I like to think I’m pretty easy to please. And I find that most things I want in life are easy to obtain. For example, Chocolate? Check. Sunshine? No problem here! A loving husband and two beautiful boys? Accomplished. But there is one thing in life I’ve been in love with for 15 years, yet I’ve never even seen one in person. I’ve read about them, studied them, even shared my obsession with friends who they themselves are now coveting one. What is it that could be so hard to get?

First of all, let’s make it a bit more suspenseful. This item is not available at your local grocery store, nor can one order it on Amazon.com. Or, to be more specific, one can not find it at your local barn. Or at any barn in the US as far as my research has found. In fact it lives 5900 miles away! That, in and of itself, has presented me with the biggest hurdle of all.
Let me introduce the Criollos horse.

cc by sa Eduardo Amorim

cc by sa Eduardo Amorim

 

In 2000, I spent a few months training horses in Germany. While there, I ran across an article in a magazine about the Argentine Criollos. I’ve kept the article for years in hopes that one day, I’d have the chance to meet one of these amazing creatures. Let me explain. To me, they are a very special, ancient breed. Their history alone is very impressive. For more detail on this, read the wikipedia page here. I especially love the story of Professor Aimé Félix Tschiffely . Tschiffely took two Criollos, 16-year-old Mancha and 15-year-old Gato, on a 13,350 mile (21,500 km) trek from Buenos Aires to ManhattanNew York in 1925-28!

The Criollos horse is known for its hardiness and endurance. It is also shown to be very resilient to diseases and sickness. But what I love most is its conformation. This breed is short, averaging below 15 hands (less than 5′ at the whither) and very muscular. I’ve had my time with 17.2 hand horses and I prefer to be closer to the ground, thank you very much.  I know that horses vary a bit between stud farms and countries (the criollos is found all over South America, most notably in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil) , but the Criollos Horse Breeding Association has been preserving the bloodline for almost 100 years and the Argentine breed is said to be the standard (read more about the characteristics here). Many stud farms further breed horses to their needs; cow savvy, docile, easy to start under saddle and train.

What do I see in these horses? I see potential in dressage, great comfort for the trails, easy care in the stable and great presentation that will turn any head. Let’s explore these ideas a bit further. Dressage: in looking at their conformation and watching YouTube videos of these horses preforming their native cowboy competitions, I see a great, strong hind end that can tuck under itself with ease and turn on a dime. Their neck comes out high at the whither lending to better carriage as well! Of course, training plays a role in this as well. The legs are proportional yet rather short compared to a Thoroughbred or Warmblood. However these legs are thick boned with long angles and rounded sides and flanks. A very well put together horse to handle long hours on the range as well as strong and quick to work cattle. (Or as I see it, built to handle the demands of upper level dressage carriage.)

cc by sa Eduardo Amorim

cc by sa Eduardo Amorim

Trails: Criollos are known for their great endurance. The Marcha, is a famous race of Criollos horses. The horses are turned out together for a month before the race, so training really has nothing to do with success. This race is to see purely what characteristics fair the best, and then they look to pass these traits on. During the race, each horse must carry about 240 pounds. They eat and drink only what they can find along the route. The race is about 460 miles over 15 days!

Easy care: Now these are assumptions which might be wrong, but in reading about the breed, books like Criollos de America and Criollos de Oro tell of a breed that over the centuries has adapted itself to its environ. Who couldn’t benefit from a horse that has strong hooves, is resistant to disease, takes little to feed and is known to take care of itself? And the icing on the top is the beautiful, thick manes and tails that would turn heads in any competition ring.

If you want to learn more about this fabulous horse, I suggest two books:

Criollos de America 

Criollos de Oro

both by Ponce de Leon and Zorrilla

 

Here are a few websites I constantly read:

Just A Criollo

Criollos Horse Breeding Association

The wikipedia page on Criollos Horses