Charro de Corazon

Jerry Diaz brought the pageantry of charro horsemanship to the masses. Now, as he passes the lessons of four generations of horsemen on to his young son, Diaz hopes he'll be remembered as more than just a specialty act.
A soft mist taunts drought-stricken pastures as I make my way up the driveway leading to the Three Creek Ranch, located outside New Braunfels, Texas. In the alley of a modest barn, Gerardo "Jerry" Diaz puts his black gelding, Lucero, through his paces. The horse is feather-light as he floats from gait to gait in perfect frame.

Jerry's position in the saddle never alters, nor does his hand move from its single position on the riendas, or reins. The "chinging" of the rein chains and Lucero's rhythmic breathing break the silence as man and mount move effortlessly as one, each the product of years of training in traditional charro horsemanship methods.

These techniques emerged in the early 16th Century as the charro, or Mexican cowboy, honed his horsemanship skills on Spanish haciendas, and later showcased his abilities in the charreada, a type of Mexican rodeo.

The true charro is a master horseman of unparalleled ability, working with skill, elegance and dignity, performing maneuvers with a complexity rivaling upper-level dressage and a flavor influenced by generations of stockmen who depended on horses every day.

Passed down from Jerry's great-grandfather, a Spanish horseman, and continued by his grandfather and father in Mexico, the charro way of life is Jerry's first love, and the 46-year-old is perhaps today's best-known charro. His sold-out extravaganzas at rodeos - from the Forth Worth Stock Show to Denver's National Western - include spectacular displays of horsemanship, trick roping, a mariachi band and the pageantry of the Mexican and Spanish horse cultures.

April 2007 edition of Western Horseman.