With the arrival of the Patagonian summer in February comes the start of the “jineteada” season, which are horse riding competitions that take place in the south of Chile and Argentina at this time of year. They are hugely exciting events in which young men (there may be female participants too, however I am yet to see any), mostly gauchos from the local area, see how long they can stay on top of a bucking horse.
Historically the word jinete in Spanish meant ‘horseman’, a derivation of the Berber word ‘zenata’. In modern Spanish a jinete is considered to be someone that rides a horse well, and the phrase ‘es un muy buen jinete’ is often used when praising an individuals ability on horseback. The jineteadas that take place in the very south of Chile at this time of year are horse-riding competitions that are deeply rooted in the gaucho culture of the area.
The main aim of the rider is to stay on top of a young, untamed horse (a bagual in Spanish) for a specified amount of time. The riders are awarded points based on: their performance, that of the horse (how much it bucks (corcovear)), their use of the spurs and the elegance of the ride. Once the allocated time is up a bell sounds and the rider, if he is still mounted, must stop competing. He is then removed from the horse and the horse is taken back to the corrales or paddock.
The three categories are as follows:
Crina limpia or potro pelado (bareback): This is the most difficult of all of the categories (and therefore in my opinion the best one to watch!) as the jinete has very little to hold on to once on the horse. A leather strap is placed around the neck of the horse and the rider must ensure that the spurs he is wearing are always in contact with the body of the horse throughout the ride. The jinete holds the reins in one hand and in the other a leather strap or riding crop which he uses to strike the sides of the horse in order to encourage the animal to buck more. The aim is for the rider to stay on the horse for 8 seconds.
Gurupa sureña: The horse has the leather strap placed around its neck as above, however in addition a sheepskin pad is placed on top of the horse and secured using a leather strap around its stomach which gives the rider a better grip. There are no stirrups on the horse, instead the rider ties a piece of sheep leather around the lower part of each of his legs in order to have a better grip on the body of the horse. The reins are held in one hand and the rider aims to stay on the horse for 12 seconds. The jinete uses a riding crop which he moves from side to side, striking the animal in order to make it buck.
Basto con encimera: In this category stirrups are used. The jinete cannot take his feet out of them at any moment, nor is he allowed to charquear (touch the horse with his hands) as this will lose him points. The rider aims to stay on the horse for 15 seconds. Most towns in the south of Chile have a special ‘pista de jineteada’ which consists of a fenced-off, rectangular area. There is a small stage on one side (where the judges, singer and announcer sit) and then there are three wooden posts (palenques) driven into the ground at one of the ends of the field. The horses are tied to these palenques whilst being mounted by the jinetes. The comisario de pista is the main authority on the field, and he gives a signal once the rider and horse are ready so that the largada can take place – this is when the horse is untied from the palenque and the clock starts. In order for the largada to take place the horse must have all four hooves on the ground and show no signs of bucking.
Now, when you go riding across our private reserve at Awasi Patagonia, you might want to ask one of the gauchos whether they have competed in a jineteada. You never know, they might even give you a demonstration – or better still, teach you – of some of their skills!
This text is an adaptation from Kura’s blog: http://pitterpatagonia.com/2015/02/04/jineteadas-a-taste-of-gaucho-culture/