More than 50% of all the registered horses in South America, including the Mangalarga Marchador, still show the characteristics of the famous horses of The Conquistadors, the Jennet. The Mangalarga Marchador, along with the Campolina and the Crioulo horses, make up the 350,000 horses that populate South America. The Mangalarga Marchador, in fact, is the national horse of Brazil.
Like a lot of the horses in Brazil and the surrounding areas and coasts, the Mangalarga is well known for its capacity for farm work and other heavy labor activities. It performs with high endurance, good temperament, and a smooth ride.
It is said that in 1812, Prince Pedro I, who later became the Emperor of Brazil, presented one of his finest stallions to his friend Gabriel Francisco Junqueira. He was the baron and owner of the breeding farm Coudelaria Alter do Chao, the Stallion "Sublime" as he was known, was said to set the foundation for all modern Mangalarga Marchador horses. "Sublime" was bred to mares of Spanish and Barb blood, which were known for being quick and smooth. The first offspring of this cross breed were known as Sublime Horses. The name Mangalarga comes from the Hacienda Mangalarga which obtained horses from Campo Alegre, this sparked the interest of local farmers. They soon started to go south to get their horses. Because the buzz of these horses, they have been selectively bred for over 180 years, so no other breed was crossed with it during this period.
The first breeders organization that was formed was the Associato dos Criadores do Cavalo Marchador de Rasa Mangalarga was formed in 1949, then later is was named the Associato Brasileira dos Criadores do Cavalo Mangalarga Marchador and remains that name today. It has around 7,000 members to the cause and about 190,000 registered horses to its association.
The Mangalargo has two different types of gaits, the marcha picada, and the marcha bitada. Some argue about which is the better, but it really just comes down to what the rider prefers. The Mangalargo is sometimes compared to the Swiss Army knife because it can perform many different tasks with ease. It ranges from managing cattle on a ranch straight down to basic pleasure riding.
The Mangalargo Marchador has even made a name for itself in the Guinness Book of World Records, in 1994; two 60 year Brazilian men completed an 8,694 endurance trip over a period of a year and a half, riding everyday and resting up over night. This was all completed with the same horses that they started off with.
Germany was the first country outside of Brazil to be overrun with these horses; it took place in the late 1980s. They can now be seen in Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Holland and many other South American countries. It wasn't until 1991 that they were finally in the United States. This was done by two Brazilians named Gabriel Andrade and Lucas Guerra; they first introduced the Mangalargo into the United States in Miami, Florida.