Doma Vaquera Competition

Introduction to Doma Vaquera Rules

In the U.S., the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association (IALHA) offers doma vaquera as a competition class. The class is open to registered Andalusians, Lusitanos, and half-bred Andalusians. Once you and your horse have received the highest score (i.e., first place) at the National Championship show, you must compete in the next level, which is intermediate.

IALHA show rules may be downloaded from the internet at the USA Equestrian (formerly AHSA) website. For current doma vaquera rules, you may also write to the IALHA for a copy of the show rulebook.

The Pattern for Doma Vaquera

The doma vaquera basic pattern is very simple. It has three gaits (walk, working trot, working canter), a stop, and a reinback. The pattern is composed of circles, straight lines, corner turns, a turn on the haunches and a turn on the forehand. Doma vaquera is normally performed to Spanish classical guitar music. If you show competitively, you may bring a compact disc of your favorite music. According to the rules, this music must be “Spanish or Latin guitar, classical or modern without vocals.” 

During the test, all walk and trot work requires that you carry the reins in your left hand and place your right hand on your right thigh with you “thigh thumb forward and fingers behind”. During canter work, you must carry your right hand with your arm crossed in front of your body (as if it were holding the bight of an imaginary rein). This is alot harder to do than it sounds. You’ll need to practice holding your right hand on your thigh and raising it during the trot to canter transitions.

The arena used for doma vaquera competition is supposed to be 160 feet by 60 feet. It’s quite long and narrow. The judge sits at the far end. There may or may not be letter markers along the sides of the arena.

Before you can ride in the doma vaquera competition, you must line up for “inspection”. This tradition comes from the Spanish who are very particular about the clothing combinations and tack that are used. Even when parading, such as at the Feria in Seville, Spain, riders can be turned away if they are not properly attired.

Tack and Apparel for Doma Vaquera

The IALHA has decided to allow riders to compete in non-native tack for basic and intermediate level competitions. This flexibility allows newcomers to the sport to have a try at it without the necessity of investing in an expensive saddle and outfit that are unique to the sport. However, there is still an unspoken expectation that your gear and clothing will be show quality. The rulebook states “any saddle and bridle” may be used but then clarifies “appropriate wardrobe is to be worn and the judge will have the final word on allowing an entry to show. The rule should apply for the particular discipline that is listed in the IALHA rule book”. 

So far, I have only seen alternative wardrobe in the western pleasure style and have not seen an English rider. Another problem with the alternative rule is that the rulebook states “junior horses may be ridden in a snaffle with two hands on the reins.” Then how do you ride the proper doma vaquera way with one hand on your thigh? If you are riding western, be sure to check the rules for western pleasure appointments (your dress shirt, tie, spurs, and saddle, etc.)

If you choose to compete in native costume, it is best to get the advice and assistance of dealers who specialize in native tack. These dealers sell their wares at the National and Regional shows. Note that the doma vaquera saddle is never used with a saddle pad.

Grooming your Andalusian for Doma Vaquera

Your horse should be presented as well groomed as possible. The rule states, “The tail hair is either cut short or tied into a field knot. Long manes may be braided. No colored ribbons shall be used in the mane or tail. Martingales and leg protectors are prohibited. The horse may wear shoes or be unshod. Special sliding shoes are prohibited.”

Obviously, since we don’t ride “hacas” or crossbred geldings in the U.S., our horses do not have docked tails! A docked tail is common for a haca. A field knot takes some experience to know how to do correctly. We have a video that shows how to do tie the knot. If you ride your horse in western tack, I’m not sure what they expect. If riding in traditional tack, it’s important to knot the tail and correctly braid the mane. One way of braiding the longer mane is to divide it into sections, braid each section, then fold up the section and tie it off underneath itself. Be sure to use natural cord or yarn and not rubber bands.  

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