Often used today as light draught horses, saddle horses, for cattle rounding, troop horses by the cavalry, or for Italian mounted police work, the robust Maremmana, also called Maremmano or Maremma, stand approximately fifteen hands high or larger. Ridden in the Roman countryside by the butteri, which are cowboys or herdsmen, to work the cattle, the Maremmana are a very steady, solid, good-natured, versatile, enduring, strong, resilient horses that are not terrible fast but work with the cattle using their natural ability.
Originating in the province of Maremma on the west coast of Italy in Tuscany, the Maremmana breed ancestry is unclear but believed based on Arabian, Barb, and Spanish stock and descendants of relatives of the Neapolitan horse. They crossed the Maremmana's with the Norfolk Roadsters near the end of the nineteenth century.
In 1532, a Naples resident and Neapolitan nobleman named Federico Grisone founded the Neapolitan riding academy, which became famous. Grisone became a famous classical riding master and regarded as one of the first masters of courtly riding and training although horse trainers today do not use his often cruel, unfeeling, harsh training methods. Published in 1561, Grisone's book called The Rules of Horsemanship show several cases where he used severe, harsh, cruel methods to subdue the Maremmana horses.
The Maremmana Mount is a typical, traditional way to mount a Maremmana horse, with the Buttero using one hand to guide the horse while holding a 'l'uncino' or stick in the other to help with the job.
Every year in August, the Maremma butteri or cowboys meet to enter a unique tournament to test their riding ability and skills against other herdsmen. Divided into two teams, the cowboys are either the Yellow or Red Roses, also known as the Rosa Gialla and Rosa Rossa. Cowboys of opposite colors compete two at a time trying to outride the other and capture the other team's colored band. The butteri put on a magnificent display riding their Maremmana, while body fighting and escaping. The winner is the team that collects the most colored bands of the other teams.
Maremmana horses are generally calm, loyal, intelligent, and have excellent memories. When trained properly these horses make excellent trail partners, remembering sights and things seen previously. Although there are stories of brave Maremmana shielding and protecting their riders from injury and bullets during battle, there are also stories of what an unforgiving breed the Maremmana are. These horses have impressive memories with many tales told about Maremmana horses waiting for several years just to take revenge on the individuals that abused them.
A group of Italian equestrians is going to use Maremmana horses to retrace Marco Polo's thirteenth century eighty-seven hundred mile journey between China and Venice. The expedition chose the Maremmana because they feel that this hardy horse breed is closest to the original type of horse used by Marco Polo, his father Noccolo, and brother Maffeo on their voyages to the court of the Mongol emperor, Kublai Khan.