Here in the USA, we have two Marchador breeding trends occurring. We have Marchadors that are being bred to "march," and we have Marchadors that are being bred to keep a naturally gaited "marcha." Some of you might be thinking, “what does she mean,” or “I thought the terms march and marcha were the same.” In my opinion, the two are quite different.
In effort to explain the difference, I’ll start with “march.” Let’s look at the Lusitano. Keep in mind that a Lusitano stallion was used as the foundation sire when the Marchador was being developed, and thus, they have similar characteristics. In the USA, the Lusitano is mainly used in dressage and jumping where it is known for it’s higher knee action and elongated movements.
I have included a video of a Lusitano being ridden as well as working at liberty. You will see the horse begin to look like he has a marching action when he moves into a faster rhythm, and you will see him with a rider going at a slower trot that looks quite uncomfortable to sit. Notice the bounce in the rider when the horse is at a slow trot. But, when the horse is moving out at liberty, in a trot, notice that there is very little movement in the withers which would be quite smooth to ride.
When any breed of horse is asked to move forward, with speed, it automatically flattens and smooths out. This is because the horse has to propel itself forward with each step which requires over-reach and the hooves to remain in contact with the ground for longer periods of time. There is also less vertical movement due to the horse reaching under his body and pushing with the hind quarters (over-reach) allowing himself to move forward at a faster speed. Because the Lusitano has a higher knee action than the average breed, this movement begins to look like a marching action (as it also does with a Marchador) when held steady at a fast speed. This type of movement is what I am referring to when I use the term “march.” There is no triple foot support seen in this type of march, but the horse does remain in contact with the ground for longer periods of time and looks as though it is smoother to ride. Note the videos below.
Above: Reference video of a Lusitano trotting. Notice the smoothness of the horse when is moves out at liberty. Notice the similarities of this horse with a Marchador... short back, marching stride, even looks as though the rear hoof will hit the ground before the front.
Above: Reference video is a Marchador in a trot. This horse is beautiful, but there is no gait in this horse when moving in a straight line. The rider is able to pull slight triple foot support on an angle, but you can force any horse to have triple foot support on turns.
Then, we have the term “marcha.” If you have read my section about the gaits of a Marchador, you should have a general understanding that when we use the term “marcha,” we are generally referring to “gait.” So, a Marchador that is considered to be “marcha batida” means that the horse has a batida gait, and a horse that is “marcha picada” means that it has a picada gait. Then, we have Marchadors that have the ability to amble in both batida and picada. You will find that breeders are referring to this type of horse as a “marcha de centro.” But, the most important take away from the term “marcha” is that the horse must show triple foot support.
Otherwise, without the evidence of triple foot support, the horse is actually trotting with little suspension as it digs into the ground to propel himself forward. It begins to look like a march at faster speeds, just as you see the Lusitano doing in the video when he is at liberty and moving forward in the fast trot along the fence line.
Why is all this important? Because we have people who mistake this “march” as a gaited type of movement. Simply put, a march is a trot that has a mechanical look to it when held steady in a fast pace (for those unfamiliar with horse language, when you hear a horseman use the word pace, he is most often referring to the speed of the horse and is not referring to a horse that is pacing). So, now do you understand? A march is not a marcha.
Now that we have an understanding of the difference between the two terms, there seems to be a trend occurring in the USA with regard to the march. We have breeders who are breeding toward a march (trot) because they are consistently breeding batida gaited Marchadors with the like. When this happens, over time, the offspring will end up with a trot. In my opinion, when there is no triple foot support and the Marchador doesn’t gait, you end up with a horse that is a watered down Iberian breed. If you want a horse of this nature, it would be better to cross some type of a mare with a Lusitano stallion so that you have more options for showing with the Lusitano circuits.
Regardless, sure as the world turns, so will the breeders. My only hope is that we do not breed out the natural gait ability of the Mangalarga Marchador as it has happened with other gaited breeds.
Another concern is regarding the bloodlines of breeding stock in the Marchador in North America. I estimate that 70% of the breeding animals in the USA are of the Abaiba bloodline. Soon, all Marchadors will be full Abaiba blooded animals, and we will have bred out ALL other foundation bloodlines. It is thought that horses of the Arab breed were injected into Marchadors with Abaiba blood at some point during the early development of the breed. This was done to refine the bone structure of the Marchador. It is not a secret that Arabs are known to be a bit more hot headed than the average breed. Thus, you will find that Abaiba blooded horses are more reactive by nature than a Marchador with no Abaiba blood. They are typically the most beautiful of the foundation lines. But, the docile nature in these horses has been compromised when compared to other lines. You will find them to be the most reactive line. It is also no surprise that the gait was affected. If you haven't already guessed, an Abaiba blooded Marchador tends to gait poorly. However, if you want a Marchador with more athleticism and increased endurance, then an Abaiba blooded Marchador will serve you perfectly. Sadly, soon we will no longer be able to choose to own a Marchador that isn't of the Abaiba line. This is something that should be addressed by the American associations for the Marchador. Breeders need to recognize this as it poses inherit risk to the breed, it's gait and docile nature.