Chihuahua: A Growing Marketplace for Quarter Horses

Get a glimpse at the impact on the Quarter Horse industry of Chihuahua's annual Fiera Santa Rita Expogan.

The Chihuahua state fair attracts more than 80,000 visitors.

Chihuahua is one of the largest states of Mexico, located just south of Texas and New Mexico. It’s often been described as a beautiful agricultural state, where the bulk of agricultural products for the country are produced along the Rio Grande or Conchos River. The state was once home to General Poncho Villa as well as home to many ranches where you can find the American Quarter Horse being used in a traditional sense, working and gathering cattle. Some have even compared the number of horses and ranches to what you would see in Gainesville, Texas.

The city hosted the annual Fiera Santa Rita Expogan May 14-31. The state fair attracts approximately 80,000 visitors and 20,000 school kids. The event includes livestock shows, exhibitions and rodeos. Dr. Manuel Salgado Vazquez, M.V.Z., a well-rounded veterinarian in Mexico and currently the president of the Asociacion Mexicana de Medicos Veterinarians Especilistas en Equine, A.C. (a sister association to the American Association of Equine Practitioners) extended an invitation to attend the fair and provide a presentation on the Quarter Horse. Dr. Vazquez, who has a love for racehorses and runs a clinic in this area that services the race industry, is also the official organizer of the Expogan.

In addition, to a slate of shows for several breeds of horses and other livestock, Dr. Vazquez organized a conference for horse owners and breeders to attend. Twelve veterinarians and PhDs with specialties in equine areas, such as biomechanics, nutrition, disease, reproduction, behavior, imports/exports and management, were asked to give talks and demonstrations. He specifically asked for a presentation addressing the Quarter Horse market and supply any information that could be helpful in purchasing or owning a Quarter Horse.

Visit the AQHA en Espanol Facebook page for photos from the Fiera Santa Rita Expogan.

The day before the conference, I walked the barns looking for several horses to use for the demonstration and was so impressed with the quality of horses. I saw excellent examples of well-made Quarter Horses that were balanced, stood structurally correct and were in good condition. The horses were all being feed dairy quality alfalfa, which is the richest in nutrients an owner could buy, and this was reflected in their coat quality. They were so shiny, I could almost see my reflection! Needless to say, I was quite excited about the quality of horses standing in the barn and couldn’t wait to see the show the following day.

The conference was well attended with approximately 50 people, who spent their afternoon learning more about biomechanics from Dr. Francisco Ramirez Culer, who used examples of legendary horses such as Secretariat and Corona Cartel in the relationship of biomechanics and conformation. Dr. Mariano Hernadez Gil, M.V.Z., and department head of equine science and director of the National Autonomous University of Mexico Veterinary School in Mexico City, provided owners with an informative lecture on nutrition management, including the differences in feeding Quarter Horses compared to other breeds in various phases of work and gestation. Another interesting talk by Dr. Jose Alejandro Ramirez Godinez, PhD, focused on the efforts of creating a national studbook for the Quarter Horse for the agriculture sector of the government to track genetics and provide national identification numbers for horses. Similar programs are in place for the livestock industry and breeders are eligible to receive subsidies from the government to improve genetics. The conference proved to be a success and helped unite breeders and owners with equine industry experts. Attendees were given AQHA materials in Spanish, which were well received and appreciated! The request for equine information in multiple languages appears to be a global need.

In addition, the military of Mexico is heavily involved in the equine industry and provided several examples of different breeds, including the Quarter Horse. The military keeps approximately 2,000 broodmares for production of horses used in the Calvary.

The following day included three breed shows with the last show being the largest: the Quarta de Milla show (Quarter Horse Show). The show was a not an approved AQHA show but hopefully next year this will be possible considering the number of entries in each class, the quality of horses, and the passion from the owners. The stands on both sides of the arena were full when the Quarter Horse Show began and remained full throughout the show. The highlight for most spectators was the stallion division. Both the mare and stallion divisions were large with as many as 10 horses per class. The quality remained extremely high throughout the day! It was very apparent that the owners had studied halter bloodlines and imported some top horses and continued to breed based on industry standards. For each class, the judge provided a set of oral reasons similar to the format used in the World Conformation Horse Association to defend his class placing. Some comments received favorable applauds from the crowd and, when the decision and comments were not so popular, the crowd would respond accordingly. It’s obvious that the people of Chihuahua love their Quarter Horses and are ready to expand the market. This was apparent through the number of horses competing in the roping and barrel race division of the rodeo, the number of halter horses in the conformation show, prices horses fetched in the auction, and the number of owners and breeders who attended the conference.