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article imagePassion for horses: ‘Puro Caballo’ equestrian center, Casablanca Special

By Igor I. Solar     Mar 14, 2011 in World
Casablanca - Located in the Casablanca Valley, a major wine-producing region of Chile, Puro Caballo (Just Horses) highlights the beauty and nobility of the Chilean Horse, historic equestrian traditions and fine local gastronomy.
La Vega Ranch, home of Puro Caballo, is near Lagunillas (Little-Lakes), an ancient town of about 700 people which seems to have remained stuck in the past, particularly after a new highway linking the city of Casablanca with the Port of San Antonio by-passed the already sleepy town.
The owners of the ranch have been breeding purebred Chilean Horses for about 80 years and at one point decided to showcase their activity to the public by displaying the fine animals, showing their particular characteristics and demonstrating their abilities in the Chilean Rodeo, a traditional competitive sport that originated around the 16th Century and in 1962 was declared by law, the national sport.
The Chilean Rodeo
The Chilean Rodeo is very different from the Rodeo celebrated in North America. Although, as in the North American version, it is also based on demonstrating the skills of working cowboys (in Chile they are referred to as “huasos”), the Chilean Rodeo focuses on the ability of two horse riders working as a team, running laps in a half-moon arena attempting to stop a steer by pinning him against massive cushions. Points are earned when the steer is properly driven around the corral and stopped by pressing it against the cushion at various point along the body. There are many complex regulations in connection with the horsemanship and controlling of the steer movements, but some of the most essential are that the riders must wear typical huaso attire and ride on Chilean Horses.
Huasos riding on Chilean Horses demonstrate their skills during exhibition of Chilean Rodeo  the cou...
Huasos riding on Chilean Horses demonstrate their skills during exhibition of Chilean Rodeo, the country's national sport.
The Chilean Horse
The Chilean Horse is of Iberian origin, descendant of the Andalusian Horse also known as Pure Spanish Horse. History tells that these horses were brought to South America by the Spanish Conquistadores, initially to Peru and then further south for the conquest of the farthest reaches of the Continent, the Chilean territory. Initially around 1536, Diego de Almagro and later, around 1544, Pedro de Valdivia and their soldiers, rode Andalusian Horses in their gruelling travels across the Andes Mountains and the Atacama Desert to battle the fierce Mapuche aboriginal Indians determined to stop the advance of the helmeted invaders and their terrifying horses.
Equestrian Statue of Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia (ca. 1500-1553)  at the main square in S...
Equestrian Statue of Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia (ca. 1500-1553), at the main square in Santiago de Chile.(Bronze, Enrique Pérez Comendador, 1972).
Paul Lowry
Many horses died in the expeditions. The high demand of long, arduous trekking through some of the most
Painting of Mapuche Indian leader Lautaro and his horse  at the national museum in Santiago  Chile.
Painting of Mapuche Indian leader Lautaro and his horse, at the national museum in Santiago, Chile.
National Museum - Chile
inhospitable terrain on Earth screened the animals and only the best and most resistant survived. Many of the conquistadores lost their life in the conquering campaigns.They also lost many horses which either died in battle or were captured by the Mapuche Indians. It did not take long until the Indians had mastered the control of the animals and became outstanding horsemen. Following independence from Spain, many land owners started breeding the animals, keeping systematic records of the genealogy of the horses, and a pure race of selected, genetically defined stock, was developed. The mountains, the desert and the ocean contributed to keep the stock isolated allowing the purity of the horses to remain unblemished.
In 1893, a group of breeders concerned about the introduction of agricultural machinery and motorized transportation, which could threaten the use and breeding of horses in the country, called for the opening of a purebred registration and the promotion of the race breeding. Thus, in that year, the Chilean Horse Registry was established at a time when the idea of formalizing equine breeds did not exist in America. This makes the Chilean Horse having the oldest pedigree record in South America, the third oldest in the Western Hemisphere, and the only horse breed that has always maintained a closed registry.
Stables at Puro Caballo Equestrian Centre  Lagunillas  Casablanca.
Stables at Puro Caballo Equestrian Centre, Lagunillas, Casablanca.
Fernando Rodriguez  shows the beautiful general appearance of one of his top purebred Chilean Horses...
Fernando Rodriguez shows the beautiful general appearance of one of his top purebred Chilean Horses. Puro Caballo, Lagunillas.
Horses at Puro Caballo
Fernando Rodriguez, owner of Puro Caballo is proud to show his prized animals and to talk about their qualities:
IIS: What are the main features that characterize a Chilean Horse?
FR: Full grown horses of this breed generally weigh between 380 and 500 kilos. They have a semi-convex frontal facial profile. The eyes are partially covered by the lid but not sunken in the socket. The nostrils are large but do not protrude past the nose. The breed has thick, coarse and wavy forelock, mane and tail. The skin is very thick and resistant to insects and abrasions. They are very hardy, have a low metabolic rate and can subsist well even on poor quality feed. They are resistant to disease and if they fall sick or injured, they show a strong capacity for recovery. Their temperament is generally docile, but they are attentive, energetic and courageous.
Fernando Rodriguez shows the head features of one of his purebred Chilean Horses at Puro Caballo  La...
Fernando Rodriguez shows the head features of one of his purebred Chilean Horses at Puro Caballo, Lagunillas.
Chilean Horse and Huaso rider wearing typical garb. Puro Caballo  Lagunillas.
Chilean Horse and Huaso rider wearing typical garb. Puro Caballo, Lagunillas.
IIS: Why is the Chilean Horse considered a distinct pure breed?
FR: The Chilean Horse is an original breed started from Iberian horses imported from Spain to the Americas more than 400 years ago. They have been selected and adapted to the climate and topography of Chile and to fulfil the cultural needs of its people, particularly their performance in the Chilean Rodeo. There has not been another breed stock contributing to the genealogy of these horses; the registry has never been open to another breed.
Chilean Horse at the stable. Puro Caballo  Lagunillas.
Chilean Horse at the stable. Puro Caballo, Lagunillas.
IIS: Have Chilean Horses been exported to other countries?
FR: Some of the horses currently existing in Australia and South Africa arrived there from Chile. About 400 Chilean Horses were exported to Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil during the second half of the 20th century. A few animals have also been sent to Europe, mainly Germany. Few horses have also been exported to the USA competing well alongside American stock horse breeds.
Besides the activities associated to the breeding of horses and rodeo training, Puro Caballo is also a place where locals and visitors from other countries, particularly from cruise ships visiting the port of Valparaíso, can see an exhibition of the national sport, the Chilean Rodeo, have a country style meal at the Puro Caballo restaurant, and acquire horse related souvenirs and handicrafts.
Entrance sign at the Puro Caballo Equestrian Centre in Lagunillas  Casablanca.
Entrance sign at the Puro Caballo Equestrian Centre in Lagunillas, Casablanca.
More about Horses, Purebred horse, Chilean Horse, Chilean Rodeo, Chilean wine
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