An Introduction to Acoso y Derribo (Feria de Caballo, Jerez, 2006)
Having recently relocated from Madrid to Arcos de la Frontera, near Jerez, I was delighted to attend a national competition of acoso y derribo, along with Shelly Frape, at Vicos, the military stud farm. It coincided with my first month in my new home and was an apt and thoroughly enjoyable introduction to life in my new land. Shelly has written a report on the day's events, but I have included some photographs and would like to add some basic technical details for those CTL members who would like to attend future events, and may not know (as I didn't) very much about this fascinating and really exciting sport, deriving from managing cattle on the open range.
Being a national competition, lasting two days, it was obligatory that four cows were "run" by each team, consisting of a "collera" or pair of horsemen, (one "garrochista" and one "amparador") The garrochista is responsible for "derribando" the cow, or knocking her to the ground with a long lance or "garrocha", supported by his amparador or helper, who plays the major part in the "acoso" or run up (at least 600 metres), along the "corredero" from the "rodeo" or pens to the rectangle or "cuadrilatero" (also known as the soltadero), where the cow must be knocked down: a maximum of two times for a brave cow and three times for a non brave cow or "mansa". The cuadrilatero always measures 120x50 meters and is marked out by flags.
On this occasion, each collera ran two brave cows on the first day, one on the second day, and finally one mansa cow (of the Limosin breed) Each "echada" or knock down is awarded points, to a maximum of six points per echada. Brave cows can therefore score a maximum of 12 points and mansas 18. So, in national events, maximum obtainable points per collera are 3 bravas X 12 plus 1 mansa X 18 = 54 points. (An additional tie-breaker run may also happen to decide the winner).
Maximum points are awarded for an echada known as a "voltereta" (6 points). A voltereta involves the garrochista making contact with the cow at the root of her tail or "solana", "tocando carne", pushing her off balance as they gallop along, and producing a fall that obliges her to fall first on the left side, then on the right, so turning 180 degrees. If the cow only falls on the left side without flipping over, 3 points are awarded for a half turn or "media echada". Negative points can also be accumulated. The following list explains most of the possible points attainable:
Echada with voltereta 6 points
Echada without voltereta 3 points
The collera doesn’t take the cow from the rodeo together, known as "de forma tradicional" 3points
The cow is pushed and falls before arriving at the cuadrilatero 5 points
"Pasar el palo por alto", the garrocha skims over the back of the cow 1 point
"Marronazo", the garrochista pushes the cow with the garrocha, but no fall is produced 6 points
Pushing inside the limit of the cuadrilatero, but the entire animal falls outside 1 point
Pushing outside the limit and the animal falls inside 1 point
Passing by the four flags marking the cuadrilatero without an echada, except in the case of an accident 10 points
After the echada, the cow charges and goes in the opposite direction back towards the rodeo 3 points
An echada is invalid if the garrochista pushes from the left and the cow falls firstly on its right side and also in the case that both garrochista and amparador push simultaneously.
There is also a time limit for each actuation. Each collera has a maximum of three minutes to arrive from the exit of the rodeo to the cuadrilatero, and another three minutes once inside it. The time during which the cow is lying down isn't counted.
Obviously, psychology plays a major part, namely, querencia. The herd are placed in the "corrales de querencia" some days before the event and querencia is established. On the same day as the competition, the animals are moved to the opposite end of the corredera, to the rodeo, from where the acoso will take place. Naturally, when released, they run back towards the corrales de querencia, although being separated from their herd-mates. However, some bravas rebel and turn on their persecutors, producing difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances, as they try to return to the rodeo.
The acoso from the rodeo to the cuadrilatero is extremely important. At this stage, the amparador is largely responsible for maintaining the pace, slapping the cow on its back with the garrocha to temper its speed. It's
essential that the cow doesn't arrive at the cuadrilatero too fast or too slowly in order to achieve a good echada. Too fast, and the animal will escape the garrochista: too slowly, and the physics of momentum make "levering" her over with the garrocha more difficult. The skill involved is tremendous; an obvious expertise in horsemanship is required, along with strength and split-second timing to aim the garrocha at the cow at the correct angle to push her off balance and produce a fall.
Below is a sequence of photographs showing an excellent echada, producing a voltereta with this collera's mansa cow. The garrochista is D. Ángel Bohórquez Martínez and his amparador, D. Pablo Cabeza Garrido. PHOTO 1 shows the acoso, the amparador controlling the pace of the cow.
PHOTO 2 "Soltando": the amparador prevents the cow from moving to the left, while the garrochista "opens" out a little allowing her to head slightly to the right.
PHOTO 3 displays "La Reunion". In this moment, the garrochista is "tocando carne" on the right of the cow's tail, and, in
PHOTO 4, he pushes her with the garrocha, producing a fall "la caida" on her left side (PHOTO 5),
then flipping over onto her right to produce a voltereta (PHOTO 6).
I think it would be wrong not to mention something about the typical acoso y derribo equine, which is a leading protagonist in this sport. Horses are normally cross-breeds, that is Spanish Thoroughbred x Arab x English Thoroughbred, which provides controllability with speed, agility and stamina. Previously, only Spanish horses were used, but the cattle often out-ran them, as, although noble and agile, they lack the turbospeed needed to derribar "una res" at flat-out speed across open countryside (even fast horses can be out-run, as we witnessed at the competition, by some very rapid Limosin cows). The horses' training is immaculate. Many hours are spent in formal training and dressage to produce a totally trustworthy and responsive equine partner. Although they are "blood" horses, they must have a calm and patient temperament, easy to spur into great speed, but equally easy to stop and remain completely quiet. ( I have actually had the privilege to ride the mare which won the 2000 Andalucian Championship, and she is so gentle and well-mannered, I would trust her with a beginner). The best acoso y derribo horses, like the best rejoneo horses, understand their job and actively participate in the event.
For those of you who would like to know more about acoso y derribo, I would recommend the excellent web-site, www.garrochistasdesevilla.com and also the book, Lances de Garrocha by Carlos Conradi Lizaur; both are in Spanish only, I'm afraid, but it is well worth the effort to try to understand. If any members intend to come to next year’s Feria de Caballo, and would like to attend the Vicos event described in Shelly’s piece, please feel free to contact me if you need any information.