the way of the Vaqueroes...

The California Vaquero's originated from Mexico. The California Vaquero developed a unique style of Horsemanship because, back then, California was very isolated. Surrounded by mountain ranges on one side and the Ocean on the other, so it was very difficult to reach.

The Spanish settlers in Mexico put their sights on the beautiful and fertile coastal California and they laid a trail of missions and monasteries from St.Diego to Sonora in 1769. The Padres (clerics) also brought a mass of cattle and a few Vaqueroes along. Originally, the natives (the Indians) were not allowed to ride a horse. But because the padres had too little Vaquero’s, they taught the Indians how to ride a horse. So that they could help with the cattle.

VaqueroThe Indians (native Americans) proved to be ideal for this work. They were athletic and had a great feeling for the rhythm of the horse. As a result, a large part of the original Californian Vaqueros were American natives. Over time they mixed breeds. The Mexicans, the Indians and the whites intermixed by marriages and other relationships. What the Vaquero's let excel was not their ethnic origin but much more the urge to Excel in their work, the herding on horseback. The Vaquero took much pride in the velvet touch of his horse, the soft response and the controlled movements. The velvet response on the bridle-rein.

The Vaquero started the horse only from the age of 4 and the training of the horse could take from 7 to 10 years. The Vaquero were Horsemen who had their pride in their well-educated horses. Horses that respond to the finest signals. They put a lot of time, effort and heart in bringing up and training their horses. Before the age of 4, they only handled the horse once in a while from the ground. This way the horse had the chance to completely grow and develop without being disturbed by a rider.

VaqueroBear1This way of dealing with the horse was meant so that the horse was able to build trust in his rider. This was necessary for the Vaquero because he was completely dependent on the reliability of his horse in the open plains where he would work the cattle. 

It even occurred that the Vaquero roped a grisly bear. You can imagine what a huge trust and precision was required. This was only possible if the rider and horse were completely tuned into one another.

HackamoreThe rig (The Tack) The young horse would be started with a hackamore.  This way of starting (with rider) has the advantage, that the horse will not be directed with pain or discomfort by bit, but with riding signals. Signals that the rider must be able to transfer clear and understandable. To not cause confusion with the green horse. Another advantage, and maybe for some riders also a downside is, that one should be able to actually ride.


The Vaquero's were quite handy folks, they mostly manufactured their own tools. The hackamores (Bosal with a Mecate) were mostly homemade. Also the reata, a lasso from "rawhide" was often braided.

HackamoreWorking the horse from the ground (groundwork) is the most essential part of the training for a fine and responsive horse. One prepares the horse from the ground for the work under the saddle. Before the Vaquero goes into the saddle, the horse can perform almost all the maneuvers without a rider on top. Obviously, the quality of the groundwork depends on the knowledge, skill and the empathic ability of the horse trainer.  If a horse is not as sensitive to the aids, does not perform the exercises or maneuvers properly, it is never the fault of the horse ...

Master-horsemen like Tom and Bill Dorrance, Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman speak about "Riding with Feel". This "feel" (feeling) is not just a nonsensical expression.


The "Feel" is the connection in the partnership between man and horse on the ground and in the saddle. It takes dedication, knowledge, and love for the horse. 



ExplainingTheSoftFeelThe greatest reward for a horse is not the sweets that one offers him after a performed trick ... The greatest reward for the horse is the heartfelt praise, the physical touch and the peace the rider is able to give his horse from the deepest of his heart.

If you are interested in the language of your horse and how to help him to be your trustworthy partner?

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