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Caballeros' annual ride celebrates history

April 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Combining their love of history with their love of horses, a group of Southern California riders is continuing a 65-year-old tradition. They climb into the saddle each year to honor a true trailblazer. The man commemorated by a statue in central Riverside is Juan Bautista de Anza. He was a captain in the Spanish Army; he played a very important role in California's history, forging an inland supply trail from what is now Mexico to San Francisco.

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For 70 years, the caballeros combined their love of the horses and riding, with keeping alive the history, the importance of the de Anza expedition in 1774. Back then, it was a very difficult task.

"Came up there with over 200 people and over 1,000 animals -- horses, cows, donkeys -- no wagons back then," said Louie Tavaglione, DeAnza Trail Caballeros. "They walked all the way, or rode a horse."

The going is a lot easier for the modern-day caballeros, but spending hours day after day on horseback can be demanding on riders and horses.

"They're doing really well," said Joe Estes. "These guys make sure there's lots of electrolytes in the water and in the feed. [The animals] are fed and checked all the time, brushed and -- just like we were talking about -- if you don't have your horse, you don't have anything."

There were 145 riders this year.

"Well, this is one of the last great rides," said Jerry Stewart, DeAnza Trail Caballeros. "We come down here, a lot of camaraderie, people from all over the United States come down and get away for a week, have fun. It's a great ride."

"Started out early in the morning and got in late in the evening. It was hot, but it was a good ride. There was plenty of water for the horses. The food is excellent out here," said Ricardo Appel, DeAnza Trail Caballeros.

"My father used to ride, 1952-1956, and we want to ride where my father went," said Mark Navarro, DeAnza Trail Caballeros.

"It's fun. Everybody's nice and helpful, everybody loves the countryside just as much as I do, so that's how we all get along with each other," said another rider.

Keeping alive the history is important, but it's the love of the horse that brings these men together.

"They always say, 'The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man,'" said Tavaglione.

 

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