Equestrian Nation: Mexico

12 March 2021

We look at Mexico's rich equestrian traditions...

Mexico’s history and culture are deeply entwined with horses, most famously through the charro so often portrayed in Western films from Hollywood’s golden era.

 

Dressed in their distinctive sombrero, heavily embroidered jacket and tightly cut trousers, the charro cowboys were brave and highly skilled horse riders, tamers and herders in real life as well on the movie screens. They became national heroes for the part they played in fighting landowners in the Mexican War for Independence in the early 19th century.

 

Horses remain important to Mexican life, with the charrería (similar to Western riding) considered the national sport, as highlighted by its addition to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2016. Mexico also enjoys impressive participation rates in the FEI-recognised disciplines and has achieved notable successes over the years.

 

Let’s take a closer look at Mexico’s equestrian culture…

 

 

 Breeds 

The Azteca breed is the national horse of Mexico, and they are the stars of the show in the charros competitions that are similar to the rodeos seen in the US.

 

Officially recognised as recently as the 1970s, the Azteca was the first breed to be developed in Mexico. Veterinarians, breeders and government officials came together with the target of developing a breed that would resemble the Mexican Criollo of Spanish descent which played a rich part in the country’s history though not native and nearly extinct today.

 

The Azteca is comprised of Andalusian, American Quarter Horse and Mexican Criollo or Criollo.

 

They are known for their athleticism and good temperament and are widely used in competitions, although rarely seen in ‘English’-style disciplines.

 

The Mexican Sport Horse is a recent creation that owes much of its success to Mexico's La Silla and La Escondida breeding programmes. The most prominent CCDM (Criadores de Caballos Deportivos Mexicanos) horse is Babel, the partner of Patricio Pasquel, who is currently ranked in the world’s top 50 in Jumping.

Mexico has
enjoyed some
major
successes!

 Participation and Events 

While many more people compete in charro events, participation in FEI-recognised disciplines is increasing rapidly in Mexico. The Mexican Equestrian Federation runs a programme targeting excellence in high performance that is assisted by private and public funding. It also runs a programme for youth.

 

Mexico has around 2,000 registered athletes and 3,000 registered horses. Within those figures there are around 1,000 FEI-registered horses and 350 FEI-registered athletes, with both these growing by more than 10% each year.

 

 

Participation has been boosted by a greater number of major events, with 53 FEI-sanctioned shows in 2019 compared to just seven in 2014. The two-week national championship hosts more than 1,100 horses per week. Major facilities include La Silla in Monterrey, Otomi in San Miguel de Allende, Balvanera in Queretaro, Puebla and Leon.

 

Guadalajara and Leon have played host to Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ qualifiers in recent years, with Coapexpan one of the highlights of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ season. The Guadalajara Country Club is a really special location!

 

Mexico City has hosted the Longines Global Champions Tour annually for some years. The event is hugely popular, attracting thousands of spectators at the beautiful Campo Marte venue within the historic Chapultepec Park.

 

The Campo Marte showground has an incredible festive atmosphere, with Mariachi performers providing thrilling and colourful cultural entertainment, and delicious local cuisine showcased in the hospitality lounges around the event. Recent winners include Daniel Deusser and Scott Brash.

 

 

Mexico City hosted the Olympic Games in 1968, with nations advised to ship in horses around a month before the competition to allow them to adjust to the altitude level of 2,300 metres above sea level.

 

Mexico City also staged the Pan American Games in 1955 and 1975, with Guadalajara playing host in 2011. At the latter, Steffen Peters won Dressage gold on Weltino's Magic, with Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti taking the Eventing prize.

 Equestrian Stars 

Mexico’s greatest achievements in equestrian came in the 1948 Olympics in London in front of 82,000 spectators at a packed Wembley Stadium.

 

Humberto Mariles and Arete took Jumping gold, with compatriot Rubén Uriza and Hatuey in second. Mexico’s ‘dream team’ – including Alberto Valdés and Chihuahua – also won the Team event.

 

Mariles was also part of the Mexico team that won Eventing bronze, making him the first-ever equestrian athlete to win three medals in a single Games. It was an incredible performance from the Mexicans, who had never won a single equestrian medal before!

 

 

Alberto Valdés’ son Alberto Valdés Lacarra also won a Team Jumping bronze at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, with Mexico also winning Eventing bronze. In recent decades, Jaime Azcarraga finished sixth at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul while Alberto Michan came fifth at London 2012.

 

 

Mexico’s biggest name currently in Jumping is Patricio Pasquel, who has been in the top 100 riders in the Longines Rankings for some years. Young talent Eugenio Garza is also establishing himself among the international elite. Both were part of the Mexican team that triumphed so impressively in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ events in Dublin, Ireland and Wellington, Florida in 2018 and 2019.

 

Enrique Gonzalez, Santiago Lambre and Federico Fernandez are three other big names, while youngster Daniel Rihan is considered a clear candidate to excel.

 

Equestrian Nation celebrates the rich traditions of countries across the world, from how horses have impacted a place's history to its current sport champions. Check back through our previous editions:

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