Drunken Horse Racing – Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, Guatemala


Though we missed the world famous annual drunken horse racing in Todos Santos, local guide Rigoberto Pablo Cruz ([email protected] (dot) com, good English) knew that locals in a nearby town were putting on a smaller race so we jumped in the truck and drove about an hour out of Todos Santos to the town of Chiabal II, climbing up to more than 11,000 feet (3,352 meters) into the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountains.

Todos Santos horse race

Horses and riders assemble at the makeshift starting line during drunken horse racing near Todos Santos in Guatemala.

Drunken horse racing in Guatemala

A soft dirt straight-away, about an eighth of a mile long, had been cleared through the center of the tiny, dusty town where, weirdly, there was a porta-potty in front of nearly every house.

Todos Santos horse race

Spectators are often as drunk as the jockeys during drunken horse racing in Guatemala.

Todos Santos horse race

And they’re off!

The “track” was then lined with a wooden fence meant to keep the racers in and the spectators out.  About eight relatively healthy-looking horses were gathered at the makeshift starting line as less healthy-looking riders staggered around being fitted with a special hat with a very long colorful sash tied to it.

Todos Santos horse race

Imagine what it would look like if you were drunk…

Todos Santos horse race

Todos Santos horse race

Two or three horses raced at a time, set off by a loud whistle. Some riders were so drunk they had to have their hands tied to the horn of their saddles. Some screamed obscenities in both Spanish and English as they flew by. Some were still holding cans of Mexican Tecate beer as they raced.

Todos Santos horse race

Todos Santos horse race

Todos Santos horse race

Some riders flew out of the saddle. Others slowly slumped to the side before hitting the ground. The majority somehow made it to the finish line, except for one guy who was ominously carried off by locals.

Todos Santos horse race

Rider down! The old man who fell off this brown horse was carried away by his neighbors.

Todos Santos horse race

Todos Santos horse race

Though we watched the madness for a couple of hours we never did figure out who “won.” Maybe winning wasn’t the point.

Jockeys in training.

Todos Santos horse race
See the madness for yourself in our drunken horse racing video, below.

 Read more about travel in Guatemala

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8 comments on “Drunken Horse Racing – Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, Guatemala

  1. Hilarious! They come up with the best combinations of festival and farm animals in Central America. I just recently went to a Mule Festival – highlight was definitely the mule – donkey – horse race. Like your drunken race, the winner was not very clear. I think the point was to have fun and not to finish first. I mean seriously, the horse would obviously win every time if that were the case haha!
    Erin recently posted..What the heck is this?My Profile

  2. Pingback: Things to Do in Guatemala: Visit the Sumpango Festival of Giant Kites

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