Softness, balance, horsemanship, bridle horse, discipline, partnership, elegance, harmony, refinement, finesse, confidence, willingness, trust, consistency … these are the buzzwords of today’s horse world. Words that discerning horseman desire for their program. These words derive from the traditions of the past. The foundation of horsemanship doesn’t change, only trends and styles change. This traditional, fundamental horsemanship was practiced by the vaqueros (Spanish for someone who works with cattle) and buckaroos from the 1500s to the 1800s.
A buckaroo is a person who cowboys in the traditional style of the vaqueros.
They believe the time invested in a horse will be given back with interest, his horse is a reflection of him, and he holds himself to a higher standard of operation in everything he does with horses and cattle. Buckaroos use a careful education process insuring that the horse has a solid foundation, striving for extreme softness and a high level of communication. Their horses will start in the snaffle, progress to the bosal, advance to the two-rein and finally straight up in the bridle. This training process takes about 5 years.
It takes time to create solid, finished horses. The first 30 days provides the foundation for the rest of their riding career but it takes years to make a finished horse. Slower methods are better for the horses resulting in a lower stress level, mental well-being and balance. They are less prone to physical stresses such as stomach ulcers and colic.
The Buckaroos developed a style of roping which is easy on the cattle. They rope with a 60 foot or longer rope and use a leather wrapped horn allowing them to slip their dallies and slow the cattle down without jerking them. Historically they roped with reatas. Reatas are made from four, six or eight-strands of braided rawhide from a “dyer” (old and skinny) cow treated with rawhide dressing. Today nylon and poly ropes are used. Poly ropes have a lot of “life” to them. They are close to the feel of the reata but much stronger, durable and affordable.
Much of the roping is done while the roper’s horse is walking or standing still. In the hands of an experienced “ranch roper” these ropes come to life and make amazing shots. Shots used may include: overhand, backhand, houlihan, hip-shot, scoop-loop, delviento or a Johnny blocker. Advanced horsemanship is essential as the horse and rider set up the shots using mostly leg cues for lateral movements and turns on the forehand.
Being a horseman who incorporates these buzzwords into his lifestyle requires talent, practice, dedication, commitment, knowledge, ability, commitment, desire to always learn and to improve. With effort you can make those buzzwords a part of your life.
Today most buckaroos are found in Nevada, California, Idaho, Oregon and Idaho. Popular clinicians such as Buck Brannaman and Peter Campbell use these methods and are available in the area once a year. Locally, there are a few trainers who use these methods.
There is a growing group of riders in this region who value traditional horsemanship, who put in many hours and devote time to excellent horsemanship. One group is Mid States Ranch Horses, LLC with Kelli Paulson. She starts colts using these traditional methods. Events are offered to the public, such as Ranch Horse Shows, Trail Rider Challenges, Cowboy Challenges, Clinics and Cowgirl Camps, which encourage good horsemanship and education of riders to make better horses.