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Why I Choose To Ride a Marchador

Posted on June 4, 2014 at 4:35 PM

By Brooke Little

As I talk with people about the Marchador, often they ask "why do you choose to ride a Marchador?"  Marchador owners have various reasons they prefer to ride a Marchador.  I can only speak for myself, but I have heard numerous stories.

In my case, in 2004, I was in a car accident resulting in a mild compression in the C4-C5 in my neck and, over time, I also developed a bone spur in same area. When I was diagnosed, the orthopedic suggested that I not engage in activities that might have a jarring effect on my neck, such as "riding roller coasters."  Well, anyone that knows me would know my next question.  That's right, "what about riding horses?"  His response was, "well, it should be okay."  Now, I don't know what your opinion is, but I thought to myself, "clearly he has never ridden because I have jarred my neck/back more times riding horses than I have riding roller coasters."  In fact, I can't recall of a time that this has even happened on a roller coaster.

Over the next several years, I would find that each time I rode one of our retired Thoroughbreds that I would get off with a tight neck and back ache for a minimum of three days.  But alas, I still wasn't going to give up my riding.  So, I continued on.  I got massages as often as possible to relieve the tension.

Then in 2010, I was introduced to the Marchador when I was asked to start riding a horse named Frevo da Camaq, a 20 year old Mangalarga Marchador stallion, in effort to get him back in shape.  I was reluctant and initially said "no."  I knew he had been a breeding stallion and wanted no part of it.  But, I was persuaded to at least "meet him in person."  So, to appease my friend, I did meet him.  Immediately, I recognized that this was not an average stallion and that the horse was far more docile than all the Thoroughbreds I was accustomed to riding.  And so began my love affair with the Mangalarga Marchador!

Over the next several weeks or so, I began to notice that, after I took him out for a ride, I didn't get off feeling the tightness in my neck and back that would  turn into a dull ache like I did when I rode Thoroughbreds.  This was surprising because I considered Thoroughbreds to be fairly smooth.  But obviously, my neck disagreed. 

As time went on, I fell in love with Frevo and ended up purchasing a colt by him. The next purchase was a Marchador mare.  I now own seven. As I continued to work with and learn about the Marchador, I found them to be a pure joy to handle.  My 1st experience starting one under saddle was with a colt, Cheveyo do MManor, by Frevo who is now one of my stallions.  The first time I saddled him, there was no buck, only an interest to smell the equipment.  The first time I ever rode Cheveyo was bareback with only a halter and rope.  In fact, prior to taking him to the USMMA Mangalarga Marchador Clinic that was held in Ocala in 2012, I had only ridden him a total of 15 times.  He was outstanding at the clinic.  He did nicker at the mares more than I would have liked.  However, taking into consideration that it was his first outing, off the farm, I was impressed once again.  Just yesterday, I sat on one of my two year old fillies for the first time.  The only difference this time is that I had absolutely no gear, not even a halter.  I asked the filly to "back," which is a word that she knows from our ground work, and she did it with no indifference. Then, I asked her to "turn on her forehand."  Unbelievable, she did that too. What an incredibly easy breed!  I have met the majority of the Marchadors in the eastern half of the country as well as the Marchadors in Montana, Texas, and even a few from Oklahoma.  In general, they all have this type of laid back demeanor.  They even lay down to sleep much more than other breeds. They are such a laid back breed that often they look like ponies in a relaxed state. However, once they move into their gait, they suddenly blossom into graceful onward moving beauties.

I could go on and on telling stories of how I am consistently amazed by this breed.  But, for the purposes of this blog, I should keep focus on bad backs and necks.  Well folks, to wrap up this story, I have no more neck or back aches after riding!  That's not to say that occassionally my neck doesn't tense up from stress, but it is no longer associated with my horse work, at least with the Marchadors it isn't. :)

If you are considering a horse and have had a back problem, there are several owners with bad backs who will vouch for them.  I can ride all day, get off, and feel comfortable enough to tack up another and off we go.  Marchadors were bred for a smooth ride so that the Brazilians could ride the hills all day and not get sore.  Research the breed a little, call a few owners, they will have a story to tell about their horses.  Once you own one Marchador, you'll understand why "you can't just own one."     


Proper Presentation/Evaluation of a Marchador

Posted on May 25, 2014 at 4:55 PM

Recently, I have noticed the emergence of photos and videos of Marchadors, with poor gaits, that are taken while working in circles.  If you read my blog about exercises for the batida gaited Marchador, you already know that working a batida gaited Marchador in a circle will encourage the horse to spend more time in triple hoof support.

However, when you are evaluating a Marchador for purchase, the horse MUST work in a STRAIGHT line in order for you to CORRECTLY evaluate gait.  This is why you will see the Brazilians presenting videos of Marchadors working on the straight. I can not stress how VERY important this is so that the gait can be evaluated properly.  WHY, you ask?  Because you can force practically any horse, even non-gaited breeds, to use triple foot support when working in a circle.  So, please keep this in mind when you see videos of a Marchador working as well as when you are watching the horse work in a smaller round pen.  Also, when you look at still shots of Marchadors in triple foot support, if you see a horse whose body is slightly bent or head/neck is just a hair bit off center, you can determine if the photo was taken while the horse was on a straight line or on a circle.

Next time you are considering the purchase of a Marchador, or any gaited breed, make sure you watch the horse work in straight lines.  If the horse is in a larger sized arena, that allows the horse to straighten, obviously, this is okay.  But, if the pen/arena forces the horse to have even the slightest bend, you must see it where it can be viewed in a straight line. If the horse has a good gait, you will see the triple foot support when it is on a straight line. So, remember the next time you see a photo of a Marchador taken with even the slightest bend in the body, neck, or head, that this is considered to be cheating.  I understand we all take the best photos that we can and that's wonderful.  The purpose of this is so that people are aware and understand that to make a proper evaluation of a Marchador, it MUST be on the straight.

I hope this was a useful read. I tried to keep it short and to the point. Thanks for reading.


Exercise 2 - for the diagonal Marchador

Posted on March 27, 2014 at 12:25 AM

Exercise 2: for the batida gaited Marchador.

NOTE:  This exercise is not an exercise used by the Brazilians.  However, I have found that it works fairly well when encouraging longer periods of triple foot support.

This is another exercise that one might use when trying to lengthen periods of triple foot support in the batida gaited Marchador. Like exercise one, this is simply stated with no jargon so that the novice horsemen can relate. 


I’d also like to state that each horse is an individual and unless I am riding your horse, I can’t tell you exactly what to work on. I don’t always use the same exercises on all horses. I use different exercises depending on their individual gait. I would also like to warn owners with Marchadors that are centered. This exercise will add more the lateral movement which you may not want to do with a Marchador that is centered because it could lead to a pacey gait.


First, warm up your horse a bit and get her moving along in a nice forward walk. This is also a good time to work on halting and then briskly moving back to a forward moving walk. Walk some circles. Walk some figure eights. I also use this time to work on backing, side-stepping, and turning on the forehand. However, you’ll want to walk the horse forward between each queue. If these are not exercises that you have already been working on with your horse, don’t use this time to start. Let’s focus on getting in rhythm with your horse and on her gait.


So, now that your horse is moving forward in a nice consistent walk, it’s time to slowly pressure the horse for an even faster movement. Some would refer to this as a running walk with other gaited breeds. In this exercise, the goal is to maintain a nice smooth running walk. Pay attention to how the horse feels underneath you. If she’s getting bouncy, it means the horse is moving into what feels more like a trot, and she is NOT in a running walk. Also, you may notice that the horses head may bob a little when you are in a running walk.


If your horse prefers to trot, don’t get upset, the trot is easier for the horse. If the horse insists on moving into a trot as you are asking for the running walk, halt the horse and repeat. We only want a running walk. If the horse continues being disagreeable, go back to exercise number one and work your horse in a small circle. The circle will encourage longer periods of triple foot support on the inside legs while working those muscles used during gait. The circles also tire the horse a bit if she isn’t paying attention to you. Once you feel you have the horse’s attention, continue to work in a running walk. The goal in this exercise is to maintain a running walk without breaking the gait. And lastly, ALWAYS end the session on a good note. Fifteen minutes of good work is much better than an hour of bad work.


Later we will work on the batida in a fast pace, but for now, we are working those muscles that the batida gaited Marchador may not choose to use at liberty. Also, if you feel the horse is working with you, make sure to reward her when she’s done things correctly. Be patient with your horse.  If you get a nice long consistent running walk, stop the horse and reward him/her. I give a nice pat and a verbal “good girl.”  I also carry treats and reward the horse 3 or 4 times throughout if I feel she’s earned it. Happy Trails to you!  


Exercise 1 - for the diagonal horse

Posted on February 17, 2014 at 9:00 PM

Gaiting Exercise 1 - for the Batida Gaited Marchador

This will mark the start of my “tips for training” exercises for the Mangalarga Marchador. In this series, I will try to use very plain language and leave the jargon behind for the novice horsemen.


I have seen more batida (pronounced ba-chee-da) gaited Marchadors in the States than picada gaited horses. For this reason, I will start this series with tips for the batida gaited Marchador. Warning: this exercise should NOT be used on a true picada due to the fact that it is used to encourage slightly more lateral movement in the diagonal horse.

In my experience, I have found that a batida gaited Marchador may feel like a smooth trot, especially during the warm up. You will find that a bad batida is smoother than the average trot of most other breeds. This is due to a shorter period of suspension (all hooves off the ground) than other breeds. However, this does not make the gait a good batida.  In some Marchadors, the trot is actually easier to perform than the batida gait. A Marchador who trots is being a bit lazy, and you may need to wake the horse up by asking them to move forward at a slightly faster pace.

Once you have the horse warmed up and moving forward at a consistent pace, begin working them in small circles. Make sure your weight in the saddle is straight up or slightly forward. Do not lean back in the saddle. This type of seat will remove some of the weigh on the horses back and allow them more room for over reach in the hind quarters. While you have them working in a circle, keep their head slightly to the inside. At the same time, move your inside leg slightly behind the girth and keep pressure on the horse with your inside heel. I use small spurs during this exercise so that I don’t have to work as hard to apply this pressure. This exercise will encourage the horse to bend a bit more while at the same time push their hind quarters slightly out forcing them to hold longer periods of triple hoof support. The exercise breaks a diagonal beat into triple support.

I hope this exercise is useful to some of you. Check back often to new updates and exercises