The Painted Pony Guest Ranch
In December, the Painted Pony Guest Ranch was honored again as one of the World's 10 Best International Guest Ranches by Gayot. We are proud of our personal service and high quality horses.
The Painted Pony was recognized by USA Today as one of Costa Ricas three best horseback riding tours in Costa Rica.
Trip Advisor has given Casagua Horses Tours the top rating for our excellent guest reviews, listing us as one of the top things to do in Tamarindo.
The Holidays were busy at the ranch. Visitors from the US, Canada, England, and Germany enjoyed riding with us. Ages 9 to 79, riders showed off their ability and love of horses.
Riders take the Old Spanish Trail through old back country trails or continue over the coastal mountains to Pacific Beaches where the Spanish once entered Costa Rica
Several thousand horses and riders met in Santa Cruz for its famous Tope during the Fiesta Tipicas Nacionales in January. The Commission had the Minister of Culture and his wife rode Silverado and Nevado leading the parade.
We are excited with the birth of our newest paint foal, Milagro. Her mother, La Joya is owned by Jen Dalton one of our best riding friends and guide and Squanto our stallion is the father. We called her our little miracle because she was the surviving Twin. We had had two ultrasounds done but didn't know La Joya was having twins, we thought she was just huge. As often happens with a surviving twin, the foal was a little girl. Her brother, who couldn't make it, was full term as well. We were saddened by his loss, but knew it was a miracle that the mother and one of the pair survived. Esteban had never seen a surviving twin in this area of Costa Rica. Everyone agreed that she should be named Milagro (miracle in Spanish. We imprinted her at 3 hours old. She now at a a month old is fat and sassy.
contact us to find out more about Imprinting Foals.
People are always interesting in the history and development of horses in Costa Rica. Written for the HOWLER MAGAZINE published by David Mills in Tamarindo Beach, this article looks a Criollo Horses.
Welcome to the new World! Well not always. When Columbus came to theAmericas with his boatloads of Spanish culture, he encountered indigenous cultures that had inhabited the islands, tropical forests and mountains for thousands of years. In some areas he and his followers were welcomed as Gods, by others, they were welcomed with poison arrows or by an environment of steaming jungles filled with vipers and blood sucking mosquitoes. The evaluation ofColumbus and the conquistadores that followed are mixed; however, they did bring one piece of culture fromSpain that would change the face of theAmericas forever, the horse.
The horse evolved to its one toed form inNorth America, 2 million years ago during the Pleistocene era. During the Ice Ages, primitive wild horses crossed the Barring Strait fromAlaskatoAsia. At the same time, the ancestors of the American Indians crossed in the opposite direction finding the horse an excellent source of food. At the end of the Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, millions of wild horses had populated Asia, Africa andEurope. Evidence of domestication of horses goes back as much as 6000 years.
The indigenous peoples of theAmericashowever had never seen a horse and the Conquistadores on their Andalusian and Barb horse were certainly God like. The Spanish and Portuguese settled theAmericas, reintroducing the horse to theNew World- the generals on their impressive high stepping Andalusians, and later, the conquistadores and immigrants with their Barb and Spanish Jennet horses.
InCosta Rica, these Spanish horses became the foundation for what is known as the Criollo horse. By definition, criollo or crillo is the name for something native of first generation Spanish descent. Not only the horses born in the new world, but also children of the immigrants are referred to as criollos. Today, even Spanish and French cooking is referred to as criollo or Creole.
The criollo horse inCosta Ricais not a purebred race, but a mixture oftheSpanish horses brought in after 1500. The criollos are prized fortheir smooth gaites, noble temperament, and ability to adapt totheharsh tropical environments. The elegant arched neck and high stepping gait oftheAndalusian,thehardiness oftheSpanish Barb and Jennet, andthesmooth ambling trot ofthePeruvian Paso can be found intheCosta Rican Criollo horse. The traditional Guanacaste Cowboy or Sabanero often selectsthecriollo with more Peruvian Paso characteristics forthe“champagne ride”, a smooth running walk that is very easy ontherider spending hours inthesaddle. The rodeo cowboys often select fortheBarb characteristics for fast maneuvering inthebull ring and fast, high stepping and brillo. InSouth Americathesimilar crillo horse became popular withtheGauchos or for use as Polo ponies. Costa Rican crillos with a higher percentage of Andalusian blood, showingthevery elegant Spanish Walk, arethepopular parade or Tope horses.
Althoughthere has been recent introduction of other European and American horse breeds,theSpanish horse is still considered number one inCosta Rica. For example,there are probably less than 200 Warm bloods used for dressage and jumping inthecountry, while for just one event,theNational Tope inSan Joséthere are over 4000 Spanish horse ridden in one parade. Costa Rica is know forthebreeding of PRE or Pure Blooded Español horse andthemost recent addition totheworld of horse breeds,theCosta Rican Paso (Paso costarrience). This recent breed is a refined, registered criollo horse, high stepping parade horse, showingthebest qualities oftheSpanish horse inCosta Rica.
Costa Ricans lovetheir horses and whilethere are still many working ranch horses,there has been a shift inCosta Ricajust as in other parts oftheworld to pleasure horse ownership. One ofthereasons I choseCosta Rica, and specifically Guanacaste, wasthehorse culture. With fiestas, horse parades, horse shows and of coursethesimple trail rides for tourists and locals,thehorse pays a significant role intheculture of this small country. Although I don’t have specific documentation, I would guess that tinyCosta Ricahas one ofthehighest per capita horse populations. Personally, I went from three horses, boarded at a friend’s house before we boughtthefarm 16 years ago, to 6 horses when I moved here permanently, now to 24 of our own horses and 10 more we board for others.
As a life long horse lover and rider, and inthelast 15 years, owner and breeder ofthecriollo horse, I have come to lovethese smaller cousins oftheelegant Andalusian, Lipizzaner and Spanish Vaquero horses fortheir comfortable ride and even temperament. In reality,there is only one true purebred horse,theArab, which has a documented blood line going back more than 3000 years. WiththeNorth African Barb and Spanish Andalusianthey arethefoundations for mostthemodern horse breeds. The modern horse breeds and registries were developed by man for specific human uses in justthelast 500 years- from tough ponies pulling coal carts in mines, tothehaughty warm bloods used for dressage and jumping competitions. There are over 160 recognized horse breeds intheworld with more being recognized every day, such asthePaso Costarricence.
Unfortunately, the wild horse no longer exists, only remnant herds of feral horses which are escaped domestic breeds. The mustang of the North American west are escapees of the Spanish Conquistadores and early settlers. They are in fact criollos as well. Most of theUSbreeds, the Quarter Horse, Tennessee Walker and other gaited horse are influenced by the Spanish horse. The American Plaines Indians became expert riders and breeders using the wild feral Spanish horse and others they traded for. I have a small, yet important, percentage of Indian blood mixed with my Dutch ancestry. Perhaps, I inherited the “horsy” gene, for both the Native Americans and Dutch are known for their love of horses and breeding. We are now breeding Paints and Pasos at Finca Casagua, a wonderful blend of the comfort of the criollo horse and dramatic markings of the overo and tobiano paints.
Although papers, pedigrees and horse registries are important to many horse owners, at Casagua we are most concerned withthecharacter and comfort of our riding horse which adapt beautifully tothebeautiful trails of Guanacaste ortheshowy Tope parades atthecolorful fiestas. We want comfortable, safe horses, trained with Natural Horsemanship and Imprinting. We were criticized by locals for not “breaking our horses”theold fashioned cowboy way, but we found thatthenoble criollo horse can adapt tothemost novice rider to an experienced rider that wishes to feelthegreat gaites oftheSpanish horse withtheproper training.
Our Paints and Criollo Pasos are a natural blend. I often say that Costa Rica, like the United States, was a unique mix of immigrants who brought with them their colorful cultures. The New World babies, both human and horses are criollos, and I wonder, what will the new generation of native born criollos bring to Costa Rica’s ever changing culture, both human and equine.
As us about our new rides for 2012 featuring expanded beach riding or "natural horsemanship training".