On the International Trail

Implications of American Quarter Horses in Costa Rica

The 2017 Verdugo International Horsemanship Camps are now underway – first stop, San Ramón, Costa Rica!

Texas A&M University conducted an International Horsemanship Seminar in Costa Rica with the support of the American Quarter Horse Association William R. Verdugo Grant.

Texas A&M University will be conducting a series of International Horsemanship Camps in Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia with the support of the American Quarter Horse Association William R. Verdugo Grant. The program leader, Jessica Leatherwood, an assistant professor in the animal science department, collaborated with Chance O’Neal, owner of O’Neal Performance Horses in Lubbock, Texas, and undergraduate students Zac O’Neal and Dalton Davis to assist with colt-starting demonstrations.

While conducting the three-day camp, Jessica had an opportunity to visit with Carlos Rodriguez Castro, the current president of ACRICAMDE, known as the encompassing association for breeders of field and sport horses in Costa Rica. This organization also serves as the Costa Rican AQHA affiliate organization. ACRICAMDE, Carlos explained, was founded nearly 15 years ago, and more than 50 percent of the members own American Quarter Horses. Compared to other countries, Carlos considers ACRICAMDE to be a small association. Costa Rica is a relatively small country, and is home to nearly 200 registered American Quarter Horses. The Association hosts six to seven competitions annually, and members enjoy AQHA roping, versatility and barrel racing.

Carlos explained the unique characteristics of American Quarter Horses in Costa Rica. The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed, and people are choosing the American Quarter Horse due to its quiet temperament for young riders, versatility in both judged events and rodeo competitions, as well as the ability to perform daily tasks outside the confines of a competitive arena. The daily use of the American Quarter Horse in ranch work has led to a strong background and interest in cattle events, such as working cow horse, team penning, cutting and roping. Jessica was especially impressed with the ability of camp participants to handle a rope and perform multiple exciting rope tricks!

One of the greatest implications of American Quarter Horse use in Costa Rica is that AQHA events bring families together. Carlos said that although owners may be competitive in the arena, outside they remain friends. Additionally, competitors often drive long distances to bring their families to compete.

With greater than 30 ACRICAMDE members participating in the camp, it was easy for the instructors to experience the family atmosphere, as well as the warm hospitality, that is part of AQHA events in Costa Rica. It was also easy to see how the American Quarter Horse influenced the daily lives of the participants. Participants were very interested in observing the progress made on multiple young horses during three days with the work of Chance O’Neal. They also enjoyed seminars on equine nutrition, bits and bitting, tie-down roping, as well as an introduction to AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse competitions to help the attendees to be better prepared for success in the show pen. The participants also valued the opportunity to work alongside Chance with their own horses for reining and tie-down roping events.

Texas A&M University was proud to have represented AQHA, along with the help of O’Neal Performance Horses. Stay tuned for updates following our next stop in Panama!