Student profile: This isn't her first rodeo

Maria Fernanda Osornio saddles up to perform in the Charrería

Courtesy Maria Fernanda Osornio | The Daily Wildcat

Maria Fernanda Osornio, rides her horse out into the aren with her team before a performance for her escaramuzas team. The escaramuzas are girls who ride sidesaddle on horses while they perform choreography to music. 

Clothed in colorful, traditional Mexican dresses, the escaramuzas saddle up and ride into the arena, ready to give a show-stopping performance. Each of the girls’ horses start dancing to the rhythm of the Mexican music that fills the air. The crowd cheers and watches in awe as the girls execute their choreography, all while riding sidesaddle.

This is a typical day for Maria Fernanda Osornio. 

Osornio, a University of Arizona student in the college of nursing, has been a part of an escaramuza team since she was 10 years old and credits her family for her involvement in the sport. 

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“My family has always been part of the charrería,” Osornio said. “The team was basically made up of my cousins and a few other girls who are friends of the family. We all just started because of our parents.”

Escaramuzas are a part of the charrería, an event that is similar to the rodeo that is also Mexico’s national sport. The escaramuzas are girls who ride side-saddle on horses while they perform choreography to music.  

“We just do a routine of 12 movements that are put into place by the federación in Mexico,” Osornio said. “They make up the rules and renew them every three to four years.”

Maria Fernanda Osornio, rides her horse during a performance for her escaramuzas team. The escaramuzas are girls who ride sidesaddle on horses while they perform choreography to music.

Osornio and her team get to attend competitions across the United States and Mexico.

“In state competitions, the day is broken down into three or four separate events,” Osornio said. “The girls start out by doing what’s called the punta, where two girls from each team start out at the end of the arena and do a gallop all the way into the center of the arena where they slide the horse. The longer it is and the less amount of times that the back feet of the horse come off the ground, the more points we get.”

In the middle of the boys’ event, the girls come in and perform their routines around the circular part of the arena, according to Osornio.

To prepare for the competitions, Osornio and her team practice for two to three hours twice a week. 

“We start out by warming up, and then from there, our trainer tells us what to do,” Osornio said. “Sometimes we practice our routines a few times to make sure that it is down to perfection.”

Rocio Diaz, a member of Osornio’s team, also says that practice is a time when they are able to make sure that they are both mentally and emotionally focused. 

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In addition to their competitions and practices, Osornio and her team were able to attend nationals this year in Zacatecas, Mexico. 

“It was great,” Diaz said. “It was amazing knowing this was everything we worked for so many years. Everyone that loves the same thing we do comes together and celebrates Mexican tradition.”

According to Osornio, going to nationals was a new experience for the team.

Maria Fernanda Osornio, a student at the University of Arizona, rides into the arena with her escaramuza team that performs choreography while riding horses. Osornio has been participating in this event since she was young.

“At first it was really overwhelming because of all the people and all the professionals that were there, but I think we did pretty good,” Osornio said. “We placed 100th out of 120 teams, so it wasn’t too bad for our first time.”

Being an escaramuza is way more than going to competitions, though. It gives the girls the opportunity to explore their culture, bond with their horses and, most importantly, become a family, according to Osornio.

“What I love most about being an escaramuza is learning how to move a horse and how to connect with the horse,” Diaz said. “You learn how to work in a team and you become family with everyone that is involved.”

Osornio said she loves being to able continue a tradition that is mostly just practiced in Mexico as well as the lifelong friendships that come from this sport. 

“I’ve only ever been in three teams, and every time that I’ve been in a team I feel closer to the girls,” Osornio said. “We basically end up becoming family if we aren’t already blood family.”

Osornio, Diaz and the rest of their team continue to work hard and show Arizona what they’re made of. They aren’t horsing around with this team.

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