The Californio Bridlehorse Association will host the fifth annual Early Californios Skills of the Rancho. The event honors traditional Californio horsemanship and stockmanship still used by working cowboys today.

More than 150 riders of different levels–from youth and novices to top working cowboys and professional horsemen–from California and other western states will convene at the Elk Arena in Santa Maria, California, July 6-9 to compete for thousands of dollars in cash and prizes in classes designed to showcase the masterful horsemanship, proficient roping and methodical stockmanship techniques brought to California by the early Spanish vaqueros and refined through time.

“There was no place to show horses in the California style of riding that promoted learning opportunities for novice and intermediate riders to get involved,” explains Bruce Sandifer, found of the CBA and producers of the event. “We want to create an environment where people can come and share what they know and learn from each other with a fiesta-style attitude.”

horseThis style of riding, still practiced on working ranches, is more than a philosophy to the competitors; it’s a mindset and value system that is reflected in how horses and cattle are Handled, and how the competitors conduct themselves. Classes tests the riders’ skills in guiding their horse through a horsemanship pattern with precision, effectively sorting and roping cattle, and working not only with a crew of cowboys but also in unison with their horses. Riders are required to wear traditional Western attire, including chinks or armitas, and show their horses in a phase of the traditional bridle-horse training process, whether it’s the hackamore, two-rein or straight up in the bridle. Tie-downs, bits with broken or hinged mouthpieces other mechanical devices are not permitted. Competitors use a rope or reata that least 45 feet long, and they must dally around their saddle horn, rather than tie on hard and fast as is common on ranches in the Southwest. Their saddle horns must be wrapped in smooth mulehide that allows them to slip their dallies and run their ropes.

“We’re trying to promote a sustainable way of not only working cattle but also horses,” says Sandifer. “We want to see people riding in a way that is the most beneficial for their horses. We want to bring longevity back into horsemanship.”

The event kicks off on Thursday, July 6 at noon and will run throughout the weekend. On Saturday night California singer-songwriter Mike Beck will perform in a concert free to the public. The exciting open doctoring finals will take place on Sunday at noon.

Vendors of high-quality custom gear and artwork will be set up throughout the weekend. The event is free to the public. For more information visit the Early Californios Skills of the Rancho Facebook page or the Californio Bridlehorse Association website at

About the Early Californios Skills of the Rancho and the CBA

The Early Californios Skills of the Rancho will be held July 6-9 at the Santa Maria Elks Arena in Santa Maria, California. More than 150 horsemen and –women of all ages and skill levels will compete for cash and prizes in events designed to showcase traditional vaquero horsemanship skills and stock-handling methods. There will also be a trade show with vendors selling traditional Californio-style art and trappings. The event is open and free to spectators.

The Californio Bridlehorse Association (CBA) was formed in 2008 by horseman Bruce Sandifer of Santa Barbara, California, to preserve a style of horsemanship and stockmanship developed during the mission era of early California. The techniques and equipment used by the Californios were passed down within families and so secretly guarded they were almost lost through time. The efforts of the CBA are helping keep these traditions alive in their purest form.

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