Skip to content

And the horse he rode in on

6 May 2012

… Congratulations to another Mexican athlete nobody knew was out there:  Mario Gutierrez.

Photo: Portland Press-Herald

Despite all the press reports that call him a “rookie jockey” — the Veracruz native has been riding professionally since he was 14.  As is common in Mexico, he was apprenticed by his father.

While Mexico is the source of the rodeo, it has to be pointed out that Mexicans have also mastered the more genteel equestrian sports as well. Mexicans have garnered seven Olympic medals in equestrianism at the Summer Games, and took the bronze in polo at the very first Summer Games in 1900, as well as another Bronze at the 1936 Berlin games (it was a bad year for the master race, and the master horses.  Argentina took the gold, and the British the silver… and polo was dropped from the Summer Games).

Just in passing, something I read the other night pointed out that in the early 1500s about the only Europeans who rode horses and used them for anything other than pulling carts and plows were the era’s “one-percenters”… the nobility.  The exception was the Iberian peninsula, where due to Arab and Moorish influence, horsemanship was widespread, and relatively well-off commoners like Hernan Cortés considered good riding skills to be essential.

The horse was a critical factor in the Spanish conquest.  When Bernal Díaz del Castillo (himself a commoner-horseman) sat down to write his memoirs of the conquest at the age of 80, he couldn’t always remember the names of his fellow human soldiers, but he could recall every one of the horses’ characteristics.

Once the indigenous people’s got over their shock and realized the horses were just animals, and not some mythological creature, they adopted.  The Iberians, recognizing the value and the power horsemanship conferred on them,  tried to limit ridership to themselves.  Because a horseman wears spurs, and some Nahuatl humorist noted the resemblance to the back toe of a turkey.  As a result, the all-purpose ethnic insult for Spaniards have been to call them “Gachupines” — turkey-toes.

The native people did acquire horses (and the Tlaxcalans, as soon as they had horses, turned conquistador themselves, carving out new territory in the north of Mexico, and founding Saltillo and  San Antonio), and the criollo settlers brought their democratic sense that anyone who could own a horse should ride it well, and anyone who could ride a horse well deserved respect.  Emiliano Zapata might have been a village nobody if he wasn’t favored by the dictator Porfirio Díaz’ son-in-law, Ignacio de la Torre y Mier for his ability to handle a horse.

And, of course, raising an Army, and capturing Mexico City is one thing, but handling a horse barrelling down a track at 1 1/4 miles in 2 minutes, 1.83 seconds is a feat of horsemanship which makes even a very little guy a man of respect.
Oh, and congratulations to I’ll Have Another as well.
6 Comments leave one →
  1. 6 May 2012 2:58 pm

    Nice Post – which I shared on facebook

  2. Allen Graham permalink
    6 May 2012 6:34 pm

    It was a great race, hyped as usual. The surprise, by far, was the last, exciting 15 seconds.
    And there was another surprise at the end, the horse was Canadian owned.
    But the news was really about Mario Gutierrez, who apprenticed with his father, in Mexico,
    and Mario does very well in Hastings B.C. Canada, where he is considered a top jockey.
    Mexico-Canada combo ! si !

  3. 6 May 2012 9:11 pm

    On Cinco de Mayo Mario Gutierrez and Mexico ganaron otra vez!!

  4. Juanita Cortez permalink
    6 May 2012 9:17 pm

    Mexico City is home to a classy race track.

    Mario will be lucky to net $100,000 before taxes for his payday. The owners, around a million and a half. They bought the colt for $11,000. Not a bad payback.

  5. 7 May 2012 10:11 pm

    At last, an explanation for “gachupines”! Here in Guanajuato as many as 1,500 horsemen will ride out on several-day “cabalgadas,” which I have assumed meant a troop of horsemen riding somewhere together. When I ask my friend, a passionate horseman, whether this activity is a holdover from the Revolution, he says he thinks it is.

  6. 10 June 2013 8:38 pm

    Speaking of horsemanship, once the Comanches got hold of caballos it was all over for Spanish expansion north of Tejaztlán (Texas to tenderfoots).I can imagine the watchword was “¡No pasarán!” rendered in their Uto-Aztecan tongue. The noted Bay Area underground cartoonist, “Spain” Rodriguez, now passed onto the great Comic Convention in the sky, once tried to convince me that the españoles had done the Comanches and other indigenous peoples a great favor by bringing horses to the New World. I reminded him that the Comanches had stolen those horses, and that gachupines couldn’t very well take credit for such an unwilling contribution to native American mobility and Warfare. To his credit, “Spain” took it well. As a reply to sterlingbennett I’d like to add that Cabalgatas Villistas have been proliferating in the northern Mexican states now for years.

Leave a reply, but please stick to the topic

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s