The Azteca was founded in 1972 specifically for ranch work and cattle drives. The Azteca is a beautiful horse whose recent history encompasses strong bloodlines founded in antiquity. Efforts to breed an equine reminiscent of the horses that were first brought to Mexico by the Spanish Conquistadores started in the 1950’s as most of the horses then in use in that country were of Spanish bloodlines.
In 1972, Mexican cattle ranchers sought to develop a horse that was intelligent, strong and great endurance. The Azteca was developed specifically to endure ranch work as well as meeting the needs of the Charro (Mexican term for cowboy). The horses pursued for incorporation into the founding of the Azteca included the Andalusian, American Quarter Horse and Mexican Criollo; all of which have Spanish horse bloodlines. These Spanish bloodlines are highly regarded by the Mexican people. The lineage which was particularly sought was the Andalusian and American Quarter Horse (which is from Andalusian bloodline). Both are known for their endurance and they were originally bred for ranch work. These breeds also have a visceral cow sense which translates to minimal training.
The person credited with the development of the Azteca is Don Antonio Ariza at the San Antonio Ranch in Texcoco, Mexico. The first Azteca stallion was named Casarejo.
Since the initial development of the Azteca, the breed has exceeded expectations as a great Charro horse. In 1982, the Azteca was recognized by the Mexican Department of Agriculture as an official breed and approved for official registry. It is so noted in the registry as “The National Horse of Mexico.”
In 1992, The International Horse Association was created to help regulate and further the Azteca breed. In 2000, the American Azteca Horse International Association was founded to further develop the breed in the United States which has increased the usage of this horse significantly. It has been used in Quarter Horse racing and has a suspended, elevated gait which makes it a showy entrant in many English and American riding events.
The Azteca is a beautiful and graceful horse. The horse is compliant yet intelligent. The Azteca is a reliable ranch horse. The Mexican culture has played a significant role in developing the breed for various other uses such as endurance riding, performances with Mariachi bands and the traditional roping needs of the Charro. Interestingly, the Azteca is also used in Mexico by “rejoneros” which are bullfighters on horseback. According to bullfighting lore, it was noticed that bulls were easily annoyed by anything that moved and did not run from them. It was from this origin that bull fighting on horseback allegedly began.
The Aztecas’ average height range is from 14.1 to 15.2 hands. This medium sized horse must have specific characteristics similar to their Andalusian bloodline. Their profile of the head should be straight or with a marginal curve. The head is lean and long and often has a facial marking ranging from a small diamond to a full “bald” marking. The eyes are large, gentle, alert and wide set. The mane is thick and lustrous. The head sits atop a long arched neck moving down to strong shoulders. The chest is deep and round. The back of the Azteca is fairly short as it moves to muscular hindquarters. The legs are lean and strong but with thick bones. The legs are often marked above the coronet or pastern with a small marking to a full stocking ending at the knee.
The Azteca comes in a variety of colors. Most equine colors are acceptable except piebald, skewbald or spotted. Acceptable colors can include bay, chestnut, roan, dun, gray, grullo, buckskin, palomino, perlino, and cremello. Other than the color exceptions noted, any color is acceptable.
The highest scrutiny for registry qualification is based on the genetic and DNA testing of the horses for qualification as well as the overall physique. The registry requires that an Azteca can’t be more than 75 percent of Andalusian or American Quarter Horse and not more than 25 percent of the Mexican Criolla bloodline. It is now preferable that Azteca horses be bred only with other Azteca horses.
The strict bloodline requirements are determined by the DNA testing of the foal, mare and stallion. The bloodline testing will qualify or disqualify the foal for official registry and competition participation. Further, a grade letter (A through D) will be attached to the horses’ registration. This grade represents the quality of the bloodline but not of the physique of the horse.
The time of publishing this article but the breed is massively popular in Mexico and parts of the Americas we are not aware of a breeding program for the horses in Australia.