A Lusitano Paradise
Baroque Lusitano horse now coveted for its ability to excel
in dressage was originally bred in Portugal for military
use and ranch work.
word Shangri-la has come to mean a slice of paradise, a secluded
place of peace and beauty. This moniker is certainly fitting
for Shangrila Farm, home to a herd of Lusitano horses owned
by Carolyn and Robert Crum of Citra, Florida. Assisted by
trainer Whitney Wenzel, groom Connie Owens, and Connie's daughter,
Anna, a youth rider and overall helper, the Crums maintain
a herd of 14 horses on their 26 acre spread.
and Robert have been devoted to Lusitanos ever since meeting
the breed at the Cortijo las Morerias in Mexico eight
years ago. Initially they were not equestrians, but Carolyn
says, “We both loved horses. This was a second marriage,
and we wanted to be sure that we shared a common bond.
We decided that horses would be it.”
Crums started out with a farm in Wellington, but moved to
Ocala in 2001. Carolyn jokes, “We
had worked as an attorney, and her Mexican paralegal told
her about the tradition of a bride riding to the wedding
ceremony on a white stallion. She and Robert decided to
create their own version, tying the knot in the ranch
courtyard with a pair of white stallions standing by as
Their visit to the Cortijo las Morerias had a dual purpose:
marriage and the acquisition some new equine family members.
“When I was young, I lived in Southern Spain and
fell in love with the Andalusian horse,” Carolyn
says. “We knew nothing about the Lusitano before
going to Mexico.”
What they did know was that they wanted to breed for the
dressage market. This made Lusitanos appealing because,
as Carolyn explains, “They seemed to be stouter
horses and had better movement for dressage.” The
newlyweds were won over by a grey Lusitano stallion and
bay mare that became the foundation of their herd.
IMPERIAL is the Crum's stunning 2002 buckskin Lustiano Stallion.
to get out of South Florida and away from the alligators!”
they have a rolling Mediterranean-style spread complete with
pastures, barns, and a fully enclosed round pen. Whitney,
the trainer, says, “Robert built it himself, and the
acoustics are amazing.” Because of its design, the horse
can concentrate fully on its rider and easily hear verbal
But work time is balanced with ample opportunity to “just
be a horse.” At Shangrila, every equine has daily turnout
time to frolic in the pasture with herd mates, and then spends
the night in the barn.
As devotees to a lesser-known breed, the Crums enjoy educating
people about the Lusitano. Carolyn says, “They often
tell me, 'I've never heard of it. What does it do?' They want
to know the difference between Lusitanos and Andalusians.”
that difference is negligible, since both come from the same
foundation. The horses were once identical, but branched off
as Portuguese and Spanish ranch owners each bred their own
preferred characteristics into the animals. Lusitanos are
named for their geographic origins, as “Lusitania”
once referred to an area of the Iberian peninsula where Portugal
and part of Spain is now located.
Carolyn explains why the horses' traits diverged: “Portugal
was a poor country and basically bred them to keep the Baroque
roundness. That allowed them to to achieve the great collection
needed for military horses and for cattle horses to work the
bulls. These horses had great athletic ability.
was wealthy, and their society wanted beautiful, fancy parade
horses for the nobles.”
Sadly, Portugal’s Lusitanos were decimated when Napoleon
sacked the country's stables for war
IALHA National Champion Exaustivo is from the Alter Real line,
which was founded in the 18th century by the Braganza royal
family of Portugal for the purpose of supplying the royal
stables in Lisbon with suitable high school and carriage horses.
More rough times followed in the subsequent revolts, when
horse theft was rampant. The Communist movement brought yet
another challenge as landowners could no longer afford to
maintain large herds. The horses were sold to other countries
such as France, England, and Brazil.
rocky history brought the Lusitano breed even closer to its
Andalusian roots. According to Carolyn, whenever the Lusitano
bloodline was weakened by inbreeding or almost destroyed by
war and revolts, Portugal would infuse the bloodline with
Andalusians from Spain.
“Because of this, the horses share some common blood,”
she says. “Today, it is often difficult to distinguish
between an Andalusian and a Lusitano.”
you have a sharp eye, an individual horses' characteristics
often give a clue to its bloodlines. For example, the Crums'
stallion Veneno Imperial comes from the Veiga bloodline, and
his solid build reflects the type of hardy mount that would
be idea for the bullring. Exaustivo, their other stallion,
has Alter Real blood, and his refined appearance reflects
the line's origins with the royal family of Portugal.
The breed's most common colors are gray, bay, black, and black/bay.
Lusitanos can also be buckskin, palomino, and cremello, although
this is much more rare. Carolyn explains, “If the color
is to be gray, the foal will be born dark and start graying
as it matures. It depends on the horse; sometimes they start
with lighter faces and a dark body. They
& Carolyn Crum took a trip to Mexico to the Cortijo las
Morerias where they married and acquired their first Lusitano
don’t finish graying until five or six years of age.”
In America, both Lusitanos and Andalusians are registered
with the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association.
The Lusitanos are designated as Portuguese horses and the
Andalusians designated as Spanish horses, but they are all
collectively called Andalusians.
Carolyn says, “There is an ongoing disagreement between
some of the owners of Andalusians, the owners of Lusitanos,
and the Association as to whether or not they are the same
horse. The Association and some Andalusian members contend
that they are the same horse and that it's the Andalusian.
Our contention is that they are a breed of their own in Portugal,
Mexico, and Brazil and therefore should remain a breed of
their own in America.”
Crums do their part to carry on the Lusitano legacy, and raising
healthy, well-mannered equines is a priority at Shangrila.
Robert says proudly, “Every one of our horses is handled
every day.” The foals are imprinted almost as soon as
they are born; fortunately, the farm's brood mares are very
good natured and tolerate early handling of their babies.
Carolyn explains, “We like to start them as soon as
possible so that as they grow, nothing is traumatic. They're
already used to being handled, so being trained is no big
deal to them.” As the youngsters mature and gain independence,
they learn basics such as leading and standing quietly for
The Crums say that Lusitanos are a delight to work with because
their typical good nature extends to under-saddle work, where
it comes out as a desire
Ortiva excels as a hunt seat horse and has now started showing
over fences. In 2004, Ortiva was the IALHA Reserve National
Champion Portuguese Filly.
please their trainer.
Although Whitney Wenzel is Shangrila's main trainer, she is
assisted by Copper, a feisty miniature horse whose size belies
the fact that he's the undisputed king of the herd. Copper
takes his duties as a mentor very seriously. He teaches the
foals good manners and enforces his lessons with punctuating
Shangrila, proper behavior is an everyday expectation. For
example, stallions and mares are stabled together in the same
barn. Because of this close proximity, the stallions learn
that they are required to behave like gentlemen no matter
what the circumstances.
Because they tend to have such good temperaments, Lusitanos
adapt quickly to these expectations. Robert says, “That's
one of my favorite things about these horses. They're all
so friendly and easy to handle.”
This fabled friendliness is readily apparent in all of the
Crum's horses, from babies up to the adults. Dulce the foal
will dog any visitor's footsteps for a scratch, and the stallions
stand so quietly for admiration and petting that it's hard
to believe they're not geldings.
The Crums keep their operation small, raising two foals each
year. Robert likes having a duo because then the babies have
a playmate and each one can be given plenty of individual
attention. He and Carolyn can't help get attached to each
and every youngster, and they take great care in matching
them up with their future owners. Their Lusitanos have gone
to buyers as far away as Vermont and Massachusetts.
Carolyn describes their approach: “We sell soul mates.
We do not sell a horse without the prospective buyer coming
to the farm. If the horse is under saddle, we have them ride
it. It's important to see them together because you can just
tell if the two do not match up.”
This careful attention to the pairing process is a reflection
of the Crums' overall philosophy. As Carolyn says, “Our
horses are raised with kindness, and our training approach
is slow and thorough. We feel they would be unhappy if the
'right' person did not buy them.”
This same care is extended to choosing each horse's ultimate
career. As each equine grows and develops, it's trained in
the discipline for which it seems to be best suited. If the
initial choice doesn't turn out to be the best fit, it will
be changed. As an example, the Crums cite a mare who seemed
to be perfect for dressage. However, once her training began,
it was soon apparent that her true talent lay elsewhere.
“We felt she would reach a limit in dressage but could
make it to the top as a hunter/jumper,” Carolyn explains.
The mare was switched to jumping, and the wisdom of the change
was obvious as she thrived in her new discipline. Now the
Crums are confident that she will be able to achieve her full
potential because she's in the right line of work.
Portuguese Lusitano horses feel right at home in the Mediterranean
style barn at Shangrila.
Sometimes a horse's talent is obvious right from the start.
For example, Carolyn and Robert have a grandson of the famous
jumper Novilheiro, who was known for his speed on the course
and his legendary ability to make sharp turns.
Their colt, Bolero, was sired by Lirio da Cosval, a son of
Novilheiro. Lirio was 17 hands, and Bolero is already taking
after his daddy in the height department. Even at age two,
he's larger than many of the mature horses. Sadly, Lirio suffered
a leg injury at age two so he never had a chance to come into
his own. Now the family legacy can be borne out in his son.
most commonly thought of as dressage horses or jumpers, Carolyn
says that Lusitanos are actually a very versatile breed that
can be suited for virtually any type of riding, including
reining and other western disciplines. She explains, “They
have what it takes to excel in jumping, dressage and reining
because they were used as cattle horses to work the bulls.
They are very brave and strong.”
Even though the Crums have owned horses since 2000, Carolyn
acknowledges that they are still learning. She's known a lot
of equines over the years and is continually fascinated with
their unique personalities. She marvels, “Each horse
is an individual, even if they are full sisters or brothers.”
Both Carolyn and Robert emphatically state that the babies
are the best part of their business. “It's so rewarding,
and I love them all,” Carolyn says. “They are
just like children. They have to be taught manners right from
the start. And,” she chuckles, “when they become
'teenagers,' it's time for the trainer to take over.”
Perhaps the only blot on the Crums' little piece of paradise
is the encroaching development that seems to sneak up on Floridian
farms. Carolyn says, “Unfortunately, many of the large
farms are disappearing and becoming subdivisions or shopping
But for now Shangrila is safe amidst a cluster of equestrian
properties in the heart of Florida's horse country, where
most of the surrounding ranches house more well-known and
conventional breeds like Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses or
Arabians. Fortunately the Crums' Lusitano herd will ensure
that the legacy of Portugal's horses is well-represented in
the Sunshine State.
PREFERRED FEED IN PARADISE
Crums' attention to detail in caring for their horses
extends right through to their feed choice. All the
equine residents at Shangrila dine on Ultra Dynamix
pellets, and the positive results from using Seminole
Feed are very visible.
According to trainer Whitney Wenzel, “We're able
to feed less, and
the horses still
weight. You can also see the bloom in their coats.”
Robert adds, “It's so much easier to use Ultra
Dynamix because you don't have to mix anything.
The horses get all their nutrients right in one package.”
The Crums learned about Seminole feeds from a trainer
of Andalusians and called to ask for a farm visit.
When Whitney, Carolyn and Robert met Wendy, their
Seminole representative, they were all impressed by
her commitment to service as much as by the quality
of the product.
“Wendy puts in the time and effort to really
take care of us,” Carolyn says.
The combination of visible results and attentive,
personal service have made Seminole
Feeds an integral part of the program at Shangrila
To learn more about the Crums and this extraordinary breed,
Shangrila Farm is located in Citra, Florida.
Nefer is a freelance writer in Celebration, Florida.
In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Appaloosa,
Figment, and racking up hours in the ApHC Saddle Log