumping teams, frequently made up of army officers, competed and won at world events such as the Olympic Games. It was this wide appreciation of equestrian disciplines and activities that produced the Azteca. In order to ensure the best possible match of breed characteristics, individual Azteca foals can carry no more than threequarters of the genes of any one of the foundation breeds. Criollo input must be under 50% of the genetic makeup, coming only from Mexican mares. Quality standards are maintained through very rigorous record-keeping and testing, and only 1000 foals of the breed are registered each year. The Azteca phenotype was established by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, the Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (SAGARPA), which still maintains the strict standards. Having two registered Azteca parents is not a guarantee of registration!
Azteca horses in equestrianism
Due to the strict breed standards, the Azteca remains a desirable horse in Mexico. It is also popular in America, where permissible coat colour and genetic makeup is slightly different. Here, some Thoroughbred is allowed through the Quarter Horse, some of which also have American Paint Horse lines. Aztecas are superb performance horses and succeed in many of the western disciplines. They have excellent conformation, strong bones and feet and outstanding agility. They are versatile too, taking part in dressage, polo and equestrian games.