Performance and Attire

This is the first in a series of articles by Dr. Walter de la Brosse. They were first published in The Alliance magazine in 2011 and are reprinted here with the author’s permission. Dr. de la Brosse is a distinguished judge, holding cards in many divisions, and will be judging A/L reining, and trail classes, opportunity charro pleasure class, and the open Caballos Bailadores Nacional at the 2021 IALHA National Championship Show.

Have you wondered about the Charro Pleasure opportunity class, and how it will be judged? Here is the answer from an expert! 30% of the final score in the Charro Pleasure class will come from performance and 70% on attire.


The competitor must perform the three basic gaits (walk, trot, and canter), both ways in the ring, should halt when asked, and may be asked to back.

Horses should perform these three basic gaits well before being asked to progress forward to the more difficult passage, and finally the piaffe.  I find that far too many horses are rushed in dancing before they have acquired good basic gaits. Not all horses will have the confirmation, talent, or athletic ability to be a true caballo bailando.

  • Walk: a true 4-beat gait. Topline would be slightly uphill. Horse will be on a light contact, accepting the bit and responding willingly, without pushing forward, or worse, traveling behind the bit, indicating unwillingness or lack of submission to the rider’s hand. Horse must cover ground easily. Attitude is bright, attentive, and his paces are the product of engagement from behind, not dragging himself forward on the forehand.
  • Trot:  A two-beat diagonal gait in which the left front /right hind, then right front/ left hind touch the ground simultaneously. These movements would appear to be effortless, demonstrating slight elevation in front, which begins at the hocks, moving up through the hind and then to the bit. Horse accepts bit with confidence indicating submission, not intimidation. Any transition up to the canter or down to the walk will be effortless. Draw it is performed with balance, cadence and rhythm.
  • Canter: A three-beat gait, in which the horse engages the hocks, rounds the back, utilizing effort from underneath and not where the hocks seemed to disappear into its tail behind.  Horse is now elevated slightly in front, next softly rounds with flexion at the poll, with the nose slightly forward or vertical to the ground. Horse should not push forward aggressively against the bit – or worse – behind the bit asking for escape. He’s alert, responsive, balanced, cadenced, and demonstrates rhythmic support over the ground.
  • Back: at least 10 feet over his own hocks, totally willing. When asked, walks forward to line quietly.

The horse’s performance will indicate if it is ready for more difficult chores, which would require more strength and talent if performed correctly.

Tack and Attire:

We come to that part of the Charro pleasure class which will represent 70% of the final score.  This “atuendo” (tack & attire) is mandated in five categories by the Federacion Mexicana Nacional de Charros.  Formed in Mexico City in 1933, this Federation is the rule and guiding light for the Mexican national sport, charreria.  Their mission is very similar to our USEF.

The five categories are:

  1. Atuendo de Faena:  Seen in almost all competitions.  It is essentially “working” combination.  Always clean, polished, starched, and immaculate (see examples above).
  2. Atuendo de Media-Gala:  Medium elegance, slightly more ornate than Faena, often used in combination with some Faena elements, this is more ornate and detailed than Faena, seen very commonly in regular competitions.
  3. Atuendo do Gala:  Elegance, this type of combination would not normally be seen in weekl competitions.  Denotes greater importance such as regional championships.  Much more detailed effort.
  4. Atuendo de Gran Gala:  Great elegance, very ornate, but tasteful.  Most commonly noted will be the presence of embroidery, either in plata (silver) or pita (maguey fiber).  Very tailored and presented with great care for competitions of major importance.
  5. Atuendo de Etiqueta:  Very formal, most refined and elegantly tailored.  Not at all used for competition.  Would be seen in weddings, funerals and state affairs.

Any of the above atuendo, except Etiqueta, might be used by a competitor in Charro Pleasure, Long Reining, Passage, Piaffe (Dancing horse), or Spanish Walk. 

Specific considerations:  suit, shirt, tie, buttons, (3 at the sleeve), belt, buckle, chaps, hat, saddle, bridle, bit, spurs, reins, cinch, breast collar, serape, quirt, saddlebags, & pistol holster.

Examples of the tack and attire required for the Charro pleasure class:

example of atuendo “media-gala” photo credit: Jeanne Shepherd – Genie Images

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An example of “atuendo Gala” photo by Jeanne Shepherd – Genie images

Charro tack and attire elements and some sources:

  1. Working saddle – coordinate with atuendo de faena (working) attire – from Bodega Tienda Charra
  2. Chaps belong with atuende de faena.  They could be used in most circumstances if coordinated and the event was not formal. (available from Charro Azteca)
  3. Bit (Freno) ** check all bit chains for rule compliance; a curb chain might  need to be changed. (Bit below from M-Royal saddles
  4. )
  5. Spurs (Espuelas) should coordinate with overall tack and attire such as these from Jimenez charro and western
  6. Hats should also match with saddle and dress. Hat below from Vaquero boots

The Charro pleasure class – #137 – at the 2021 IALHA National Championship show will be held on Saturday, November 13th, 2021. Charro attire is also appropriate for class #135 Heritage Tack & Attire, as well as the IALHA Nationals Open Working Equitation show November 10-12 2021. Find the prizelist and class schedule here:

We appreciate Dr. de la Brosse for providing this article the education of our members.