One of the most impressive events in Mexican rodeo is made up of women called “escaramuzas.”
They are horse-riding, side-saddle athletes helping to keep the centuries-old sport alive. It’s a national sport in Mexico.
Escaramuza Charra is the only female equestrian event in Mexican rodeo. Gisselle Gonzalez is a member of Escaramuza El Lucero, a team that formed in the South Bay more than a year ago.
“We have little girls, we have in between, we have the older girls. And we’ve been practicing, practicing just to be competing,” Gonzalez says.
Escaramuzas ride horses to music in a unique fashion.
“It consists of 8 girls and obviously there are 8 horses. There are multiple exercises that we do,” Gonzalez says. “We do spins, crosses, all types of exercises that we do that in the end all come together and form a beautiful performance.”
Think of it as synchronized swimming on horses — very precise choreographed maneuvers, and these are moves that not just anyone can do. These athletes sit side-saddle.
“It’s not like your typical saddle where you have your legs open and you have more stability. You have all the weight to one side. You have to balance more. It’s a lot of core work.”
The sport was inspired by adelitas, who were women fighters during the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s. Girls competing wear traditional outfits.
“We have our big dress with a bunch of designs. So when we sit on the saddle, we push the dress over to the left so we have our performance you’re able to see the saddle, the designs on the dress and then the sombrero,” Gonzalez said. “Before the performance, when we do compete, there are usually two girls that do what’s called a ‘punta.'”
While there are a few competitions in the U.S., escaramuza teams mostly compete in Mexico.
Aside from the ladies displaying their athleticism, Gonzalez says this sport is also a way for them to showcase their cultural heritage and affirm their Mexican-American identity.
“It’s just pure adrenaline. Full excitement and it’s just the best emotion ever.”