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Written by: Lily Landreth< Back to Articles
When Tomas Garcilazo and his horse stride into the arena, the rope artist does so with the goal of representing the Mexican charro and the American cowboy, rodeo tradition and the heritage of the West. With each deft turn of his wrist, the three-time PRCA Specialty Act of the Year winner ties the traditions and cultures together in hopes of making a lasting impression for future generations. “It’s a mission for me as an ambassador of the charros to preserve that. In modern day, everything is getting lost, and we have to be strong and keep our culture for new generations to see the background and how everything started,” explains Tomas, 50, who is now a U.S. citizen living in Stephenville, Texas.
His own roots start in Mexico City, Mexico, where Tomas was raised in his family’s tradition learning the horsemanship and roping skills of the Mexican charro. He competed in all seven of the La Charreria events growing up, many of which are similar to rodeo events. “I didn’t have the modern toys that we have right now, so I was playing with a rope all the time and developed more skills. In school festivals, I was performing and showing my skills with a rope.” He particularly found his love for showmanship at age 9 after performing for the president of Mexico, and continued to develop his charro skills through high school. “I had to think of ways where the horses were not just for beauty, but that they could perform and be in the entertainment business.” Tomas came to the United States for a year in hopes of finding his place in the entertainment business, but the year came and went without accomplishing those goals.
Rather than give up and return home, he traveled back and forth between Mexico and California competing in charro events. “In the meantime, I needed to decide what to do with my life. I would become a charro or go into the entertainment business—either opportunity that came along my path, I’d take it.” The opportunity to do both came along in 1992 when Linda Ronstadt was on tour to promote a series of traditional mariachi albums she’d recorded. Tomas was given a part in the show, riding on stage in traditional charro attire and performing his rope artistry. Soon after, he auditioned for Broadway’s The Will Roger’s Follies, a six Tony Award winner, and performed in 58 cities in 48 states, along with several cities in Canada.
After the three-year tour was finished, Tomas was invited to perform at Disneyland Paris in the Buffalo Bill Broadway show, and when he wasn’t performing as a cowboy in the cowboys and Indians show, he donned his charro attire and performed in horse shows. While riding at a European Rodeo Cowboy Association rodeo at the U.S. Air Force Base in Germany, Tomas met Shawn Davis, the general manager of the WNFR. “He liked my skills and the way I performed, and he invited me to recreate those scenes at the NFR.”
Recently married to his wife, Justine, whom he met in France, Tomas made his debut at the Thomas & Mack Center in 1997, little realizing he would command the attention of WNFR fans for the next 20 years and counting. “Looking back all these years, it’s amazing the evolution. I want to maintain what we believe—our integrity throughout the roping, the horses, the tack, everything that speaks for that tradition. Something that I admire about Mr. Shawn Davis is that he is very open-minded. He went to Europe and saw everything different and pulled those elements together and made them work.”
Tomas has pulled his own elements together over the years, including a variety of horsemanship methods and disciplines that have helped him build the trust and harmony he shares with his horses. A palomino overo Paint named Pinto Bean helped Tomas build his career as an all-around charro and performance horse, and the most famous of the horses today is Latigo Dun It, better known as Hollywood. The 17-year-old Quarter Horse stallion, whose elegant mane reaches past his knees, has more than 34,000 followers on Facebook and a Breyer model horse made after him. He stands calmly while nearly all 65 feet of Tomas’s rope whirl’s around horse and rider in a trick called the Wedding Ring, then lopes forward in a shimmer of gold, the rope still circling. Justine and their 4-year-old son, Louis, also join Tomas in the arena and perform on their other horses, including an Andalusian and Louis’s pony.
In February alone, Tomas put on 20 performances at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, and loses count before the summer run even starts. To keep his horses at their peak all season, he feeds them Nutrena. “It’s been an amazing product for us. The grain has all the supplements together inside—you can spend the money on all the supplements, but a horse’s system will only take a portion and the rest will be wasted. Since we’ve been with Nutrena the last two years, we’ve had really great results with their coats and their systems and toplines. We feed ProForce Fuel, Senior, and SafeChoice, and for the performing horses, they develop muscle and they don’t get too hot. It’s really good nutrition, and I’m trying to educate more people about being more concerned about nutrition in Spanish.”
Along with preparing for his 21st year at the WNFR, which he’s been nominated in for 2018 PRCA Dress Act of the Year, Tomas’s focus is ever on maintaining his skills and learning more. His wife, Justine, has also been a part of the Jaripeo Sin Fronteras USA tour, a Mexican concert combined with rodeo acts, which she choreographed and managed. “Our goal as a family is to produce and feature our own show,” Tomas adds. “We’ve been involved with so many performers, and we have so many ideas we’d like to recreate in our profession with all the variety of cultures and horse people.”