The horses at Rancho Las Cascadas are the envy of every horse owner in the Central Highlands of Mexico. They are superstar athletes that have been well-trained and conditioned for high performance. The locals recognize the horses as they roam through the various communities and have total respect for the amount of care it takes to develop such fine animals.
Much like the humans at the Rancho, the herd is fed very well. There is always a nutritious and plentiful supply of food. All of the horses can graze on as much criollo corn husk as they wish throughout the day. It is placed at regular intervals in the big black tires located in the pasture so they can munch on it 24/7. Criollo is a pure corn with a sweet husk, which the horses prefer over hybrid corn types that are not sweet. The horses love it and can definitely tell the difference!
For breakfast and dinner, pure alfalfa is served and oats supplement the corn husk twice a day. The horses who work during the day are also given sweet feed before and after their rides to provide the extra calories and energy they need.
New horses at the Rancho go through weeks of training and conditioning. First, they need to acclimate to the herd and find their place (see Hierarchy below). Then, they need to learn their job and build up the stamina to work all day. Guests are not allowed to ride a new horse until the wranglers have had time to ensure the horse understands and reacts well to reining, follows the herd, and behaves well around other horses it may pass/come close to during a ride.
The work load and the amount of rest each horse is given is determined on an individual basis. New horses will gradually work longer and longer days as they become more well-conditioned; and older horses will ride fewer hours as retirement draws near. Generally, the horses start work around 8:30 am (saddling/grooming) and are off duty by 5 pm.
Horses can sleep both standing up and lying down. They are able to doze and enter light sleep while standing and do not need a solid, unbroken period of sleep time. They get the rest they need by nodding off periodically throughout the day, generally in short 15-minute intervals and only need about two and a half hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
Guests who partake in all day rides at the Rancho will notice that lunch breaks tend to extend well past the amount of time it takes to quickly eat a meal. That’s because the wranglers are allowing time for the horses to catch a quick nap and refuel for the ride back to the Rancho.
Horses follow and respect a hierarchy in which new horses need to find their place quickly. Alpha is not determined by age or size, although that can help to place a horse higher in the pecking order. In the Rancho’s herd, Atilla is the lead horse followed by Tango. However, Bronco, a young 5-year old, challenged these positions when he joined the herd earlier this year. His attitude and sheer strength made him a good contender for the top spot, but he couldn’t match the wisdom and leadership abilities of the other two.
The wranglers get to know the horses by watching them play (and fight) together in the pasture. They note how each new horse affects the herd dynamics and use the information to aid in the training process.