The Charreada Challenge – Lagos de Moreno, Mexico

This post is part 3 of 5 in the series Lagos de Moreno, Mexico

Forget about rodeos you may have seen in the US. Mexican rodeo (called charreada in Spanish) came first and it’s like nothing you’ve seen before, as we learned in Lagos de Moreno.

Mexican rodeo is a team competition and a bit of a beauty pageant.

Rodeo rules in Mexico

After the Mexican Revolution Mexicans began to worry that their cowboy traditions were being lost so official organizations were formed to foster and govern what it means to be a charro and to keep the charreada culture alive.

See some of those traditions in our Mexican rodeo video, below.

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Rodeo in Mexico is a team sport with each cowboy (charro in Spanish) competing on behalf of the team in the event or events in which he excels at the most. Often called the national sport of Mexico, charreada has strict rules about what each competing charro must wear and carry on his saddle in order to participate. Forget even one item and you can be disqualified.

Juan Zermeno, a competitive cowboy and much sought-after horse trainer. Notice how delicately he holds the reins.

Charreada events aren’t timed as they are in rodeos in the US and, honestly, sometimes there’s not much action in the action. On the other hand, slow moments give you ample time to go get another cerveza and listen to the requisite mariachi band.

Mexican rodeo charreada

Mexicans love a fiesta and a charreada is the mother of them all so mariachis are required.

Charros competing in a charreada are awarded points for graceful and skilled execution, but points can also be taken away for any one of a confounding minefield of infractions. Winning teams aren’t awarded any money at the end of a charreada, just bragging rights and, maybe, a trophy.

The 9 explosive events of a Mexican rodeo

The first event in a charreada is Cala de Caballo which is a reining and responsiveness challenge that requires a horse to gallop at full speed, then slam on the brakes without lifting his back feet for the duration of the sliding stop (shown below) which is judged on distance and definition.

A strong sliding stop is part of Cala de Caballo, the first event of a Mexican rodeo.

In addition to the sliding stop, riders must train their horses to pivot in a tight, fast circle on one back leg. Then do it in the other direction.

Another essential element of a Mexican rodeo is the saddle which is characterized by an over-sized saddle horn. The extra girth is needed to withstand events like Piales en Lienzo, which is the second event in a Mexican rodeo. During Piales en Lienzo a wild mare is roped and the rope is then wrapped around the saddle horn which is used to leverage the rope until the mare is brought to the ground.

The second event of a charreada is Piales en Lienzo, or heeling, which involves roping the back legs (heels) of a galloping mustang…

So much heat is generated by the straining rope that it would burn right through the petite saddle horns used on Western saddles in the US. Even the Mexican mega-horns sometimes need reinforcements. Most charros competing in Piales en Lienzo wrap many layers of twine around their saddle horns before competing as a level of protection between the rope and their saddles.

…then roping her to the ground. That smoke you see is the result of heat generated by the rope wound around the saddle horn as it burns through the wooden horn.

The third event of a charreada is Colas en el Lienzo, or Coleadero, or steer tailing and it’s aptly named in any language: a mounted cowboy at the gallop grabs the tail of a running steer, wraps it around his leg and flips the steer over. Elapsed time: about seven seconds. A properly tailed steer should end up like this with all four hooves in the air.

A cowboy begins phase one of Colas en el Lienzo, the third event of a Mexican rodeo.

A properly tailed steer.

The fourth event in a charreada is Jineteo de Toro or bull riding. The bulls may be smaller than the ones they ride in the PBR, but the hats are bigger.

Jineteo de Toro, or bull riding, is the fourth event of a Mexican rodeo.

The fifth event in a charreada is Terna en el Ruedo or team roping. First the bull is ridden, then it’s roped by the back legs, then by the front legs. Fancy rope work punctuates this event which is more elegant than fast.

The fifth event in a charreada is Terna en el Ruedo or team roping.

The sixth event in a Mexican rodeo is Jineteo de Yegua or bronc riding which is similar to bronc riding in US rodeos.

The sixth event in a charreada is Jineteo de Yegua or bronc riding.

Probably the most dramatic charreada event is Manganas a Pie or forefooting in which a cowboy on foot ropes the front legs of a galloping wild mare, then uses his own body to stop her and pull her to the ground.

The seventh event in a charreada is the dangerous Manganas a Pie.

Cowboys do this by wrapping the rope around a part of their own bodies, usually their thigh or their waist. Some Mexican cowboys, however, wrap the rope around their neck. The finishing flourish involves the cowboy digging his heels into the dirt to stop the mare then throwing himself on the ground to finish the job. It takes skill and guts and a dash of insanity.

The middle stage of the Manganas a Pie event.

The dramatic final stage of the Manganas a Pie event.

The eighth event of a charreada is called Manganas a Caballo and the goals are the same as Manganas a Pie, but all of the roping and stopping is done on horseback, not on foot.

The eighth event of a charreada is called Manganas a Caballo.

The ninth event of a charreada is El Paso de la Muerte, literally the Pass of Death. It involves a cowboy moving from the bare back of his own horse onto the bare back of a galloping wild mare then riding the bucking mare before dismounting. But you can’t just fall off. In order to earn maximum points (and avoiding losing points for incomplete execution) a cowboy in this event must land on his feet.

The ninth event of a charreada is the El Paso de la Muerte, literally the Pass of Death.

Some charreadas include a tenth event for female charros. Called escaramuzas, the women wear colorful, traditional, many layered dresses called Adelitas and they perform intricate choreographed patterns while riding sidesaddle. It’s lovely to watch.

Here’s more about travel in Mexico

Series Navigation:<< Branding Day – Lagos de Moreno, MexicoOn Horseback Through History – Lagos de Moreno, Mexico >>

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7 comments on “The Charreada Challenge – Lagos de Moreno, Mexico

    • Thanks for checking out our blog and thanks for your message. Regarding your question, charreadas large and small happen all the time in Jalisco. To gain unprecedented access and insight into charreadas in the Lagos de Moreno are we suggest you arrange to spend some time with Jorge “Pancho” Serrano Zermeno. He can be reached at:

      indianboymx AT yahoo

      Tell him Karen and Eric from the Trans-Americas Journey sent you!

  1. Pingback: Mexico rodeo

  2. These pictures were taken at the lienzo Santa María (pics 1, 4, 7, 8, 13, 14, 16, 17), was inaugurated in 1991 when the King of Spain Juan Carlos I visited, and belongs to the city of Lagos de Moreno. The other lienzo is named “Samuel Antuñano Tovar” at Rancho Verde in Lagos (pics 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15). A brother of Don Samuel Antuñano Tovar, José de Jesus, invented and implemented the rectangle of 6 meters x 20 meters used for the Cala de Caballo. Don Samuel was a national judge of charrería and is the person at the far left of the rectangle in the picture of the Cala and has won multiple national championships in colas (2x), piales (1x), manganas a caballo (3x). He also led an escaramuza india, consisting of daughters, nieces and other girls from Lagos, who only rode bareback and won the national championship multiple years being better than the famed escaramuza Raramuri. He also trained his own horses. His father was one of the cofounders of organized charrería in Lagos.

    The person in picture 5 looks to be Toño “El Canelo” Orozco one of the best in Mexico in colas

    The person in picture 6, Juan Zermeño, is also a national champion in manganas.

    Lagos is also where charrería started because of the large haciendas in the area which were the principal ranches to provide beef to the country. You can read about that in Spanish at

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