Art & Soul
STEAM You are an all-around cowboy. You started out as a jockey, became a trainer and exercise rider as well as bull and bronc rider and everything else. Where are you originally from?
AH Laredo, Corpus Christi and all points in between. I went to Chula Vista (art program) and King High School’s art program. I also went to the art program TAMU-Kingsville and I’m looking to go back to and finish my degree thanks to the VA program. I didn’t associate much with the kids here because all my work was between Camino de Blanco to Alice to Laredo. I just followed the tracks and work. Of course, the work was breaking horses or whatever I could work on.
STEAM That’s right; you also where in the Desert Storm campaign.
AH Yes, and I came out a decorated disabled combat vet.
STEAM So how did you get into being a jockey, because I know you need to be the right size before they even talk to you?
AH I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work with horses. It was in my blood. In fact I looked up my last name in a book (Tejanos in the Civil War) and saw that during the Civil War my family took care of the horses. Anyway, my father was from Alice and grew up around legendary horsemen like Claude Adams. In the neighborhood where our ranch was everyone was a cowboy in some form so it was really just part of me and for me the highest aspiration I could be was a jockey. Remember all these places (the tracks, the ranches) don’t exist anymore. They’ve all gone away, which is sad.
STEAM But you still have to have that stature and looking at you, you’re too tall.
AH Well, I held it for a while. I loved it. It was just that important to me. I started training at 12 and won my first race at 14. I was 19 when I had to stop racing due to my size.
STEAM So as a jockey did you race in Texas only?
AH Mainly, between the South Texas Racing Association and the small tracks, we kept pretty busy. It wasn’t until I became a trainer and exercise rider that I started to venture out into the upper tier of thoroughbred racing; to get my kicks, so to speak; Lexington KY, Ottawa FL, and Fairhill, MD. I rode for Grand Motion, who saddled the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom. I did a painting of Animal Kingdom that’s hung in their horse barn. I got to ride a $6.5 million filly named Sapphire and Diamond, which was a thrill. I first noticed something was up when I saw two guys leading the horse to the track and waited until it was completely cleared so that she could have her run without any interruption or danger from other horses. Training was great because I still got the rush of being out there, even though I wasn’t a jockey. Once in a while I would work the gates too. I will say all the people I ever met were just wonderful and it was a great experience.
STEAM I think I understand what you mean. From my experience horse people are a different breed.
AH Yes, they are cut from a different cloth. The Cowboys that taught me how to pop cattle in the brush by riding doubles are no longer around. Now riding doubles with a working cowboy is one of the scariest things you’d ever know in your life.
STEAM What is riding doubles?
AH Riding doubles is when you jump on the back of the horse behind the cowboy and hold on for dear life while he goes about doing his job. This teaches the kids how to see and understand what the cowboy, cattle, and horse are doing, as well as how they all react.
STEAM So you’ve been a jockey, trainer and exercise rider, a bull rider, and a cowboy.
AH I started training as a jockey when I was 12. My family kind of knew that was the direction I needed to go. When I turned 19, I ended up stopping as I’d passed up my weight; that’s when I turned to training and exercising. It was shortly after that that I went to Desert Storm. While I was stationed in Germany I found out they had a rodeo there. Here I was trying to get away from cowboy life, all the way to Germany, and they have a rodeo. Anyway, I got involved with that and made many friends; it really made my tour go fast.
I was in Germany when I won my first title, Most Improved Cowboy, on Broncos; I had competed the year before so I wasn’t eligible for Rookie. Anyway, they only had four bulls and 70 riders. Even though they did two shows and divided up the participants, there were just too many service members and not enough bulls so I switched to bucking horses which there were plenty of. That was very challenging and made it interesting, because I had never done that. When I came back to the states, it was backwards; there were lots of bulls and no bucking horses. So I switched back to bulls, but I still feel that I had a better hand for the horses.
STEAM When you came back from Desert Storm besides bull riding what else did you do.?
AH I trained and exercised horses and cattle work in the brush. People would pick me up and we’d rope wild cattle and take them to the sale barn. During this time I pretty much just stayed around South Texas. After a while I felt the need for one last hurrah and at this point, I was already about 37 so I knew how to do the work, but it was getting back into shape and having the ability to do it. I have memories to last a lifetime and had a great time! It was shortly after that that I had the accident.
STEAM Huh, I did not realize that there were wild cattle anymore.
AH Oh yeah, there’s lots of cattle out there, you just have to look for them when you’re out in the deep brush.
STEAM When and what kind of accident?
AH November 26, 2007. A couple of days after Thanksgiving, I had come down for Thanksgiving break. I didn’t know the horse I was on had a bad tooth and when we were out in the brush I tried to turn her and she bucked twice. On the second buck she lost her footing and fell on my right side breaking my leg and pelvis. Then when she was getting up she kicked back into my ribs breaking them. She was so scared she ran straight to the barn and fortunately my friends were there, saw that she was alone and running, so they came and found me. I was very fortunate, but I can’t ride anymore.
STEAM So how did you get interested in art? Were you always interested in it or did it come to you after your accident?
AH I was always interested in art. I remember in the sixth grade there was an article I read about a jockey and artist named Nancy Keim. I didn’t think this was a possibility to do two things like that, so her article and story inspired my life. I got to meet her in 2004 and I told her my story.
STEAM So that’s why you took so many arts courses and entered so many art programs.
AH Yes, I wanted to be an art teacher. I think I would really enjoy that. I have all of my art credits done; now I have to take math. I am planning to go back to TAMU-Kingsville since I know a lot of teachers and the program director, and besides I had a lot of good experiences there.
STEAM You are a very positive person. I think the only negative memory that you’ve talked about would be your accident and you’ve turned it into a positive too.
AH I believe that whatever we speak out comes back to us and I want to keep the good karma coming back towards me, so I treat others like I want to be treated. It’s how I was raised and how the people I knew acted; unfortunately a lot of those folks have passed on and it seems like my list gets shorter every day. I’ve thought about writing a book about all the things that I’ve done, but I don’t think I’m ready for it just yet.
STEAM During all this time you were traveling and doing things did you keep an art book or hide them in your memory with hope that someday you get a chance to put them out there?
AH I used a scratch pad and did a lot of drawings in the cab of my truck. A lot of the time I’d memorize the scene because while you’re working in the brush you can’t take your eyes off of what you’re doing and using a camera was out of the question, so when I got back to the truck or home I’d sketch it down.
STEAM Now that you’re not traveling and working like that, what does your method or creative process involve?
AH Now I work in my kitchen because it has great lighting. I work on an easel and I stand up because I feel when I’m sitting stationary I only see one angle of understanding. Standing lets me move around; I can step back, I can get close, I can change my angles. I prefer to use graphite pencil with a blending nub and eraser over other mediums, but I have done a few oil paintings. I just think oil is to unforgiving for my art.
STEAM In your art you do cowboys, horses, and cattle; mostly Brahmans, right?
AH Yes, mostly Brahmans, because that’s what they have here in South Texas and just about everything here is crossed with them. The cattle are actually called Braford. Brahmans are very rugged and temperamental. They make you a better cowboy because you have to get yourself right; you can’t be messing with the Brahmans, because they will cramp up and if they do that to a certain extent it can cause them to die. So really, it is easier for a Texas cowboy to go somewhere else than it is for other cowboys to come here because of our brush, the animals we work with, and the weather conditions that we undergo versus everywhere else.
STEAM Looking through your portfolio I saw the portrait of an Indian, and I thought it was such a contrast to all of the other types of work you’d done, can you tell me about that
AH Most of my art comes from experience and what I’ve seen. Occasionally I will find something that strikes me in such a way that I feel a need to put it on canvas. I did the Indian years ago and call it Unsung Hero. I was dating an Indian girl at the time; she had a photo and asked me if I could replicate it. I used that piece as my first Dimension Show qualification in 1999 (I think) and was accepted. Since then, I’ve qualified one other time, and I’ve already entered for this year’s show.
The Dimension Show is the most prestigious art show in this area, so when I enter (and get accepted) I really feel that it I’ve done a great job. The Art Center of Corpus Christi puts on this show annually and brings judges in from out-of-town.
STEAM Besides the Dimensions Show you’re entering an art rodeo. What is that?
AH I am a member of the Western Art Rodeo Association and they hold art rodeos every year. I am entering in the next competition in Montana to compete for a title. If I am
accepted I’ll be going there to compete in real-time. The art rodeo consists of two-rounds of live production under a time restraint in front of judges and an audience.
STEAM Let’s finish up with a little more about your art, because I know you put a lot of your life experiences in.
AH What I try to get across is the cowboy life through my life experiences. I put things in that are subtle for example the brush jacket. Cowboys in the brush don’t wear a shirt underneath it so it acts more as a shirt then a jacket; it keeps the dust and muck off you while soaking up the sweat and helps cool you off, you’ll see people out there shaking their jacket to get fresh air in. What I want my art to do is tell the story that other cowboys can’t tell anymore. This is a culture and a way of life that isn’t so much dying off, but is getting lost in to the background of the modern culture.
Artwork available at: Atelier International Art Gallery, CC; www.internationalequineartists.com; www.cfai.co; westernartrodeoassociation.com.
Represented By: Atelier International Art Gallery and Corpus Christi Art Center.
Member of: Artists of the American West; Artists of Texas; Western Art Rodeo Assn.
contact: * facebook.com/anthonyhinojosa