As a student of horsemanship, I discovered several years ago while working with a Ranch buyer from California, who is also an avid horseman, that he was unaware that there is a strong culture of Vaquero horsemanship here in Montana. As Vaquero horsemanship evolved from Spain to Mexico to the Southwest of the US and became dominate in California during the 17 and 1800’s that evolution has included an expansion of the terms to describe it.
Following the gold rush in California the large ranches in California begin to break up and the ranchers migrated north and west into Northern California, Oregon, Nevada and Idaho. With that migration the term Vaquero, with the Spanish pronunciation with a hard v or “ba’kero”, the anglicized version became buckaroo, a term that is still used. The original Vaquero, who trained their horses to such a degree that it is truly an art form, did employ some crude methods, particularly in the early stages of that training. The continued refinement of this training method eliminated the crudeness and has become very commonly known as the Natural Horsemanship Method, with its most famous contributors being Bill and Tom Dorrance who were mentors to Ray Hunt. Ray became a world famous clinician and mentored the likes of Buck Brannaman. Buck was born and raised here in Montana and attended his first Ray Hunt clinic here. The Buckaroo migrated to Montana and Wyoming in the late 1800’s and many of the larger ranches here in Montana are staffed with practitioners of this art. The evolution has continued with many of Ray and Buck’s students and assistances having learned the art to the point that they live in Montana and provide clinics and lessons throughout the State.
The result of all of this is that Vaquero style horsemanship, Buckaroo horsemanship or Natural Horsemanship is alive and well here in Montana!