Tres Punto Bueno
A Chilean Rodeo in Concon, a coastal city within sight of the Valparaiso skyline
January 5 and 6, 2013
When Chilean cowboys hear the announcer utter those words, they smile. Not a big show-your-teeth smile. That’s not their style. When Ricardo Ceriani heard “tres punto bueno” (three good points) boom from the loud speaker over the judges’ box, he and his riding partner, young Pio Ledezma Rojo, known as Pollito (Po-yee-toe) since he was a tot, sat higher in the saddle, ramrod straight, and cantered off the competition arena, their colorful mantas flowing in the breeze. The highest score in a round is cuatro punto bueno. I’ve been to several Chilean rodeos (this one in 2011). I never saw one of those awarded.
In the steer roping part of an American rodeo, there’s the rider and steer to be roped and tied. Two moving parts.
Chilean rodeos are complicated, choreographed equestrian events. To win, horsemen need skill, nerves of steel, patience, lightning fast reflexes, a well trained horse under them, and a good shot of luck.
Two riders act in tandem and ride around a semi-circular earthen packed arena called a medialuna with the goal of pinning a calf against cushions at either end of the arena. The timing of pinning the calf against the cushions, the coordination of the skilled horsemen and their highly trained Chilean horses is crucial. One split second of indecision spells a low score or worse, a score of “un punto malo,” (or “dos punto malo” for larger infractions the strict rules of engagement between horsemen and calf), a deficit very difficult to overcome in succeeding rounds.
Ricardo and Pollito: Tres Punto Bueno; points awarded for where the calf is pinned against the padded area.
Ricardo built his own medialuna behind the farmhouse in which he and Susaan live from November to May every year. At 8 AM several mornings a week, you can hear the snorting of horses and their muffled hoofbeats as horsemen and horses trot from the stable to the practice area. Farm caretaker Juanito Perez escorts the calf Ricardo owns into the medialuna.
One hour of intense practice ensues. Horsemen shout, clods of soft brown earth, churned by shod hooves, cartwheel into the air and arc back to earth, as riders wheel horses into the best position to pin the calf at each end of the arena. The ground shakes under my feet as the trio of horses and one uncooperative calf pound past me. From one pass to the next, there’s no predicting what the calf will do. Perfect. Managing unpredictability with speed, discipline, and coordination is where a punto bueno becomes possible.
An hour later the horses are lathered up, washed down, brushed, and returned to their stable. Ricardo resumes his life as El Patron, overseeing the daily operation of Chilefarms in Nogales.
By Saturday morning, he’ll be ready to load his horses into his truck and head for the rodeo. If he does well Saturday, he competes again Sunday. Being well prepared and winning are two different things. Win or lose, Ricardo will be prepared. In the 12 years he’s been competing, his opponents know to expect a man who comes to win, has the grace to lose with dignity, offers no excuses, and is easily the funniest and most popular “huaso” (cowboy) in the rodeo.
Scenes from a rodeo in Concon 2012
The rodeo in Concon is always well attended.
Ricardo wearing a striped manta he won at a rodeo; pinning a calf against the cushioned area takes skill.
Concon, a coastal city a few miles from Valparaiso; the "Queens" of the rodeo.
Photos (except for photo in the middle of the story) by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.