Writing about the history of the Menorcan horse in an article aimed at people in the world of the horse would not make sense if it were not for the fact that there is a feeling that there is a vacuum of written information about the people who intervened, the reasons , and the initiatives that culminated with the start of the Fundamental Registry of the Menorcan horse in December 1987 by the Insular Council of Menorca, and the admission to the Registry-Registration of Purebred Horses by the Ministry of Defense through the Head of Cría Caballar, December 1988.
During the course of the article a very old denomination will emerge again and with many emotional ties, that of Cavall Menorca (Horse Menorca) , to mention all the specimens that gave rise to the Cavall of Raça Menorquina (Horse of Minor Breed).
People who have been related to the rural world of Menorca have always had the conviction that the horse that was in Menorca was a breed of their own, which, along the island was called “cavall menorca”, it was clear that horses by their origins were considered “cavall menorca” and which were mixed or of other races, and all this without other knowledge of what they had about the animals that were on the island and without the need for any documentary accreditation, were times in which The word was worth as much as a document.
All horse breeds have emerged as a result of breeding criteria to get a type of horse that responds to what is expected of him. In our case we cannot explain the existence in Menorca of a horse of its own breed, without taking into account the prominence that they have in the Fiestas of each town on the island. The reference to the Fiestas is justified by what it has meant, in times past, for the maintenance of a fancy and elegant saddle horse in times when animals were valued for their capacity for agricultural work or transport.
In Menorca, the generations that have preceded us have known how to preserve the horse and reproduce it by finding the balance of work and the Fiesta, in fact, when talking with the elderly to inquire about the horse, there is no doubt about how they prefer and they preferred their parents and grandparents to the horse to participate in the Fiesta, nor on its Menorquinity.
The confirmation of the existence of the breed from the zootechnical analysis of the horses and mares of the island of Menorca facilitates the conclusion of the study of the historical documentation that has been made by specialists in history, documentary material seems to be missing for determine the influence of the different eras of Menorca’s history, some of them, such as the Islamist period (902-1287), durable enough and with a cultural, economic and social background important enough to leave a trace on the genealogy of the equidae .We do not have to deepen now on the influence of the blood of Arab horses on most of the breeds of warm-blooded horses, but it is not a hypothesis to rule out that the presence in Menorca for almost three hundred years of a town with capacity to fusing their Islamist culture and the land they occupied, and that cared for and raised their horses as a religious duty, left the type of character of the world’s oldest breed fixed on the island’s horses.but it is not a hypothesis to rule out that the presence in Menorca for almost three hundred years of a people with the capacity to merge their Islamist culture and the land they occupied, and who cared for and raised their horses as a religious duty, left fixed in the horses of The island is the type of character of the oldest race in the world.but it is not a hypothesis to rule out that the presence in Menorca for almost three hundred years of a people with the capacity to merge their Islamist culture and the land they occupied, and who cared for and raised their horses as a religious duty, left fixed in the horses of the island the type of character of the oldest race in the world.
Also the establishment of cavalries by King Jaume II of Mallorca in 1301, with the known obligation to permanently dispose of a war horse prepared to defend the island must have influenced the equestrian horses and customs of Menorca. The horse would have to be necessarily agile and manageable to move along a Menorca without roads and quickly reach the enemy’s encounter and retreat quickly. There are many opinions that see in this disposition of King Jaume II the origin of the equestrian parties and games of the island.
From the English periods (1713-1756, 1763-1782 and 1798-1802) no direct influence can be considered because they did not bring horses to the island. It is convenient to clarify, however, the confusion caused by the British’s taste for horses and their English thoroughbreds when they relate to their stay in Menorca because this breed of magnificent horses appears in England coinciding with the British presence in Menorca.
Of the short French period (1756-1763) there is also no record of interventions in the breeding of horses on the island. Yes that influenced the fittings of hitch, as for example: the necklace of “banyes”.
Another aspect to consider to understand the origins of the taste of the inhabitants of the island for the saddle horse is the reality of the road network of Menorca which mostly until the mid-nineteenth century did not allow the passage of carriages and all the transport of people and goods had to be done on the back of equidae. On this point, the existence of the “Camí de Cavalls” (a road that surrounds the perimeter of the island that initially had military functions) cannot be left as a route for transit of saddle horses, contributing to make the image of riders habitual in Menorca
The reality of the influence of horses of diverse origin on the Menorcan horse is an incontestable fact. But it is also true that no breed of horses in the world can prove the purity of the breed in the sense that it has not received the influence of other races. The denominations, Pura Raza Española or Pura Sangre Inglés, for example, create confusion to those who interpret it as that those horses have always existed with those characteristics and have not changed over the years if it is not for selection criteria in breeding .
Obviously not, all known breeds have been created from the recognition, at any given time, of the existence of a horse collective that had stabilized in certain morphological characteristics, which differentiated it from other races or groups of horses. .And it is from the registration of a race when it can be proven that the doors have been closed at all crossings with copies of another origin and that the improvement will come by the good criteria of breeders in the genetic and morphological selection of the reproducers to get reinforce the characteristics of the breed and get copies that meet the expectations they want.
As mentioned in the rigorous study of the documents, it is the responsibility of the specialists and they are in any case who must draw the conclusions, the fact of commenting some has no other claim than curiosity to know if the reality of the horse we have has a Long story behind or is a recent fruit. But in any case we are fortunate that the influences of different races and the selection criteria of the Menorcans, always looking for the saddle horse, light, stewed and moved, have created a type of horse that has deserved the official confirmation of the recognition of its own race by the Cría Caballar body.
As is the horse in the eighties:
The Menorca horse of the early eighties was morphologically identical to the current one, it could not be otherwise, the only variation consisted of the cape, everyone admitted how Menorca was a sorrel horse, Like a brown horse, or one of black. The same happened with white spots on the face or extremities. They were accepted equally with no other question than the aesthetic preference of each owner.
Already then the number of black horses significantly exceeded that of the other layers, although there was no one who claimed that the authentic layer in the Menorcan breed was chestnut.
The decade of the eighties was for the world of horses in Menorca, a stage worthy of being classified as historical, throughout those years many of the processes that have decisively influenced the improvement of horse riding and horses began.
At the party began to leave many horses crossed with other races, mainly trotters and children of English. This increase in the number of horses not considered “Menorcas”, was a high risk of negative influence on the breed itself, which had no other solution than to document the origin of the horses, and that only happened through the official recognition of the breed .
At the same time, the creation of equestrian clubs began throughout the island, which expanded the practice of equestrian modalities while introducing a significant number of Spanish and some Arab horses in Menorca. This situation unbalanced what had always been the horse’s world on the island, the use limited to the party and some agricultural tasks. Suddenly the saddle horse began to be used throughout the year, and in modalities hitherto not practiced on the island.
The risk of this situation for the horse Menorca did not go unnoticed by those who had created the danger and hence the interest of clubs was born to get recognition and registration of our horse.
Interest in obtaining recognition of the breed:
The study of Menorca horses, according to what the most knowledgeable men in horses said, who were asked for information about the origins of the horses, seems to have been a frequent purpose among some horse enthusiasts. All these attempts did not come to an end, as far as is known, of the collection of data on the origins, name, and characteristics of the horses and not submitted to any official body for study, the last ones that are recorded are Lluís Guasch and a young man named De Olives, then a veterinary student.
In any case, one would have to try to recover this information and add it, if it is of interest, to the history of the Menorcan horse.
On the part of the equestrian clubs, they had in common the objective to investigate the Menorca breed of horses.
At that time the clubs met periodically in Mercadal to discuss the regulation of the new activities they organized, cross-dressing, dressage and Menorca, and in one of them Pito Costa, then the councilor of culture of the City Council of Maó , informed of the request of collaboration of two veterinary students to organize the visit to Menorca of the member of the Commission of the Registry-Registration of horses of Pure Blood and Pure Breeds Mr. Antonio Sánchez Belda .
The proposal that Mr. Belda be the one to study the Menorca Horse is produced in parallel through Professor Sañudo of the Faculty of Zaragoza to veterinary students Antoni Roca and Jordi Combalia who had expressed interest in studying the breed of the horses, and the Delegate of Breeding Horse in the Balearic Islands mr. Jover to the Club Ciutadella Riding when he was asked the way forward to get the Menorca Horse recognition.
Involvement of horse breeding and the Insular Council of Menorca:
With the two initiatives, which almost coincide in time, it was ultimately achieved that the Head of Horse breeding, the competent body to study the evolution of selected horse races and expand the number of these breeds registered in the Registration Registry of Horses of Pure Breed, designate one of the most prestigious zootechnicians to conduct a field study on the Menorcan horse.
In order to implement this project, the clubs initially assumed the financing of Mr. Belda’s stay while the Insular Council of Menorca was asked to make his initiative to obtain recognition of the horse. The Minister of Agriculture, Ramon Orfila Pons welcomes the proposal and with the approval of the President, Tirso Pons undertakes to institutionalize, sponsor and manage all the activities necessary to achieve it.
With Cría Caballar and the Insular Consell, the two institutions that predicted the success of the project were themselves involved, a fact that encouraged them to carry out all the work ahead.
It only remained to select a series of horses representative of the whole of the island, which were in stable farms with easy access to make the most of Mr. Belda’s stay. Among the horses, mares and foals that the clubs selected were black coat, chestnut and sorrel, descendants of the main families of Menorca horses recognized as such.
As already mentioned, the selection of horses and mares to visit was made according to criteria of representativeness in relation to the whole and ease of access and of course they were considered as Menorca horses. No public or general announcement or announcement was made for copies to be submitted for review.
At that time the susceptibility of the people of the horse world was a factor to contemplate and more than one misunderstanding had to be resolved explaining that this selection did not presuppose any privilege for the elect or contempt for the unvisited. During the months of June and July 1986, as the initiative for the study of the Menorcan horse transcended, criticisms of the organizers of Mr. Belda’s visit about the authenticity of the proposed horse model were increasing. These criticisms said that the real Menorca horse was not black but brown and that the current horses were not so “Menorcas” like those of yesteryear, it was even questioned whether the origins of any of the selected specimens. It was very clear that the organizers did not inspire much confidence to some who for many years had felt depositories of the continuity of the race and saw in these more a danger than a help.
Making a positive reading of this attitude, it can be considered as a defense reaction to the uncertainty produced by the initiative of a few who, with the operation of the new equestrian clubs, removed the foundations of the world of horses.
Field study, July 1986:
Dr. Antonio Sánchez Belda is the commissioner of the Commission for the Registration of Horses of Pura Raza, inspector of the national veterinary corps and specialist of recognized prestige in zootechnics. He studied during the days before and after the Mercadal festivities, in July 1986, accompanied by club representatives. He was accompanied by his wife and did not want to charge anything for his work, although he was obviously paid for the stay and the trip.
What the organizers were clear about was that they would teach Mr. Belda the copies that were there and that in any case the reality of the preponderance of black over chestnut and sorrel was the result of the selection process on which no one had intervened.
Despite the above, the reception on the farms visited was friendly and cordial and contributed to record the seriousness of the initiative.
The group that made the visits was formed by Mr. Belda, veterinary students Antoni Roca and Jordi Combalia, veterinarian Antoni Orfila and representatives of the club in the area visited: Pito Costa, Toni de Son Morro, Joan Pons Martí (de La Marcona), Joan Marquès, Nenso Pons and Sisco Marquès.
The dynamics of the observation was always the same, we introduced ourselves, Mr. Belda observed the animals and wrote down the characteristics of the specimen in a notebook with some field records. The genealogical origins were indicated, but he did not pay much attention to them. The number of horses and mares reviewed ranges between seventy-six and seventy-one according to the source consulted. In addition to seeing and reviewing the horses, Mr. Belda attended the Saturday Jaleo of the Mercada festivities and was interested in seeing specimens of the other native breeds, chickens, lambs and cows.
The objective was also clear: to determine beyond the individual peculiarities of each product whether or not the set of animals presented constituted a horse race. The conclusion was communicated at the conference held on Sunday, July 20, 1986 at Casino 17 of Gener de Ciutadella, which was attended by a significant number of people interested in hearing Mr. Belda’s opinion.
Here is a sample of a series of fragments taken from the literal transcript of Mr. Belda’s lecture that synthesize the content of it:
I have seen 76 products of a collective that has a set of common characters, if not equal, with a variability perhaps less than consecrated races, than after seeing these animals.
The first question they ask me to ask is whether this horse set is a race or not a race, is it a race or a set of horses and mares and foals that are in a certain environment that is the island of Menorca? .
I come to say with great satisfaction for you and for me, that it is a horse race, a perfect and authentic horse race, which together has no more variability, more individual divergence, more dispersion within its population than any other breed of horses in the world.
Well, sitting the real fact that there is a horse population attached to a particular environment that is the island of Menorca, we can conclude without a doubt that it is a race, not fixed, environmental, but race, …
There is the Menorcan horse race. I this is the term or determination or nomenclature, which I intend to give you, Menorcan horse race or Menorcan horse race, and not Minorca, much less Minorca, …
the race that you have and you have it in your hands, I have not invented it, I have not sat in my office and I have thought and it has occurred to me to write a few lines and I said there is a race in Menorca , of horses, I have not seen it I have kicked it, I have seen it in the field, and I have seen it in your hands, you have it and that is the race …
The description of the race is as it is, and the racial standard is the code of improvement of that race. In other words, we will demand or must demand characteristics that are very possible that some individuals do not have it and that is why they are not considered as such a race, but precisely because they ask for something more than to exist in Menorca and to be black cape, for example…
For me I say for me, you will do what you want, the Menorcan race is a black, small, white-colored breed with white spots in greater or lesser proportion as I understand the proximity or proximity of the …….. ………….. I do not want to say purity but if the proximity to that set that I am seeing that we could call as more representative of the breed, that is to say an animal approaches so much more perfectly in this aspect the less white it has …
Well, let’s see I do not advise anything, you are the breeders you do what you want, it’s that simple but it happens that you have a horse, with a cape, that I have not said black, that I have called black, I said black fish, eye, black fish, which is a peculiarity of black, that yes, it is the only race in the world that has a uniform layer, there is only one black in Austria, and also in a small population How is it going; And that you have the possibility of making known as a race with a label and with a label and with a presentation cover that everyone will know.
Because there is a small percentage of animals of another color, I understand that in favor of the general, I do not say that they are not pure, that is already debatable, but that in favor of the collective, it is worth sacrificing these for the benefit of others.
Ah, I am going to say something else of a general nature and that is also how I have been able to verify that when there is a layer that is not black, characters that are not of the race appear, that is to say that it is associated, the non-black rather associated with heterodoxy within the breed; It is associated with divergence and distancing, with the distortion of the typical breed pattern, and of course there are horses, I sorrels have not seen more than one, and it was very good, well I have seen some mares you see: a horse that is convex, a rounded rump, horizontal, with the cross elevated etc. that has something other than Menorquina, Maybe the non-expert does not deduce it, does not diagnose it, it does not reach it, but the expert does deduce it, we see it perfectly. Then I believe, but in the end the word is yours, I think it is not worth it for a few animals to put them in, create the schism to put the heterodoxy into a thing that is perfectly orthodox, that is perfectly uniform …
QUESTION: The horse in Menorca, what do you think is a single breed or are there two or three mixed races?
ANSWER: A single race and we are going to kick, uh, a single race and we are going to kick. The pretend to draw offspring and that one is from a tower I don’t know how many and another one of I don’t know what, it is a total absurdity, because I, to the most local expert, I place five horses and tell me, if you know it naturally, that if who It is Don Gimeno tower and such …………………………… is a single race, more or less, than some Stallion has had more or less influence, that must be recognized.
QUESTION: There is a majority of blacks, that means that now it is more black, but seventy years ago …
Seventy years ago there were a series of horses that do not exist today. (questioner’s comment) Well, but if it has changed by evolution, seventy years ago the Spanish horse, the famous Spanish you are riding, was a brown horse, half of what it is now, and a light horse, rather light , rather agile and such. Now you see it, a solid horse with a very high percentage of 60/70% of thrush and a small percentage of chestnut trees, very small percentage of blacks.
After the presentation of Mr. Belda, the satisfaction was widespread, it had just been heard from the most authorized person on the subject, that the Menorca horse met the requirements to be proposed in the Registration Register to be recognized as a breed of its own. The work done so far was more than compensated with the words of Dr. Belda, and the one that would come next would be done with more motivation.
Of all that Mr. Belda proposed, only two things considered the author that would have to be reconsidered:
The denomination of the association (Associació de criadors i proprietaris de cavalls de raça menorquina), because the name does not represent all the people associated with the Menorcan horse, it is in masculine and not everyone is raised or owned and the other, to relate so explicitly the horse with the Jaleo by the fact of the “bots”, without wanting to deny the reality of the transcendence of the image of this horse decked and mounted for the holidays.
(Excerpt from the conference given by Joan Marquès Coll , in the conference on the Menorcan horse held in Mercadal on November 1999, adapted to be published in issue 45 of the magazine: “SEMBRAM MENORCA”, edited by “Unió de Pagesos “).
The Escola Menorquina Club thanks Joan Marquès Coll for their collaboration in the elaboration of this page.