Homepage General Interest Ortega's "La Jaquima"

We were only nominally acquainted with the Ortegas, rare contact at horseshows, that sort of thing. That being said, they seemed representative of both "for real" horsemanship, and of a far better California, mostly overrun and forgotten now. I don't suppose we can ever ressurect what is gone, although in particular California developed its own flavor of horsemanship, evolving from when still a possession of Spain. A pity, *if* this is lost entirely.

With this in mind, I've taken the liberty of "borrowing" a couple of Luis Ortega's articles which appeared in the Western Horseman, circa 1945 - The Well Reined Stock Horse, below, others to follow someday. Styles change, but the best "graduates" modelled skill and finesse equal to the best today.

"A great deal has been said and written about the cowboy and his horse - some of it true but for the greater part it is highly colored. Most of the blame for putting the situation in a false light can be laid to the fiction writer and the movie hero with his heroine and his super horse. To a cowboy a horse is a horse. By that I mean he isn't beating him up or yanking him around but treats him kindly."

-Above- Cayatano Herman having lunch of carne seca,
at Santa Anita Rancho, no date given -see high res
"He sees that he gets plenty to eat and is well watered, looks out for his back and blankets so he doesn't get sores, and keeps him well shod. When he gets through with him after a hard day's ride he will often give him a fond swat on the rump with the reins when he turns him loose, but you will never see a buckaroo going out to the barn or corral with a handful of carrots, or calling him sweet names as is many people's common impression. This is nothing for anyone to take offense at, but is just good common sense."

"The California vaquero perfected the use of the hackamore during the Pastoral days of the Spanish Dons and he took great pride in his stock horse as well as in the rest of his equipment. Looking over the first picture which heads this story you will note how neatly folded the saddle blankets were and about even with the saddle skirts. You will also note the long stirrups, the straight way he sits up in the saddle, and the old time angora chaps. This pair was made of bear skin. His hat was typical of the '80's and '90's. When working cattle on the range nearly everyone carried his reatta over the horn of the saddle as shown."

"For those who wonder at the wide stirrups and long spur chains it may be interesting to know that the horse was taught to respond by the clinking of these chains under the stirrup. Whenever the buckaroo was to break out after something he would move his leg back a little.
With this movement the clink of the chain on the bottom of the stirrup and a light touch of the rein signalled the horse for action. Many oldtimers will recall this picture as the hey-day of the old buckaroos, as the hats and chaps of the boys on the corral indicate. Also I will call attention to the oldtime corral seven foot high made out of two-by-sixes. You don't see many of them now-a-days except at railroad and stockyards."

I believe the only ones who really appreciate a well-reined Stock Horse are the old buckaroos themselves, and most of them will swear by the old style methods. The art of jaquima training is something that must be acquired through years of use with all kinds of horses. For those who were lucky enough to have been around the old buckaroos and learn to break horses under their guidance you will know why I say it is impossible to write down stunts that sometimes have to be done and still not injure the colt. I have often wondered at the percentage among the old buckaroos who used bolts on the back or above the heel of the hackamore; or used a triangle file: or heavy cable core braided over with rawhide; or used a quarter round iron 3/8-inch in diameter and shaped it into a hackamore to use on a colt."

"The greater part of my life was spent buckarooing with the oldtime Spanish and American vaqueros and I don't recall ever having seen or heard of any of this stuff that is so common today." [emphasis added]

"At a first glance the casual observer can't understand how a jaquima works and may get the impression it is a cruel piece of equipment. It is also a point much discussed among modern horsemen about the severity of the old Spanish spade bit, but any true hackamore and spade man can readily show the many advantages this method of breaking has over other ideas or styles."

"It was during the American occupation that many different ideas were introduced into California as well as into the Pacific slope cattle country and these methods were practiced thoughout the area. During the time from 1785 to 1880 the hackamore system was used throughout California. Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona, and today is still found to be in use but not as extensively as years ago."

" This is partly because the old buckaroo has about faded out of the picture and partly because the present day speed has made the modern rider resort to quick methods of breaking and training Stock Horses. Most people resent the hackamore idea for the reason that it takes too long to train a horse. To them it does not make sense that a horse should be ridden from one to two years in the hackamore and double rein when with the modern method they claim they can be turned out in a few months' time. To them it is an oldfashioned system and a waste of time, patience and money."

"The fact of the matter is that many of them are afraid of a horse without a bit in his mouth. A lot of riders can create confidence to ride when they can use a bit or some kind of contraption so they can hurt a horse. They rear back in the saddle or jerk or pull to one side or the other and bruise the mouth, especially when they are starting out on a young colt. Another idea they have is to
ride with a tight rein on a colt at all times. The rider has the idea he can tell better what the colt's intentions are."

"Bronc busting" does not necessarily make a "peeler" and an all-around cowboy nor does it have any effect on him in learning the cow business - if he has the ability. To make it clear, many fellows specialize only in breaking horses or riding rough string for big companies. Very few readers understand what rough string is and you will often hear some average rider make the statement that he rode the rough ones for a certain ranch. It doesn't take very long for a "salty" buckaroo boss to find out what kind of stuff you are made of. You don't fool around with him at all. He sees and has seen all kinds of "snappers" and all-round cowboys and most of them come pretty near figuring you out by your conversation and manners.

"One of the most if not THE most valuable horse on the cattle range is the cutting horse. Not only must he be highly trained but he must have natural ability or that something we call the sixth sense which puts him at the top of his trade among the working cow horses of the cow country. I've seen a good many cutting horses during my riding days on big spreads but very few that could be put in the top class. And many are the cow men I have known who have refused a fancy price for their favorite cutting horse."

"It is not to be wondered at that they are so valuable because once in a great while you will find a cutting horse worthy of his name. He must be physically fit and mentally alert and be quick on the get-away, have the ability to turn to either side fast as a flash, and to understand the nature of range cattle as well as the man who is riding him.A rider has to be a mighty good hand to handle himself smoothly on top of a cutter. If the buckaroo is not skillful enough to ride he will soon find himself taking up a squatter's rights and by all means he is not to be hanging onto the horn of the saddle."

A horse of this class can stop, wheel to either side and run away on a new course in the snap of your fingers. Oftentimes when a steer becomes persistant in circling back to the main heard he is knocked down or tailed. This requires skill both on the part of horse and rider. The old style of hitting the critter back of the shoulder with the shoulder point of the horse will roll the former to the ground nearly every time.
It only requires one or two of these hard knocks to find out who is the boss. No one is hurt, only the steer gets the wind knocked out of him and it doesn't take long for him to get back on his feet."

"I have mentioned in some of my previous articles the usual methods that are used to select horses for cow work. When some cow outfit hires a "bronc peeler" to rough out a big string of colts he usually rides a few times and turns them over to the regulars on the ranch. Some of these hands are handy with a rope and others can go on with a green colt with a hackamore and finish him up in the stock game. In the process of this some colts will show signs of taking interest in parting or cutting cattle. Very little of this kind of work is given in the first few months and then in the latter stages probably an hour or two of work several times a week is sometimes enough, depending on the kind of cattle and the country the work is being done in. Also most of this training is up to the ability of the rider to know just when to work the colt and to know when he has done enough."

"A good rider will not rush, whip, or yank the colt and if the buckaroo knows his business he will not do any cussing at the horse. If a colt has the makings of a good horse, overdoing it will sour him and when a colt sours oftentimes he will start to switch his tail. I've seen them quit and then again I've seen them turn into good buckers which have had to be thrown into the rough string."

"A number of the horse breakers now-a-days are in too much of a hurry and when they start a colt the first thing they do is run races or chase horses. A green colt gets all excited, the rider starts jerking him from side to side and makes him raw sore. With a few times of this kind of work the colt will lose all the sense of feeling and become tough. Then the rider resorts to a tie down, draw rein, etcetera, and in a few weeks the colt is ruined. If they do happen to make a little something out of him he will either be cold jawed, sour to the hackamore, probably turn to one side only, won't back - only rear up, and will stop stiff-legged. To finish it off, maybe he will turn into a crow-hopper and will get the name of being a mean bucker, which is no fault of the horse."

A colt in its initial start after his ground training has to be taught to walk. One of the simplest and most effective ways is to start out on the road with another rider on a gentle horse. The gentle horse should have a fast walk and the colt will naturally try to keep up with him. At first you may have to hold back the former a little until the colt begins to walk a little faster and in due time he will step out with the other one. The time cannot be specified here because it depends on the ability of the rider as well as the quickness of the colt but it may take several weeks.
At the same time he gets his feet collected under him where they belong and not all spread out."

"A colt is taught to gallop in much the same way. A good method is to hold one rein a trifle shorter and down a little lower than the other and start on a slow gallop. The gentle horse, if one is required, should start first and then the colt will naturally catch up. By this stage of the colt's training his nose should respond to the slightest touch of the hackamore. He should be able to stop with a slight pull of the rein from either side."

"Sometimes a hackamore will work better if it fits a little snug, using about a 1/2 or scant 5/8ths-inch in diameter. The action of the hackamore comes on the nose and not on the chin as many folks have the idea. The chin is the particular part of the colt's head to watch out for because you can make him a stargazer very quickly and also a head-tosser from side to side. He can be made so cold or frozen that he will be of no account when you want to teach him to hold his head at the proper angle to put style or class to his head carriage as well as to his walk."

The Western Horseman, July-August, 1945

Homepage General Interest Ortega's "La Jaquima"