I thought it might be about time to write a little blog on some Vaquero lingo. There is a lot more, but this ought to get you started. All across the west, los Vaqueros (the Buckaroos) use a lingo that is often half Spanish and Half American English.
The term Vaquero is Spanish for “Cowboy” – the Americanized version is simply “Buckaroo” – these two words are frequently used interchangeably.
The word Jaquima means “halter”, although that is probably not the most apt description of the tool used in the American west where is usually translated to or used interchangeably with hackamore.
The traditional Jaquima is basically a simplistic headstall consisting of a rawhide noseband, called a “bosal” or “bosalita” (for the thinner version), a hanger to hold the bosal in place, and a rope (see Mecate below) or pisador.
The literal translation of the Spanish word Freno is “stop” but it is used colloquially to mean “bridle” – the term “Jaquima a Freno” means from the Jaquima to the Bridle.
The term Cavvy is a short form for Cavvietta, or the Spanish word for “herd”. When a cowboy goes to work on a ranch he is often given a “string” of horses to do his work, the horses are a part of the Ranch’s Cavvietta (herd) so not only is a cavvy not the complete herd but it seems to be an appropriate word for part of a herd.
A Cavvy Mark is a mark made by the removal of part of the horse’s mane on the withers. There are three marks each denoting a different phase of the horse’s development. The first is to shave about eight inches of the mane down to stubble – this denotes the horse is being trained in the Jaquima, the second is to allow two distinct mohawk type spikes (each about 1.5″ – 2″ across and separated by a gap about the same width) to grow out and stand up – this denotes the horse is in the second phase of his development and can be ridden in the two rein, and finally only one mohawk type spike which lets the cowboy know this horse has finished his basic training and can go straight up in the bridle. I follow this tradition, not for anyone else, just for myself.
The Visalia was one of the first and finest standard stock saddles used in old California. The tree was made in the David E. Walker opened a saddle shop called the Visalia Saddle Shop where the saddle was made.
A mecate, often mispronounced as McCarty, is a long rope, usually made from horse hair or wool, and about 22 feet in length, used to form the reins and get down rope on a Jaquima.
The Fiador knot os a very practical, adjustable and decorative knot fond on a rope halter. The knot is as challenging to tie and the rope halter is to make. It sometime referred to as the Theodore knot, again because folks struggle with Spanish pronunciation. I think everyone interested in becoming a Vaquero should make at least one rope halter – I have made two, and that is quite enough for me.
Jingle Bobs are small bells that are attached to spurs and make a jingling sound when the Vaquero walks and rides his horse, he sound might also remind the horse that there is a spur waiting to be used as a reinforcing signal.
Since traditional cowboys made a lot of their own gear from leather and rawhide, they would often braid rawhide to form reins. The Rein Chains were used to connect the rawhide reins to the metal bits in the horse’s mouth, serving several functions, they are decorative, they add weight to the reins and they will not be rotted away by the horse’s slobber in the same the rawhide would.
Romel Reins are reins that are joined at rider’s end of the reins where they are connected to a Romel, with a popper on the end – which basically used as a quirt. the conjunction in the reins makes them easy to be used in one hand while the other opens gates or ropes cows.
The hides of animals, usually bovines, are stretched and dried to create a leathery material, Rawhide, that can be cut into long thin strips then braided together to make ropes, reins and other gear.
A Reata is a lariat or lasso usually made from rawhide, it has also become a very popular name for cowgirls.