Marquis Farrier Service
What Is Doma Vaquera

"Doma"  when translated from Spanish to English means "Dressage". "Vaquera" means "Cowboy". So when translated to English we get Cowboy Dressage!

The style of riding, tack, dress and discipline of the working horses evolved into what we see today. Doma Vaquera is a style of horse riding we mainly see today in competitions hear in the States, Spain & other countries.

In years past and still today in Spain on working cattle ranches, it was a way of riding that  enabled the Vaquero to perform daily duties on horseback. It was especially developed out of the use of the horse for handling the fighting bulls of Spain. It grew out of decades of daily work with them in the open fields and country sides. The Vaquero's also used a Garrocha which is a long pole which is still used today in Spain for controlling herds of cattle and testing bulls while on horseback.

 The Vaquero rider sees a friend and a companion in his horse. These friends must rely on each other in dangerous situations! At any moment in a day's work (when separating the bulls or cattle), one has the opportunity to save the other's life when facing the bulls.  These bulls are very quick! So both horse & rider have to always be ready and be on the watch for a charging bull! This trust that develops between the horse & rider helps to create a unity between them.

 In the training of a Doma Vaquera horse, fostering this deep friendship with mutual respect is always the goal.

Doma Vaquera in Competition Today

 Doma Vaquera competitions today involve a test performed in a pattern, similar to dressage, but  without the Garrocha.

One idea for competing in these competitions and getting your  horse to perform these exercises is that it helps preserve this style of riding as a lost art! It is not just to merely accomplish the exercises needed for the test that were after when training our horse, but it is to do so with

 "Art, Beauty, Lightness and Joy................

Now this is what I'm learning is Doma Vaquera"!


Modern Doma Vaquera competitions provide a challenging test for both the horse and rider. Basic through Advanced levels, they are performed in a 60mx20m arena.  You will see a basic rhythmic walk, working trot on up to explosive gallops from a standing start, skid stops, canter pirouettes & spins are a few of the demands of these tests that you will see performed.
Doma Vaquera is one of the styles of equitation in Spain, another being Doma Clasica ( classical equitation). Doma de Trabajo (working equitation).

Aire Vaquero

Horse and rider must be aware of the ‘aire vaquero’.
Although the three tests are standardized, there should be a quality of spontaneity and brilliance which flows through horse and rider. In training it is necessary to avoid the horse becoming anticipatory of the movements, otherwise the test can look dull and monotonous. No matter what level you are riding, remember the "air of pride" that is special to this Spanish cattle-working style. To be able to perform the test with joy and "heart" and passion - that is what Doma Vaquera is truly about.


 In addition to creating a willing partnership with your horse, an 'air and attitude of proud ness' of the vaquero is what distinguishes this riding style from others. Developing your riding skills and confidence in any discipline will help you in your Doma Vaquera.

Let us look at this  discipline a little closer to have the opportunity to understand the  movements, expression and essence which goes into making a true  Doma Vaquera horse & rider.


The rider should present an air of pride and confidence in his performance. The judges look for individuality and flair. Although a high percentage of the score is made up from the basic movements of walk, trot, canter and gallop, a rider can help his chances and improve his overall score by his presentation and style.



The rider may provide appropriate music (Spanish or Latin guitar without vocals) to be played during the test.

Reins, one or two hands

The reins are held in the left hand with the little finger between them. It is permissible to adjust the rein length with the right hand.
The right hand is to be placed on the thigh while in the walk and the trot.


 At the canter and gallop the hand is gently closed and placed across the stomach of the rider. Junior horses (up to 5 years old) may  be ridden in a snaffle with two hands on the reins. A Serretta is used on Junior horses with double reins. One set of reins connected to the Snaffle bit and other set connected to the Serretta.



 The arena size should be 20 x 60 meters.
The judges sit at the opposite end of where the exhibitor enters.

The Entrance

The entrance to the arena is always at a working canter on the right lead, from marker A to C.
The subsequent halt is marked according to the straightness and position from the entrance, the weight distribution over the hindquarters and the immobility of the horse.


The Walk

The walk should be strong and purposeful with regularity of steps. Hind hooves passing the print of the fore hooves. It must be with impulsion.

Straightness on a line and with curvature on a 9mm circle and remembering to maintain the liveliness, cadence, and impulsion. A fundamental movement in Doma Vaquera.

Your horse should be moving with impulsion and rhythm, and with a proud attitude. In competition, a 'mosquero', made of long strips of leather or braided horsehair is attached to the bridle's brow band. The mosquero is expected to be moving in a lively and rhythmic manner back and forth during the walk.

  Communication with your horse is mainly through your seat aids, weight transfer from one stirrup to the other. Also look in the direction your going.


The Trot

Very little is done in the trot in Doma Vaquera, must have regularity of steps but your horse should be able to perform a collected trot with straightness and also in circles, and make correct walk-trot and trot-canter transitions.


The Canter

The canter and gallop must be steady and true, with impulsion and cadence. Also with straightness on a line and with correct curvature on the circle. The canter is the predominant gait in this discipline, and requires agility, strength, and a boldness of movement. the gallop, collected, working, and extended, should be true and cadenced with impulsion, balanced and centered, and not on the forehand. Like the walk, the rider should demonstrate to the judge with clarity and completeness the generousness and quality of his mount." Always look to where you are headed. This gives your horse the opportunity continually position himself for the next move.


Counter Canter

Counter canter with the head slightly to the outside of the circle. The movement should be even and balanced.


The Arrear

From either a stop or canter the horse sprints and gallops forward with great strength and power. The neck should be allowed to extend and the rider show good control and communication as he collects and slows down sufficiently to make a clean 180 turn and gallops again in the opposite direction, repeating the collection and turn.
The fast stop should be made from the ‘arrear’, with straightness, balance and determination. The hindquarters well underneath and no lifting or jerking of the head.


The Half-Pass

The half pass should have rhythm and balance with the forehand leading the bend in the direction of the movement. Half pass at canter should be balanced and with the forequarters leading, bent in the direction of travel.

The Full Pass

The full pass is also made with the bend in the direction of the movement but with as little forward motion as possible.


Half Pirouette

Half pirouette (turn on the haunches) on a straight line without losing impulsion on the turn. No rearward steps of the hind feet as they mark the rhythm in the smallest circle possible. Head curved slightly in the direction of travel.


Reverse Pirouette

Reverse pirouette (turn on the forehand) on a straight line without losing impulsion on the turn. Forelegs marking the rhythm in the smallest circle possible with heads held slightly outwards. There should be no rearward steps, and unlike a Western-style rollback, your horse must pick up and place the pivot leg, showing cadence in the turn as well as the exit into the straight line.


Flying Changes

Flying changes should be straight and smooth.



Rollbacks are executed from either a walk, canter or gallop. The horse should be straight and deep in the hindquarters as he stops to turn 180, leaving with impulsion and no loss of fluidity.


Rein Back

Should be straight with lightness in hand. Horse should be collected. A  minimum of 4 steps back in Basico and at the end it should be at least 6-10 steps and will follow a fast, balanced stop from the canter. Rein back should be made with true straightness and even diagonal steps. A sense of lightness and readiness to either pause or move forward is required.



The tail hair is either cut square and short or tied into a field knot.
A gelding or mare would have the forelock shaved. Manes are either cropped or braided in to small tight buttons.


This is some of the maneuvers that are performed in competition for Doma Vaquera.  Next let us consider what type of saddle, bit & riding clothes that are required for competition.

If you are ready for more, at the intermediate level, the test requires the addition of canter half-pass, flying lead changes, and 180 degree roll backs. The full test, whether as a free style or in the defined patterns, the horse and rider must demonstrate the collected canter as well as the extended, which is "not simply an extended gallop but the horse initiates a gallop extending his neck and utilizing his strength to develop an energetic gallop on a short space."

This is followed by a collected canter and performed in both directions and also by a skid stop (stop with hind legs well under.) At this advanced level, you will also add the counter canter (on the circle), half voltes, full passes, canter pirouettes, and two time or one time flying lead changes. Whew! 


Website Builder