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Galiceno - Ponies & Breeds



Full body shot of the Galiceno Pony.

Galiceno Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below

The Galiceno had lived a life more or less in obscurity in Mexico until two gentlemen from the state of Washington, John Le Bret and Walt Johnson, found the horses on a trip in Old Mexico in 1958. They struck them as an ideal breed for children and juveniles to ride and show, and so they imported some good stallions and mares as foundation stock for a breeding program. One year later they founded a breed association in Texas, to preserve and promote this special breed. By 1968 they already had about 1500 registered in 36 US states. They also closed the Galiceno studbook to outside Galicenos that same year, including further imports from Mexico. One of the founding gentlemen, John LeBret, was a member of the Spokane Indian tribe; consequently, Galicenos can be registered with the American Indian Horse Registry (AIHR).

So far, so good, one would think. An old and special breed would have been saved, a wonderful thing in itself. However, selective breeding was used in an attempt not only to add size and change type, but the very trait that made the breed so special: a really smooth, ground-covering lateral gait, like a running walk. The popularity of the Galiceno dwindled.

The history of this horse goes back all the way to the Spanish motherland, to the province of Galicia in the mountainous north of Spain. Galicia is a province that is linguistically, and culturally in general, much closer to Portugal than to Spain - still has herds of semi-wild ponies and calls the breed Cabalo Gallega. The authorities and breeders of Galicia are jealously preventing any confusing of their ponies with others, including the Galiceno from Mexico. The Cabalo Gallego is also gaited, and sometimes betrays a certain South Iberian influence (Lusitano and/or Andalusian).

Just which of the two, the Cabalo Gallego or the small horse of Mexico, better represents the original Galician pony is debatable and will have to remain speculation, as nobody living today has seen these ponies of 500 years ago The breed did not originate in Mexico, but continued there. The fact that they were known in Mexico as Galicenos is a strong indication that the Galiceno was once imported directly from Galicia in Spain. It is said this was one of the first horses that arrived with Cortes when he invaded Mexico from Cuba in 1519.

Gaited ponies from North Iberia, like the Cabalo Gallega, had an influence on several British breeds, and from there on American strains and breeds, such as the Narragansett pacer, and undoubtedly are responsible for many of the various gaited breeds of Latin America, namely, the Paso breeds.

A peculiar trait of the Cabalo Gallego is his mustache. This is just what it sounds like, a growth of hair on his upper lip that can only be described as a mustache. There is no information that this was or is a trait of the Galiceno. The mustache is also found in other breeds the Irish Tinker, also called Vanner horse, or Gypsy horse, sometimes has a formidable mustache, possibly from North Iberian ancestors.

The Galicenos are typically about 12 to 13 hands, a muscular and yet refined, pretty little horse of about 300 to 500 pounds. They have a wide forehead, small, hooked ears, often a somewhat dished face, and big, kind eyes. The neck is slightly arched, the back short, the croup round and sloping rather steeply, with a relatively low-set tail. The hind legs are set well under the body. The Galiceno is fleet of foot, very sure-footed, the walk is ground-covering, the trot well-balanced, the running walk is fast and of excellent rhythm. All solid colors are accepted. Galicenos are intelligent and willing, making them wonderful childrens horses. However, they reportedly can carry an adult all day long, in spite of their small size. The breed is also known for its hardiness and longevity, staying serviceable up into their twenties and beyond!

Those who are knowledgeable enough and have the opportunity to check out Old Mexico for remaining Galicenos ought to do so and do the horse world a great favor! Hopefully, the small group of dedicated Galiceno breeders in America will be successful in preserving this grand little horse.

Article ©HorseShowCentral.com. Submitted by Hardy Oelke and Photos ©Oelke or Oelke Archive.

Reproduction of any portion of this copyrighted website without written permission of the publisher is prohibited and subject to legal action.

Herd of Galiceno ponies in Spain. Close up of one wild Galiceno face, showing the typical mustache.
Photos from left to right. 1) Cabalo Gallegas in Galicia, Spain.  2) Cabalo Gallega in Spain, showing the moustache often found in those ponies. Such a moustache may grow quite long if the animal is fed hay and grain and does not have to graze. Photo at the top of the page is 20-year-old Galiceno stallion, Wildfire.

You may also wish to read the HSC page regarding the North Iberian Pony, ancestor of the Galiceno.

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