In the competitive reined cow horse arena, the finesse of modern horsemanship blends seamlessly with time-tested training methods. The show horses of today trace their performance roots to the meticulous, centuries-old process used by the California vaquero to create his most valuable working partner: a horse that could be controlled by a whisper-light touch on the reins, yet still possess the speed and grit to master the rankest cattle.The culture of the vaquero springs from the early Spanish and Mexican horseman of California who managed range-bred livestock on the vast “Californio” ranches during the 18th to the and part of the 19th centuries. Many historical accounts describe the rank and wild nature of these cattle. The vaqueros needed a quick-footed, intelligent horse with nerves of steel to assist them with daily chores like branding, sorting and doctoring. A trusted cow horse was a necessity, not an option, and over time, the vaquero developed a training system still revered for its elegance and precision.
For almost 150 years, the reined cow horse was famous throughout California and into the West. In the early- to mid-19th century, the Gold Rush changed the complexion and future of California. The influx of newcomers into the Golden State helped to dissolve the vast cattle ranches of earlier days. On the ranches that did remain, modern livestock management techniques and machinery eventually eliminated much of the need for a well-trained, versatile working horse.