Horse Training by the Californio Vaqueros

Posted by John Brand on

The Californio Vaqueros were proud of their horsemanship and horse tack. They took great care to hand braid their horse hair mecates and romel reins. The Vaqueros hand braiding techniques are still used today. 

The rawhide bosals, riatas, quirts, headstalls, and hackamores are all part of the Vaquero "tool box" that were used to train their horses. 

The Vaqueros trained their horses for 7-10 years, starting at 4 years old, to react with very little pressure from the rider. At the end of training, the horse and rider would be one. 

The three stages of the Vaquero horse training were as follows:

The 1st stage – Starts with a hackamore, bitless braided rawhide headstall, to teach the horse to yield to pressure. The reins were long, hand braided horse hair mecates.

The 2nd stage - "Two Rein" is where the Vaquero would use a thinner, simpler version of the hackamore nose piece, the bosal. This bosal was lighter for this part of the training. The mecate bridle had a spade bit and a braided rawhide romel rein. During this stage of the training, the Vaquero would hold both sets of reins and the horse would be controlled with mostly the bosal and light on the bit. Then the Vaquero would transition to only using the bit and would then get rid of the bosal all together. 

The 3rd stage - "Straight upon the Bridle", this is where the Vaquero handled the horse with just the spade bit. The bit is connected with romel reins. The bosal and mecate were used under the bridle to lead the horse. 

This extensive training enabled the Vaquero to control the horse with little pressure. The Vaquero's horse was a skilled cattle horse and would be tested...

The Vaqueros tested their horse’s skills by tying a thread to the links section of the chain part of the romel reins. The Vaquero would then bring the horse to a stop with a "light" pull of the reins. If the thread broke, the Vaquero was needing to pull too hard. 

Another way to show off their skills was trying to rope Grizzly bears!!! Can you imagine the horsemanship skills needed, and the communication of the horse and rider, to stop and move in an instant to rope a Grizzly bear? 

Buckaroo Leather uses the influence of the Vaquero when handcrafting our hackamores. Pictured below are a few of the styles of hackamores available.


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