Category Archives: Culture and Heritage

How We Became Cowboys Part I

The introduction to all Working Equitation rules state the discipline has “the objective of enhancing the equestrian techniques developed in countries whose riders use horses in different aspects of work in the field ( ranching)”. The aim is not only to preserve and perpetuate each country’s type of equitation, but also their various traditions, the dress, and tack comprising each nation’s unique cultural equestrian heritage.  Very few North Americans actually know our own unique cultural equestrian heritage as it relates to ranching.  Until recently movies and television portrayed cowboys inaccurately, and those images are what most people carry with them today.   With all of this in mind we have assembled this informative series.

This article is meant to provide a brief overview about the very early history of those who became the great American icon, The Cowboy. As Working Equitation riders, we have a responsibility to perpetuate and honor our unique traditions, methods, and customs involving the tack and attire of our ranching forefathers. North America, from Mexico to Canada is unique in our way of ranching and livestock work. You may be surprised to learn of the long forgotten souls behind our most charismatic of American icon .

Spanish Conquistadors become Mexican Ranchers

1494 –  Isabella, Queen of Castile, Spain recognized the importance of quickly establishing a presence in the New World. Less than two years after Columbus first spied the Americas, Isabella funded his return to the new world. Columbus, along with 1200 Spanish settlers, 24 stallions (for riding and breeding), 10 mares for breeding, and an unknown number of cattle, landed just off the

austurias horse
The Austurias, a handsome, compact breed exist yet today.

Island known as Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). King Ferdinand (husband of Isabella) decreed that the horses brought on this second voyage should be “the finest war horses available”.   Each soldier was provided a stipend for the purchase of their personal “war horse”, and it appears they did this, and rode those horses in the celebrations held prior to leaving for the “New World”.   But, those horses were probably sold and “lesser” horses purchased for the voyage.

The ships held a collection of common stock breeds, mainly Sorraia, Spanish Jennet, Asturian and Garrano, all important Spanish breeds, but surely not the majestic steeds in the decree. Continue reading How We Became Cowboys Part I