OLD MEX­ICO AND CAL­I­FOR­NIA

EQUUS - - Conformation Insights - Carl Nebel, a Ger­man ar­chi­tect with a won­der­ful eye for de­tail, did this

This au­thor’s color ren­der­ing is based on a de­tail from an 1852 sketch by A. de Vauducort show­ing the plaza mayor in El Paso. I was so trans­ported by the ac­cu­racy of the artist’s orig­i­nal sketch that I could not re­sist bring­ing it to life in color with all the de­tails of Span­ish-Mex­i­can dress and equip­ment. I par­tic­u­larly ad­mire the way the artist has cap­tured the per­fect aplomb of the ca­ballero and the lively elas­tic step of the horses— a walk, yet so full of life it is al­most a trot. These an­i­mals are of pure Span­ish Colo­nial ex­trac­tion; I’ve cho­sen to show two more of the wide ar­ray of their un­usual col­ors—the ponied horse a linebacked dun with four white socks and a blaze, and the rid­den horse a gateado rojo ( red grulla) with ze­bra stripes ex­tend­ing high up the legs. In 1913, this Mex­i­can mili­tia­man, or pos­si­bly a raider ( ban­dito), rides an ap­ple-horned es­queleto ( skele­ton) sad­dle with ex­posed stir­rup leathers and bull­nose stir­rup- cov­ers ( tapaderos). The horse car­ries a ring-bit or chileno, the Mex­i­can an­ces­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia spade; he wears the bosalillo or thin rawhide nose­band that is used on fin­ished horses. The braided leather mecate ( An­glo-Amer­i­can “McCarty”) is at­tached to the bosalillo by a metal ring rather than tied over a heel knot. It hangs to the left and would be coiled and tied to the left side of the sad­dle. The rider uses closed leather reins rather than a ro­mal out­fit. The Cayuse he rides shows mostly Span­ish char­ac­ter, but the head be­lies some Thor­ough­bred in­flu­ence. This type of horse can still be found through­out ru­ral Mex­ico and Gu­atemala, as well as in the moun­tains and back­coun­try of Cen­tral Amer­ica.

Dat­ing to about 1895, this photo was al­most cer­tainly taken in Cal­i­for­nia; note the rider’s “hy­brid” cloth­ing and tack, show­ing both Span­ish and An­glo in­flu­ence. The horse is like­wise a mix­ture, a type used by range bosses and ranch man­agers who worked for the gi­ant Miller and Lux out­fit that once con­trolled thou­sands of acres in Cal­i­for­nia and Ore­gon. Henry Miller, a Ger­man butcher who came to San Fran­cisco dur­ing the Gold Rush, hated Mus­tangs be­cause they com­peted with his cat­tle for avail­able grass, and hun­ters in his em­ploy ex­ter­mi­nated most of the herds that de­vel­oped af­ter sec­u­lar­iza­tion. Nonethe­less, some were pre­served, and Miller bred them to Mor­gans to pro­duce this type of horse.

mar­vel­lous ren­der­ing of Cal­i­fornios in about 1835. The scene shows a ha­cen­dado ( ranch owner) who is also a ca­ballero ( horse­man or gen­tle­man, the two terms be­ing syn­ony­mous in Span­ish). He is, of course, also an hi­dalgo ( im­por­tant per­son), shown out rid­ing on a Sun­day af­ter­noon with his daugh­ter, sidesad­dle on the Cal­i­for­nia sor­rel, and his son astride the ra­bi­cano bay. At a wa­ter­hole they have met the ha­cen­dado’s may­or­domo ( ranch man­ager or range boss), who re­spect­fully doffs his hat. The may­or­domo’s bald­faced black wears an em­bossed and fringed leather ar­mita or croup-cover, a di­rect de­scen­dant of Me­dieval Euro­pean horse ar­mor. The may­or­domo’s thighs are cov­ered by a sheet of bull­hide called a chapa, meant to pro­tect the horse’s breast and the rider’s legs from thorny brush. All the horses wear bosalillo, mecate and spade, and ev­ery part of cos­tume and equip­ment that could be em­bel­lished bears an al­most baroque level of dec­o­ra­tion.

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