The Magnificent Marching Mangalarga Marchador Horse

ArticleHow to - General Equine AdviceTuesday 17 January 2012

The Mangalarga Marchador is the National Horse of Brazil and is one of the most popular and widespread horses in South America. It has been exported to Germany, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, but did not arrive in the United States until 1991 where it is still a rare breed. The United States Mangalarga Marchador in America (USMMA) is working with breeders in many states to promote this beautiful and uniquely gaited horse that exhibits classic Spanish conformation and charm and is a wonderful sport horse that can be inspected and registered as a warmblood.  Traditional tack that is used for showing the Mangalarga is quite simple with the saddle resembling an Australian stock saddle. The headset is clean cut with a snaffle bit and the rider's clothing, when showing the Mangalarga in Brazil varies from region to region but it is always colorful and unique.
The Mangalarga is the product of a rich agricultural area and its haciendas where the farmers and ranchers have always valued a smooth and comfortable ride and superb temperament since they spent a large part of their work day on horseback.

The Mangalarga Marchador was originally developed in 1740 as an Iberian breed, descending from the Andalusian stallions of Portugal and Barb mares. In 1812, Prince Pedro I (1798-1834), soon to become Emperor of Brazil, presented one of his fine Portuguese Alter Real stallions, Sublime, as a gift to his friend Gabriel Francisco Junqueira, Baron of Alfenas, whose Hacienda Campo Alegre was an established horse breeding farm of over 70 years.  Sublime was the descendant of 2 horses brought from the breeding farm Coudelaria Alter do Chao in Portugal by Dom Joao VI during the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula by Napoleon. Sublime was bred to the native colonial mares in Brazil, many of whom were fast and smooth amblers of Spanish Jennet, Criollo, Andalusian and Barb breeding. The first foals produced from this cross were called Sublime horses and had the characteristics of the current Mangalarga Marchador horse, including the cadenced rhythmic gait called the Marcha. It was this stallion that founded the modern Mangalarga.  

The breed's name comes from the Hacienda Mangalarga who acquired some of the Sublime breeding stock from Hacienda Campo Alegre and the smooth, rhythmic marcha. Local ranchers became interested in the horses from Hacienda Mangalarga and soon started to buy their own breeding stock from Hacienda Campo Alegre. Since then, the Mangalarga Marchador has been selectively bred for over 180 years with no other breed being used.  The traditional breeding of the Mangalarga Marchador horse has concentrated on the original pure foundation lines from Hacienda Campo Alegre. Since the famous Spanish Jennets are now extinct, the Mangalarga Marchador is probably the purest surviving remnant of that breed. .Genetic studies of these lines show many specimens with very little or no outside influences and these lines produced horses that were sure footed, graceful, comfortable and of excellent temperament.

The first breed association, Associação dos Criadores do Cavalo Marchador de Raça Mangalarga was founded in 1949 to distinguish the Mangalarga Marchador as a unique breed, particularly in regards to the gait, and to set down the standards for the breed. It is now called the Associação Brasileira dos Criadores do Cavalo Mangalarga Marchador (ABCCMM). The USMMA is affiliated with the ABCCMM and. Mangalarga Marchador must pass rigid standards for conformation, gait, performance and endurance. In many cases, the horses in the U.S. maintain dual registry with the ABCCMM in Brazil.

There are however, two varieties of Mangalarga. The original Marchador (also known as the Mineiro) which is of straight Iberian heritage and the Mangalarga Paulisto from São Paulo which has more European breeds in its ancestry.  When the Junqueira family moved to São Paulo, the terrain and local culture required a horse with different characteristics, so they started to cross the Mangalarga Marchador with Hackey, Morgan, American Saddle Horse, Hanoverian and Trakehner, which meant that Arabian and Thoroughbred also found their way into the breeding programs.  This made the Mangalarga Paulisto, which is lighter and leggier, a completely different breed form the Mangalarga Marchador and led to a separate registry of Mangalarga Paulisto horses in 1934. Both Mangalarga varieties are registered with ABCCRM but they are so different that each variety has its own studbook.

The Mangalarga Marchador is a very versatile breed and there are over 350,000 registered Mangalarga Marchador horses in Brazil. They are good cattle horses, show horses, riding and jumping horses, even polo is in their functional realm. The Mangalarga Marchador set the Guinness Book of World Records endurance record in 1994 when two 60-year-old Brazilian men completed a trail ride of 8,694 miles to prove the stamina of the Mangalarga Marchador by riding all day long for one and a half years with the same horses.

The Mangalarga Marchador stands 14.2 to16 hands and weighs between 850 and 1100 pounds, with 1000 pounds be average.  Horses that are shorter than14.2 hands are not acceptable for registration.  Most colors are represented in the breed, but grays tend to predominate. Chestnut and bay are also popular with black, buckskin, palomino and paint horses being present in the genotype.

The Mangalarga Marchador has a medium structure that is strong and well proportioned, with agility, vigor and soundness. The head is triangular in shape with a straight profile that is rounded over the nose region which is typical of the Barb horse. The large, dark eyes are set wide apart and the ears are proportional to the head with tips turned inward. The coat is fine and silky with an abundant mane and tail. The neck is of medium length and arched which gives balance and a proud, high carriage. The chest is deep for a great lung capacity and is reason for the legendary stamina of the breed.  The pasterns and hooves are at the slightly lower angle that is typical of Spanish horses which allows the breed to overreach well without excessive stress.
This breed has an active but docile temperament and is well known for keen intelligence, excellent stamina and regal bearing. They are alert, attentive and easily trained for most disciplines, but most of all, they are renowned for their incredibly smooth and fluid ride even at high speeds using a gait that is unique in the world.

The Mangalarga Marchador has the natural gaits; the walk, the marches, and the canter and neither trots nor paces but moves naturally from the smooth marching gait into the canter.  There are two different 4-beat marcha types, the lateral Marcha Picada (light touch) and the natural diagonal  Marcha Batida (to hit), with the Marcha Picada being a bit smoother.  The marcha can be sustained for long periods of time, allowing the rider hours of enjoyable riding with little discomfort.

The marcha is remarkably fast and smooth. The horse moves its feet alternately laterally and diagonally with moments in which triple hoof support can be verified. If the horse is marching on level ground at a normal rhythm, the tracks of the rear feet will cover or pass slightly ahead of the tracks of the front feet.

When the horse places the feet diagonally and with moments of triple hoof support, the gait is called Marcha Batida.  It is a diagonal four-beat gait, similar to the Trocha in the Paso Fino. When the horse moves the feet laterally and separately and also has moments of triple hoof support, it is called Marcha Picada.  This is a broken gait and therefore creates little vertical movement, similar to the Paso Fino corto or Largo, and has also been compared to the Peruvian Paso Llano.

Due to the triple hoof support exhibited in the Mangalarga Marchador, the marcha gives a very comfortable ride with little friction since the horse is always in contact with the ground. The longer and more frequent the moments of triple hooves support are, the more comfortable the ride will be.

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