The first time I saw a Marchador in Marcha - I was amazed at the powerful drive from the rear, and the smooth, free action of the shoulder. The Marchador moves differently from other gaited breeds, and it is evident the first time you ride one.
In Brazil, the cattle ranches are vast, and dwarf what we are used to in North America. The area around Minas Gerais is very mountainous, making it impractical to manage the ranches by motorized vehicle. As well as having natural "cow sense" Marchadors are also smooth, surefooted and with a lot of stamina, so a rancher can be in comfort and safety.
The Marchador has the normal gaits of any horse, they have a long strided walk, trot, rocking canter and gallop.
In addition to the walk, trot, canter and gallop - the Marchador may exhibit three other "gaits", or Marcha (Picada, Batida and an intermediate gait called Marcha de Centro or Center Gait). Some horses exhibit all, others exhibit one or two. The Marcha must be present naturally, and not induced. There is no need for harness, weights or special trimming for the Mangalarga Marchador to Marcha, and Marchadors with the strongest Marchas will Marcha even when running loose in the fields.
Marchas are in the range
between the Trot and the Pace
but do not include the Trot or Pace
The Marchas are fast (10-15 mph), and most 3 gaited horses must canter to keep up to a Marcha. Since there is triple hoof support and no termino, the Marchador can maintain the Marcha for long durations without stressing the joints or muscle. A stable Marcha can be established even on rough ground and mountainous country.
Identification gets a little complicated for beginners, and the Marcha can take some time to learn to see, feel and hear, though studying video and photos will help to understand the Marchas.
A Mangalarga Marchador may naturally develop a preference for one Marcha or another, but some Marchadors will shift through all three variations. In Brazil, there is policy of "setting the gait", or having the horse choose it's best gait, which can be done once a Marchador is backed (at three years of age). The Marcha must be evident under saddle upon inspection after 3 years of age before a Marchador can be permanently registered and approved for breeding.
In Brazil, they say that the Marcha is a result and indication of the mind of the Marchador. Not simply a result of conformation.
The Marcha has moments of triple hoof support, which can usually only be observed in slow motion video or by photograph. The Marcha is rhythmic and strong even on rough and uneven ground, an ability that is of high regard for those who use Marchadors in Endurance racing.
The Marcha Picada - more lateral foot timing
A more lateral ambling Marcha. Picada in Portuguese means "Light Touch".
If you glance at the Marchador from the side, and the leg movement appears to be more lateral, with the legs of the same side moving forward at a similar time, this is a Picada or lateral phase. Listening, you will hear an even 4 beat "tica-taka-tica-taca sound.
The Marcha Batida - more diagonal foot timing
A more diagonal Marcha, Batida in Portuguese means "To Hit".
If you glance at the Marchador from the side, and the leg movement appears to be more diagonal, with the legs of the diagonal moving forward at a similar time, this is a Batida or diagonal phase. To the naked eye, this can be mistaken for a trot, however there is no moment of suspension, and very little vertical movement.
The Marcha de Centro - more equally both lateral and diagonal
The Center Gait is intermediate, between the diagonal and lateral. The Marchador will sometimes appear to be in Picada (lateral), and other times appear to be in Batida (diagonal).
It is difficult to see the moments of triple and quadruple hoof support
with the naked eye. Video and slow motion capture is necessary.
Following is a YouTube Video which first demonstrates the Marcha Batida and then the Marcha Picada. Notice the different sound of the footfalls for Marcha Picada and Marcha Picada.The Marcha Picado having more footfalls per minute than the Marcha Batida.
And, this video demonstrates the Center Gait
Were you able to identify the different Marcha's?
Along with the gentle, kind and willing character of the Marchador, the Marcha is one of the things that makes the Marchador such an excellent choice for those who want a versatile and sensible horse that can take them places in comfort.