The Azteca breed is an Athletic Mexican horse that is compact yet robust and agile yet hardy. The Azteca is an intelligent breed that excels in Western and British riding events but makes an equally pleasant riding horse.
We have put together everything that you need to know about the Azteca horse.
The origin of this horse traces back to Mexico, 1972. Don Antonio Ariza Cañadilla is the name behind the Azteca horse. Cañadilla, a Spanish businessman who immigrated to Mexico in 1942, was determined to establish the perfect charro horse.
Along with breeders, Cañadilla worked hard to develop a horse breed specifically for the Mexican horsemen or charros. To create a horse that was fast, agile, sturdy, strong, hardy, intelligent, energetic, graceful, and that had the temperament for cattle ranch work.
Crossing Andalusians, Quarter Horses and Criollos, breeders developed the genetic foundation of the Azteca. The first Azteca horse was a stallion named “Casarejo” born at the Centro de Reproduccion Caballar Domecq in Texcoco Mexico.
Casarejo was born to the Spanish stallion named “Ocultado” and a Quarter Horse mare named “Americana.” Following Casarejo’s birth, a lot of scientific research, controlled breeding, and thorough inspection went into furthering the breed.
Breeders considered many important factors when advancing the Azteca breed, including temperament, performance, appearance, and conformation. Breeders developed various blends of Andalusian, Quarter horses, and Criollo bloodlines, and scrutinized the offspring while creating the breed that we recognize as the Azteca today.
After sufficient crossing of genetic lines, the ideal phenotype for the Azteca evolved. Today breeders use this phenotype as the breed standard.
It was not until 1982 that the Mexican Department of Agriculture officially recognized the breed.
Breed guidelines establish that:
- Registered Aztecas may not have a DNA influence of 75% or more of any of the founding breeds.
- A registered Azteca horse may have no more than 50% Criollo blood and only from unregistered Criollo mares in Mexico.
- A stud registered with the organization must have a solid color coat.
The international breed registry or Azteca Horse Research Center– the Association Mexicana de Criadores de Caballos de Raza Azteca (or the Mexican registry) – was developed ten years after the Mexican Department of Agriculture recognized the breed. Shortly following, Mexico recognized the Azteca as the official horse of Mexico.
The International Azteca Horse Association was founded in 1992 for the worldwide recognition of the Azteca breed. The same year also saw Canada’s Azteca Horse Association of Canada (AzHAC) and the U.S. Azteca Horse Association of the United States (AzHAUS) come into being.
In 1999 The American Azteca Horse International Society was founded to recognize a subtype of the Azteca breed – the American Azteca. American Aztecas also have paint horse bloodlines. The American Azteca Horse International Society has its own accepted breed standard, and its breed guidelines establish that:
- Horses may have no more than 25% thoroughbred genetics.
- Horses with any AQHA and APHA markings are permitted.
A powerful and highly motivated performance horse, the Azteca has plenty of energy and – given a chance – can be headstrong. When properly cared for, however, this is a quiet and easily handled horse. These characteristics make this the ideal horse for any rider considering multi-disciplinary sports and competition.
The Azteca is a versatile breed that excels in Western dressage and ranch work. Like most such adaptable breeds, the Azteca is exceptionally intelligent and requires regular work and consistent training for a well-balanced temperament.
The intelligence and incredible memory of the Azteca mean that training and working with this horse is a pleasure. The Azteca rarely – if ever -forgets their training – a quality that helps them to excel in various sports.
Although less assuming than the larger breeds, the Azteca is a muscular horse with incredible endurance. These characteristics make the Azteca the perfect match for anyone in search of an athletic horse.
This breed is not ideal for novice riders, riders looking for a “now and again” horse, and riders unwilling to commit to ongoing training and stimulation of their horse. Without the proper guidance, not only will this horse be unhappy, but like any bored horse, it will become a “problem child.”
Considered a warm-blooded horse, the Azteca can have a “hot temperament” but is not afraid of putting in a good day of work. Warm-blooded horses are said to derive from Arabian lines and still maintain the Arabian headstrong personality. This willfulness can be evident if a rider lacks the confidence to direct their warm-blooded horse properly.
High energy output and high muscle mass mean that this breed has high-calorie demands.
A diet of hay and grass enriched with grain balancer is ideal for this breed.
Keep in mind that individual horses have unique dietary needs influenced by:
- Health conditions
- Activity level
- Type of Activity
- Current weight
The Azteca rarely has difficulty with obesity when they maintain the active lifestyle that this breed should have. An Azteca is far more likely to be underweight due to underfeeding and high energy activity.
Breeding And Uses
The Azteca has the honor of being the first breed to be developed in Mexico – although this is hardly surprising as breeders developed the breed specifically for the charro. Loosely translated to “gentleman cowboy,” the “charro” are well known for their intricate rein moves and their work with livestock (cattle and horses.)
With such ideals in mind for the national horse of Mexico, it was a no-brainer that the breed should begin with the Andalusian breed. The Andalusians were the original horses brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadors. These horses brought intelligence and a compact but muscular physique to the mix.
Breeders combined the intelligent and muscular Andalusian with the speedy cattle cutting professional quarter horses. Lastly, the Criollo’s strong bone structure, hard-wearing joints, and hardy nature rounded out the foundation of the Azteca breed.
Key characteristics that breeders bred into the Azteca foundation – agility, stamina, strength, and intelligence – mean that this breed excels at more than cattle cutting and complying with intricate reining.
The Azteca excels in many disciplines that include:
- Ranch work
- Trail riding
The International Azteca Horse Association has strict standards for all Azteca horses in both conformation and performance. If a horse does not meet these standards, they are ineligible to be officially listed as Azteca horses eligible for breeding.
The IAHA approval process begins at six months when judges assess horses for disposition, movement, conformation, and color. If they approve the horse, an approved birth certificate is issued.
The IAHA judges the horses again at three years old. At this judging, the IAHA judges are looking to ensure that the horse has the correct phenotype characteristics. If the horse has the approved breed characteristics, judges will certify them as Azteca breeding horses.
Once the IAHA approves a horse as a breeding horse, they grade the horse’s pedigree on registration papers. Horses can receive a grade of A through D. These grades are not reflective of horse quality, but instead, they reflect the horse’s composition of foundation breeds. This grading system helps to guide the breeding process to keep Azteca bloodlines to standard.
You can see the IAHA breeding chart below:
|Percentage Breeding Chart|
|Possible Combinations||Andalusian||AQHA/APHA||Letter Classification|
|Andalusian to QH||50%||50%||D|
|QH to Azteca D||25%||75%||C|
|Andalusian to Az D||75%||25%||B|
|Az C to Andalusian||62.50%||37.50%||A|
|QH to Azteca B||37.50%||62.50%||A|
|Azteca B to Azteca C||50%||50%||A|
|Azteca B to Azteca D||62.50%||37.50%||A|
|Azteca A to Azteca A||A|
|Azteca A to AQHA/APHA||A|
|Azteca A to Andalusian||A|
|Azteca A to Azteca B, C, D||A|
Males stand between 14.2 and 15.3 hands high, where females stand between 14.1 and 15.2 hands high.
Males measure between 15 and 16 hands wide, where females measure between 14.3 and 16.1 hands wide.
Azteca horses can weigh anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 pounds.
What Breeds Make Up The Azteca?
The breed standard established by the Asociacion Mexicana de Criadores de Caballos de Raza Azteca maintains that an Azteca horse may have no more than three-quarters of any of the foundation thoroughbred breeds in its blood.
The American Azteca – a “subcategory” of the Azteca that is not recognized by the Asociacion Mexicana de Criadores de Caballos de Raza Azteca, may also incorporate Paint bloodlines.
These horses are very often solid grey, but they may also be any other solid color. The Asociacion Mexicana de Criadores de Caballos de Raza Azteca also permits Azteca horses to have white markings on their legs and face.
The American Azteca (not officially recognized by the Asociacion Mexicana de Criadores de Caballos de Raza Azteca) also recognizes pinto colored Aztecas.
What Do They Look Like?
The Azteca has a lean and graceful head with a straight or convex face, expressive eyes, and smaller pricked ears. Although this horse has a lean head, it also has a muscular neck that follows a slight arch, long shoulders, and a deep, broad chest.
The Azteca’s back is reasonably straight and short, and the feet large and well-proportioned. These characteristics combined make for an exceptionally smooth and pleasant ride that almost gives the Azteca the appearance of floating as they trot.
A warm-blooded horse, the Azteca has particularly muscular legs, a compact but muscular body, a broad croup, high withers, and a medium-low tail set. Both the mane and the tail of the Azteca are long and full and must be well-maintained to avoid knotting if allowed to grow out.
Aside from maintaining the mane and tail when fully grown out, the Azteca requires little grooming, but that is not to say they should not receive equal grooming time. Currying has benefits for all horses these include:
- Improved coat sheen
- Stimulation of circulation
- Stimulation of natural oil production to protect the coat
- Exfoliation of dry skin
- Improved comfort
- Improved muscle tone
In addition to the health benefits, currying is the perfect opportunity to bond with your horse.
What Are They Used For?
The Azteca horse is a horse of many talents and often performs in western riding competition events. Spotlights include:
- Team penning
The Azteca is also prevalent in English riding events, particularly dressage.
This horse also makes a great riding partner for pleasure riding!
Where Do They Live?
The Azteca is a Mexican breed that originates and still maintains a solid presence in Mexico.
The subgroup American Azteca is still quite a rare breed in the United States, but they can be found in the country if you are willing to search.
The Azteca breed is happy in all climates, and you can find a small number of Azteca breeders around the world. The Asociacion Mexicana de Criadores de Caballos de Raza Azteca breeder’s directory lists these breeders.
How Long Do They Live?
The average lifespan for an Azteca horse is between 30 and 40 years.
The Azteca is a hardy breed with no breed-specific diseases, however, you should always err on the side of caution and check your horse’s pedigree.
How Fast Are They?
The Azteca is often compared to the Quarter Horse in terms of speed and is unmatched when covering short distances. That said, the Azteca has the stamina to tackle longer distances, but they may not be the first over the finish line!
How Much Do They Cost?
Like other horses, the cost of an Azteca depends on the age, lineage, prospects, and training a horse has received.
A foal or yearling may cost a few thousand dollars, where an adult, trained Azteca may cost upwards of $10,000!
Are They Good For Beginners?
No. Many horse breeds are perfect for beginners, but the Azteca is not one of them.
If you are looking for a horse for a beginner, the following breeds are a better choice:
- American Quarter Horse
- American Paint
- Icelandic Horse
- Tennessee Walking Horse
- Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
Is the Azteca Horse The Breed For You?
The Azteca is the ideal match for riders in all walks of life who are looking for an intelligent and energetic breed to compete, perform, or work, but keep the following things in mind when deciding whether the Azteca breed is right for you –
- This horse needs a rider that is confident, capable, and experienced.
- An athletic horse, the Azteca needs a rider that is equally physical to be in their element.
- The cost of purchasing a pedigree Azteca horse (especially if you live outside of Mexico) can be prohibitive since these horses are not yet a widespread breed. Transportation expenses only add to that financial demand.
How to Get an Azteca Horse
The Azteca is still a young breed, so finding an adoptable horse is a difficult undertaking. You can, however, purchase an Azteca horse from one of the Azteca breeders listed in The Asociacion Mexicana de Criadores de Caballos de Raza Azteca breeder’s directory.
There are various other unlisted breeders and classified ads that offer Azteca horses for sale; however, it would not be wise to purchase your Azteca horse from anywhere other than an approved breeder.
Purchasing your Azteca from a breeder that is not registered by The Asociacion Mexicana de Criadores de Caballos de Raza Azteca poses a few concerns –
- You may end up with a horse that has health concerns.
- You may end up with a horse that is not temperamentally sound.
- You may end up with a horse that is not technically an Azteca by lineage.
Not only do you have to face these concerns, but purchasing from an uncertified breeder also means that you are contributing to the dilution of the breed – a breed that Cañadilla and horse breeders worked hard to develop for a purpose.
Conclusion / Summary
If you are looking for a versatile horse with strong musculature but a compact build, the Azteca checks all the boxes. This is an intelligent breed that is eager to learn and happy to perform, however, it is also a horse that holds itself with the poise and grace of the aristocracy. The Azteca truly does bridge a gap between poise and performance.
Do not forget, though, that the Azteca is a powerful athletic horse with a need for regular mental and physical stimulation. These characteristics mean that this is certainly not the right breed for a novice or riders with little time on their hands.