The Azteca is a relatively new breed that appeared in the 1970’s in Mexico first by crossing Andalusian stallions and Criollo mares with American Quarter horses. According to International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds (University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), this is the first horse breed to be developed in Mexico, where it is very popular.
Hard to Register
Although rare anywhere else but Mexico, Aztecas have a loyal following in the United States. However, the Azteca Horse Registry of America has slightly different rules for registering a horse than the original Mexican registry. There is also a Canadian registry, called the International Azteca Horse Association.
Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America (Storey Publishing, 2005) notes that thoroughbreds and American paint horses with the correct conformation are accepted. The Mexican registry, Asociacion Internacional de Caballos de Raza Azteca, does not allow any pinto coloration and no Thoroughbred blood. In order not to offend the Mexican registry, any Azteca accepted into either of the American Azteca registries are called American Aztecas and not just “Aztecas”.
Another reason for the scarcity of Aztecas is that the registration process is difficult. Even if a foal’s sire and dam are both registered, the foal will not be accepted until he is officially inspected at seven months of age and then again at three years old. Horses need to be tested for hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) if they in any way trace back to the highly influential Quarter horse stallion Impressive.
Although Aztecas are very attractive and perform well in many horse sports, the breed was developed to work on Mexican cattle ranches and in the bullring. This breed is suited for the Mexican climate as well as being agile and intelligent enough to work fractious livestock. The Azteca also has a dash of “brio”, or spirit. Never handle this horse with a heavy hand, because they are smart enough to rebel. However, they will go to the ends of the earth for a quiet, empathetic owner.
With their intelligence and natural athleticism, Aztecas also work in rodeo events, reining, beginning dressage, team penning, polo, in harness and as a companion horse, which is probably the most difficult job of the lot.
As noted previously, American Aztecas are allowed to be spotted, but only solid colors are allowed in the Mexican registration. Grey seems to be the most popular color, but all shades of bay, chestnut, dun, roan and black also appear. The ideal mane and tail are hoped to be long and flowing, but the actual thickness can vary with each individual.
Aztecas average 15 – 16 hands high and about 1000 pounds, but mares are allowed to be as short as 14.3 hands. Although small, they are strong. They are a slim, sturdy build with small ears, spirited eyes and a straight or convex profile to their heads. Their necks often are arched, although not as dramatically as an Arabian’s. Their backs are short, withers are usually prominent and tails set low. This conformation is thought to be similar to the original Spanish horses brought over by the Conquistadores to the New World.
International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America. Judith Dutson. Storey Publishing, 2005.
The Official Horse Breeds Standard Book. Fran Lynghaug. Voyageur; 2009.