The Origins of Doma Vaquera
Bulfighting as we know it today, stems from the eighteenth century, but since time immemorial ´corretoro´, which was the original name for bullfighting, has been a pastime in Spain.
Bullfighting was an activity enjoyed by the Royal Court until in 1723, when King Felipe V banned this activity. However, although noblemen obeyed this rule, the art of bullfighting continued in the ranches and countryside, until in the 1920´s it became popular as a spectator sport
Doma Vaquera origins stem from the necessity to handle cattle, in order to supply bulls for a National Fiesta, such as a coronation, royal birth or wedding for example. We could say that this type of equitation goes back to ancient times, just like the ´corretoro´.
The origins of the Doma Vaquera style goes back to the old methods used for the daily handling of the breeding bulls. It was the combined skill of these horses and riders that allowed them to move the bulls as part of their work in the country. It was this style which gave the name to this kind of riding and training.
The Vaquera horse is considered the most suited to this activity, because of it´s calm walk, its abundant athleticism and intelligence. The calm walk permitted the old 'vaquero' to walk amongst the cattle and bulls without disturbing them. What's more, the horse's calm demeanour keeps the cattle relaxed, which is of the utmost importance in maintaining the cattle separated and spread out in the countryside when weaning and branding the young.
During the European Renaissance period, great schools of equitation arose and so the style of 'la brida' was deemed as the most appropriate way of riding, dismissing 'la jineta' (vaquero style), but this different type of agile riding persisted mainly in Spain and Portugal and the south of France – areas where working with the bull required a light, fast and comfortable type of riding for a rider who has to be in the saddle many hours in the day.
The continuing wars in the old continent and America, constantly forced the vaqueros to leave the countryside and enlist in their armies. Most of them carried out their work in the cavalry regiments. These regiments were strongly influenced by the schools of equitation, because it was these regiments that actually managed these same schools.
The influence of the academic training in the vaquero riders was fundamental for the conversion of country vaquero to dressage vaquero, resulting that the riding style developed a more technical aspect than before.
One example was that the original vaquero canter, was always done on the right lead. This was because the garrocha was always held in the left hand of the rider, so the horse had to be in right lead canter. The garrocha is a long pole carried by the rider to move the cattle.
Another example of the influence of the academic schools, was the inclusion of lateral movements such as leg yields and half-passes. These were not previously contemplated as they were deemed unnecessary, but the academic influence brought about these changes because they benefited the horse and made him a more able partner.
The doma vaquera style is mainly characterised with a good walk, with speed and a serenity in the movements. Mainly turn on the hindquarters and collected canter – which looks elegant and is comfortable for the rider.
The submission of the horse to the orders of the rider is total and so is the understanding, because when in amongst the bulls, life depends on it, and the minimum error can have fatal consequences.
In the 1960´s Doma Vaquera emerged as an equestrian discipline and celebrated it´s first championship of Spain in Seville, in 1970. Making history was Don Jose Maria Maestre and Laso de la Vega, as the first champions in the discipline.
One of the most important differences in Doma Vaquera competitions is that the trot is not demonstrated, although it is not missed out in the basic training of the horse as home. In this discipline, the trot is fundamental and it is worked diligently by the riders that train daily.
Doma Vaquera competition is a sport – the art and the subjectivity in the judging is inherent in the discipline. Riders who want to practice Doma Vaquera in competition must accept this aspect, although it isn't always easy.
The last championship of Spain is an example of this, with more than one unfortunate complaint being made. For the people competing in Doma Vaquera, it does no good. That's why I would like to emphasise in this same paragraph that the riders that would like to practice Doma Vaquera should accept this aspect of the sport.