PASTURES OF THE ROYAL HORSE HERD OF THE SANTA FE PRESIDIO

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PASTURES OF THE ROYAL HORSE HERD OF THE SANTA FE PRESIDIO

14.99

In the early eighteenth century, it became apparent that the Santa Fe presidio, separated as it was from the southern line of presidios located south of the Rio Grande, stood along under the repeated attacks from the surrounding hostile Indian tribes.  It also became apparent that the natural resources required to support the presidio and protect the colony, were limited.

In protecting the colony, a strong and well supplied presidio with an effective military strategy was essential. Governors used the strategies of gift giving and trade with the hostile tribes when possible, but more often they used the strategy of mounted armed troops.  Using mounted troops rather than infantry was necessitated by the size of the colony, the long distance traveled in campaigns, and, more importantly, the increasingly effective use of cavalry by raiding tribes.

Though the Indians had possessed horses for some time, the number of horses was greatly increased by the Pueblo Revolt, with large of numbers of Spanish mares and stallions left behind when the colonists abandoned the area for El Paso.  The warriors quickly adapted to the use of horses, with horse ownership becoming part of the culture and a sign of status. By the 1720s and throughout much of the eighteenth century, Santa Fe and New Mexico were considered to be under siege by the Apaches, Navajos, Utes, and the more recently arrived Comanches.

This article details the way the Spanish cavalry was organized and used. More specifically, the locations of the grazing pastures required for herds totaling as many as 2,000 horses, the competing interests of settlers for pasturage, and constant efforts to defend said herds from Indian raiders.

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Originally Published in the 2010 edition of the book, All Trails Lead To Santa Fe. Used with the permission of Sunstone Press