Introduction to The Chilean Horse Print E-mail


Not a whole lot has been written about the Chilean Horse breed or the past century.  Certainly books on the subject are limited. The most thorough book until now was written by Uldaricio Prado in 1914 and this classic work was way ahead of its time. Although it was written before any other stock horse breeds even had a formal registry, this incredible piece of literature was an admirable review of the breed. Certainly it set a precedent for books that were to come. Books such as Caballos de America (Dr. Angel Cabrera, 1945), The Horse of the Americas (Robert Denhardt, 1949), Criando Criollos (Ing. Roberto Dowdall, 1982), El Caballo Chileno en el Siglo XX (Alberto Araya Gomez, 1989), Conquerors (Dr. Deb Bennett, 1998) and now my own book The Chilean Horse: the oldest cowhorse of the Americas have all been strongly influenced by the visionary text that gave so much prestige to the first stock horse breed in our hemisphere.

Although only a half a dozen books have been written specifically about some aspect of the Chilean Horse breed, all these have been in Spanish and they have been published in limited numbers.  As a result, a large part of the world has not had access to information about the breed. It is because of this void in equine literature that I have authored this book about the Chilean Horse, and I’d like to think it’s the most comprehensive collection of information available about the breed and how it came to be.

           I want to warn you that this is not your traditional horse breed book. One thing this undertaking has taught me is that, for the most part, horse breeds are a reflection of the people and places that justified their formation. Rarely is a breed created for capricious purposes. Usually, a breed is formed as a result of a regional history that ties into the geographical definitions of the country involved. Often, the objectives of the breed are determined by the type of topography that it was nestled in and by the functions that the breed was expected to perform in a given set of climatic conditions. Lastly, the breed must mold itself to the traits of the culture that has defined its need. All of these aspects are factored into a formula that gave rise to a unique set of criteria that were best met by a breed of choice that helped the men and women of those societies progress.

         I make these remarks because the conventional presentation of a horse breed book is to tell you briefly its origins as a registered breed, its characteristics, its functions and some of the most representative examples of the breed. From the moment you open the first page, you dive into the facts about the breed as it is known today and you quickly come to learn how to identify the breed by established generalities whose justifications are not always clarified to the reader. It’s a quick fix that satisfies most uninformed readers and frustrates most knowledgeable followers of the breed because there is always much more to the story than that.

         Under this format, many horse breed stories have a familiar ring to them. If we look at those that refer specifically to stock horses, the resemblance would be even greater. In this globalized world there is an uncanny similarity in the conformation of the various stock horse breeds that are oftentimes distinguished more by color than by shape or other distinctive traits. If the breed fits this stereotypic cowhorse mold, we can also be at ease with the similarity of its origins and reinforce our unquestioned generalities of what in fact constitutes a stock horse. Every new stock horse breed we read about seemingly reinforces our subjectivity. 

         However, you are about to commence a story of a stock horse breed unlike any other you might have ever read about. Your past perceptions of what you are seeing perform in World Equestrian Games reining, National Reining Horse Association championships, Working Cow Horse, Team Penning, “Doma Vaquera”, “Acoso y Derribo”, “Rejoneo” “Coleando” and Camp Drafting may entice you to hastily make the judgment that this is not a “real” stock horse at all. Some will belittle it as a pony breed that should be meant for children in developmental stages leading to learning to ride the 1.62 m (16 hands) specimens that are becoming a more frequent part of North American stock horse events. Others will disparage the idea of it being a breed of true contention when they learn it has no hot-blooded Arabs or Thoroughbreds in its background. Many will give little credibility to its quality as a stock horse because Chile is never mentioned as a significant beef cattle producing country and there is no knowledge of a cowboy culture within its borders. After all, aren’t the cowboys of South America the gauchos and aren’t their mounts the Criollo breed? Some will be reluctant to think that any horse with such an uncommon type of conformation could ever be a useful athlete. Others simply won’t know what to think from its incomparably thick voluminous forelock, mane and tail.

        Hasty critics may predict a limited intellect that is denoted by it’s the Chilean Horse’s often semi-convex facial profile. Many will presume that a breed where stallions stand gently next to each other must surely be lacking in spirit and heart. The point is that under the traditional format of a breed book, many impetuous judgments would have been made before truly understanding why the Chilean Horse is the way it is. More importantly, such a layout would overlook explaining why the unique qualities of the Chilean Horse merit it serious consideration among the best stock horse breeds of the world.            

         To many English speakers this may be the only book they ever read about the breed. It is my desire that the book will serve to give a thorough introduction to the breed by giving the reader an opportunity to have a very profound understanding of how the breed came about and what it represents today. If the material sparks an interest in becoming a Chilean Horse owner, then I hope this book can continue to serve as a powerful reference to its holder who may contemplate implementing Chilean Horse disciplines, or perhaps ignite a further desire to delve into Chilean Horse breeding. As more practical experience is obtained, no doubt the contents of the book will take on new meaning and rereading this story will give an even more important appreciation for the horses you ride or see foal.

        To the readers that do not have an opportunity to consider the ownership of a Chilean Horse, I think the material contained within these pages should still seem extremely interesting due to the novelty of the contents. Regardless of what breed you are associated with, the information on equitation, training, prominent breeders, tack, etc., all make for an intriguing read because they offer such original examples, some of which may serve to re-evaluate the reader’s manner of thinking about these topics, regardless of whether they agree with them or not.

         In the end, my friends, the story about horse breeds is the story of mankind and how societies reflect the image of their surrounding world. The study of any common ground throughout the human race should help us to identify with foreign cultures, regardless of how different they may seem from our own. Furthermore, this permits us to more openly contemplate those differences between us that make the world such an interesting place. Oftentimes, it takes a universal interest such as the appreciation of the horse to broaden our outlook in a manner that will permit us to acknowledge the fact that we are all honorable members of humanity. I truly hope this “whole story” of the captivating Chilean Horse breed will bring you closer to such an understanding. 

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