Chilean Period of Conquest Print E-mail




The Chilean Horse’s genealogy all originates in the Vice-Kingdom of New Castile (Peru). These in turn originated from the breeding centers of Central America and the Caribbean. Many shipments arrived from Nicaragua (New Valladolid), but horses from Dominican Republic (Hispaniola), Jamaica, Colombia (Golden Castile) and Panama (Veraguas) also contributed to the equine inventory accumulated in New Castile (Peru). Quickly, Peru became self sufficient in the provisions of its local horse needs and most of the horse production took place in the prime fertile valleys of Charcas (now Bolivia).

The first conquistador to venture into New Toledo (northern Chile) and New Andalusia (Central Chile) was Diego de Almagro. Of the 521 Spaniards in the total expedition that covered some 6,000 km (3,750 mi.) 47 lost their lives and great numbers were permanently maimed with both physical and psychological injuries. It is estimated that less than 10% of the 15,000 Native American and African slaves that commenced the journey were able to finish the ordeal. More than half (over 300) of the horses utilized during the trip were left dead littering the preliminary trails of conquests.  These incoming journeys were a brutal screening that only permitted the entrance of horses that were impeccably sound with excellent hooves and energetic yet tractable temperaments.

It was in the privileged area of Charcas where Pedro de Valdivia, the second explorer to enter Chile, had a royal land grant. The contacts he had in this region were to supply the majority of the horses he needed for Santiago and other settlements in the area he christened as New Extremadura. Although Charcas continued to be the main provider of horses for these conquered territories to the south, some of the finest studs for the personal entourage of Chile's second governor, García Hurtado de Mendoza, were selected from throughout the vice-kingdom. The difficult passage from Peru to the central valleys of Chile not only had to traverse over the Andes Mountains but also across the world's driest desert.

In spite of all the notoriety caused by the formalization of the Chilean Horse registry in 1893, the origins of Chilean Horse really goes back much farther than that. Ever since 1544 when the first Chilean horse breeder, Father Rodrigo Gonzalez Marmolejo, started breeding equines in what was then known as New Extremadura, the emphasis was on quality. As horse numbers grew, the town council made decrees that required their approval of superior crosses. Whatever demands for quality were not made by government, were imposed through the practical demands of war. From the onset of the conquest, the Spanish settlers had to confront a very aggressive Mapuche tribe that put up an energetic defense of their lands for 345 years. Unlike other colonies that fought less intense "Indian wars" in regions distant from populated areas, Chile's struggle was always made tangible by it being within 500 km (312.5 mi.) of their capital.

By the middle of the 16th century the Mapuches were outstanding horseman with growing numbers of horses that were trained innovatively as efficient war mounts. Such a respected opponent created a dire need for quality horses for the soldiers of the Spanish crown. Wisely the governors chosen for the Kingdom of Chile were expected to have strong military backgrounds and many were internationally respected horsemen. This type of leadership continually motivated Chilean horse breeders to reach new heights by sponsoring public scenarios in the form of parades for high-schooled horsemanship, mounted bull fights and a variety of equestrian war games.

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