An important book about the history and influences of Spanish horse-culture in the New World.
This is a book that not only discusses 15th century Spanish riding as it was brought to the New World-- to what would become the United States, Brazil,
Argentina, Mexico, etc--but the author shows how this history and tradition even influenced riding in the early US colony states. Most surprising is the fascinating history of the 'Cracker' cowboys of Florida and the SE coastline areas of the future
United States--it is entirely Spanish.
The author begins by setting the stage in the ‘Old World’ with the evolution of ranching as a concept in Spain in the 11th century. Horses, as swift, powerful riding animals that made cattle work much
more efficient, were therefore directly influenced by how ranching evolved in Spain. When Cortéz arrived in 1519 in Mexico with seventeen horses, they were descendants of a Spanish herd brought to Cuba--horses already at work and evolving to use and
purpose in the New World.
As time passed, skilled workers were needed to handle livestock, and eventually local peoples were taught to ride in the Spanish style. Thus, the Vaquero (cowboy) came to be, heavily influenced by the classical riding taught
to them by missionaries, to maintain the cattle haciendas in Mexico and South America. Not long after, these Vaqueros and Mesteneros (mustang wranglers) honed their skills through various games on horseback-roping, bronc riding, bull riding--which today
is known as the Rodeo.
Everything to do with riding horses in the New World, from purpose of use, training, bloodlines, and even saddle design, was entirely Spanish. Impeccably sourced, this book lays out the scope of history in New World horsemanship
and even brings in dozens of stunning illustrations by the indispensable Joseph "Jo" Mora, horseman, artist, and expert on cowboy history.
Serious horse and equestrian enthusiasts will enjoy details of how riding--and early horse breeds--came to be
in the United States. With breeds like Arabians and Warmbloods being in the forefront of US equine sport these days, it is easy to overlook ‘native’ horses and how perfectly adapted they were for their original purpose. And although people
may love the romantic Mustang, they probably don’t know much about its noble beginnings or purpose beyond the Conquistadors.
The author, Janice Ladendorf, brings their history to life. She knows the Mustang; she’s written several books
on the subject and has spent decades training them and studying the type. She’s also a historian and talented short story writer, as readers will discover in a chapter on Hernán Cortéz’s horse Morzillo--brilliantly written from
Morzillo’s point of view.
What’s revealed is a genealogical tapestry of these exceptional animals, who remain amazingly true to type from their Spanish ancestors centuries ago. Janice Ladendorf brings to life the beauty and strength
of such breeds as the Criollo, the Paso, and the Marchador. You may never look at a Mustang--or a western saddle--the same way again.
Review by Lyne Raff
Editor, Art Horse Magazine