The Heart O’ Texas Reining Horse Association was formed in 2007 in Waco, Texas for reining enthusiasts. Reining, a western performance horse sport discipline that requires a horse to perform athletic maneuvers at both relaxed and extreme speed requires a horse with a lot of “handle”. Waco is no stranger to finely trained horses-our history was built on the backs of equine athletes. In 1849, a modest frontier town was officially founded deep in the heart of Texas and named “Waco” after the Native American tribe that had called it home for over 700 years. The Hueco’s coexisted and traded amicably with their fierce neighbors, the Comanche, who used the Waco area as a summer camp. The warlike Comanche counted on their Indian Ponies for victory in warring raids with other tribes and the Cavalry, and buffalo hunts for food. A pony with extreme handle could carry a warrior to safety and elevate him to higher status by adding victories to the hunt. Cattlemen counted on the local cowboys, who were useless without their highly trained cowponies.
Waco slumbered away, a sleepy little cow town of less than 700 people, nothing more than a dusty bump on an old buffalo trail, until a brilliant business vision culminated in the Chisholm Trail, which ran directly through Waco. The Texas economy was rocked by the Civil War. Ranchers faced bankruptcy –the cash crop was cattle and the market was back East with America’s population majority. The Chisholm Trail, brainchild of financier Joseph McCoy—was designed to channel Texas cattle up to Kansas railroads and back East, saving many Texas families from not only poverty but the loss of their homes, ranches, and livelihoods. Fortuitously for Waco, the Brazos River was a major obstacle on the trail, and “Six Shooter Junction”, as Waco was known at that time, was the safest crossing for the Brazos, yet a formidable river. Waco population exploded as the idea of the Chisholm Trail took off-steers that were bringing $4.00 at home cashed in for $40.00 back East. Waco’s population swelled to 12,000 people as cattlemen and cowboys came to Six Shooter Junction town for supplies and saloons. Cowboys used their working partner, the cowpony, to funnel cattle herds as large as 10,000 head past the city. A cowboy’s life and livelihood depended on his pony’s performance under pressure. So great was the value of a well-trained pony that the punishment for horse theft was often hanging.
Herds began moving towards market in the spring- grass along the way was plentiful due to spring rains. Floods were common and water high on the Brazos, making the crossing at Waco range from dangerous to treacherous. Lives were in jeopardy at the river crossing- cowboys and their horses were in peril shepherding the great herds across a flooding river. Waco government decided to build a bridge at the heavily used Brazos crossing. A marvelous state of the art suspension bridge solved safety issues, becoming one of Waco’s beloved landmarks, and is still in use today. Ranchers were happy to pay a ten cent toll per steer to cut losses, the bridge soon paid off and the toll eliminated. Times have changed. The herds so vast that they could be felt approaching when the ground began shaking a day ahead of their arrival are gone-cowponies no longer need to snuff stampedes and swim rivers. Only the ghosts of the agile Comanche Indian ponies, running deadly raids or neck and neck with mighty buffalo, remain. Reining horses have taken their place. No longer performing out on the range, now our western equine athletes can now be found performing in Waco’s outstanding Extraco Heart O’ Texas Convention Center .
If you are interested in joining our wonderful association, please download our membership form here.