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The Campolina: Equine musician of Brazil
By Paula da Silva
© Paula da Silva, all rights reserved , cannot be reproduced in any form without permission of the author
We first met one evening at sunset, when the shadows were long and peaceful,
on the narrow street of this little village of the State of Minas. The
horse was announced by quite fast music, " taca, taca, taca, taca" with equal
intervals at each beat, that appealed to my curiosity. And not only mine, as
from the windows on the low, typical houses appeared smiling faces of older and
younger people, all ready to take part in the exhibition.
Stallion PREDILETO DA MARAVILHA from Fazenda-Cabo-Velho, belonging to and ridden by Pedro Diniz .©Paula da Silva
A horse and rider marched down the street and seemed almost to slide or roll
along the old paved path. It was a peaceful sight, but it was a fast vision
that crossed my visual field. The horse man seated, immobile, effortless, and
motionless -only the horse moved. The music of the hoof beats lit up the
whole village for a short while, echoed on other narrow streets and from an
"andante con brio" went slowly degrading to a "pianissimo" that announced the
end of my sunset symphony.
Brazil is such a musical country; everything about it is rhythm and
dance, including the beautiful horses called Campolinas. They represent well
the spirit of Brazil and it's history. They show perfectly the stunning
beauty that is also evident in the Brazilian people and country: striking
colours, gorgeous nature, the samba, the immense rivers, incredible
distances, a fragrance of precious woods, sparkling of gems and tropical
The mare, ESTRELA DOS GAŕCHOS, from Haras-JHR breeding farm. ©By Paula da Silva
People disappeared from the windows and went back to their jobs and I
finished downloading my mail in the hotel's veranda, with a nice feeling of
satisfaction I had seen something that only few foreigners know about, I had
seen a Campolina showing off a true marcha. Music is soothing to the soul and is
socially aggregating - and the True Marcha, as they call the Campolina's gait,
is music and rhythm, action and harmony, poetry and elegance.
THE CAMPOLINAS DESCEND FROM Iberian horses crossed with a few Anglo Norman
horses: the breeding selection as is intended today started at the beginning of
the 19th century and Cassiano Campolina is considered the foundation breeder.
A mare from Criatorio Mata Nova. Note the cropped mane, typical of mares in Brazil.
©By Paula da Silva
Minas Gerais, the cradle of the Campolina breed, is a central state of Brazil
well away from the influence of the ocean, made of big extensions of land with a
mild climate and many hills and mountains. The name Minas Gerais comes from the
mineral mines that are just everywhere, gold, iron, silver, marble, etc. In the
19th century the other important activities of this area were the enormous
coffee plantations and the huge cattle farms. The distances were big, the ground
wasn't easy, and the landlords started selecting comfortable horses to ride on
their long journeys supervising the activities on their land. That is how the
Brazilian gaited breeds started being bred and selected for comfort and
endurance. Of the three national gaited breeds, the Campolina is the one with a
bigger frame, due in part to the influence of some heavy breeds from Northern
Europe, but still being faithful to the glamour of the Iberian breeds.
Coat and Conformation
ALL COATS IN ALL PATTERNS are allowed. The overall appearance of the
individual should suggest its Iberian roots. The shape of the head is very
important and looked up very carefully in the breed's halter events: it must be
trapezoidal, with the profile rather convex without being a Roman nose (straight
in the forehead becoming convex just under the eye line), the ears should be
obvious, longish and perfectly parallel, and the eyes big and dark. The neck
must be well set, not inserted too low in the body, arched and rather crested, a
ewe neck is considered a very bad trait. The body should be powerful,
compact; there shouldn't be much light under it, and the ideal croup showing
on the oblique side and the tail set low.
The Campolina's limbs are represented on the standard as clean and strongly
built, with no blemishes. Their height can vary from 14.9 hands to 16.2 hands,
as long as the horse represents the typical traits of the breed. The Campolina,
thanks to its comfortable and fast gait, is used mainly for leisure riding, and
also for driving.
PREDILETO DA MARAVILHA displays the gentle nature of the breed.©By Paula da Silva
In 1934 the studbook was closed and the introduction of outside breeds was no
longer accepted. The Breed Standard was created at this time and the breed
standard was last updated in 1993.
The True Marcha (Marcha Verdadeira)
NATURAL, STEADY AND VERY SMOOTH, THE TRUE MARCHA IS A four beat gait, easy to
see and to hear when performed on a hard surface. The sound of the beats will be
evenly spaced - 1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4, producing a pleasant melody -taca, taca,
taca, taca ...
A horse ridden at a regular walk does an average four miles per hour, while a
Campolina in his marcha gait will cover much more ground, from six to eight
miles per hour. It looks like a very fast walk. During the normal walk the
longest lasting frame has three hooves on the ground, while in the True Marcha
the longest frames are the diagonal and the lateral ones with a three hoof
support phase in between. So, the complete cycle is eight frames: two diagonal,
two lateral, and four triple stands. These eight frame cycles can also be seen
in other South American breeds. The True Marcha usually shows good flexion of
the hocks, knees and fetlock joints. The rider feels great smoothness, since
none of the jarring effects associated with the excess of lateral or diagonal
movements occurs. Anyone riding a Campolina will understand fully what a smooth
gait is. There is no vertical jarring, and even a beginner rider will not feel
tired after a long ride.
Dun mare QUILHA JHR, from Haras-JHR, shows the diagonal phase of the gait.©By Paula da Silva
The breed standard for the gait demands is to be natural, of triple support,
comfortable, elegant, and regular. Non-gaited horses are automatically
disqualified from show rings. The gaits are judged for comfort, style,
regularity, efficiency and inheritance.
Current registration numbers reflect 85,009 registered Campolina horses, and
7309 breeders. In 2003 4312 mares were bred.
AssociaÁ„o Brasileira dos Criadores do Cavalo Campolina, Henrique
Berardinelli (English speaking, press officer and marketing director), phone
(Brasil) 21-9766-2200, or hberardinelli@allean za.com.br, or visit
The author and The Gaited Horse wish to thank the following farms for
providing horses and hospitality.
Fazenda Cabo Velho, Minas Gerais. Owner: Osvaldo e Pedro Diniz. Contact: email@example.com
Rancho Mata Nova, S„o Paulo. Owner: Luiz Augusto do Amaral Filho.
Haras JHR, Minas Gerais. Owner: Henrique Salvador -
About the Author: Internationally known photographer and
journalist, Paula da Silva, is based in Italy. She is of double nationality,
Portuguese and Italian, and travels to many countries "trying to catch the
essence of the local cultures as well as the beauty of their horses." She
specializes in rare breeds, Iberian and Arabian horses.
Paula is a member of the Equine Photographers Network and of the
International Association of Equine Journalists, and works for magazines in 11
different countries as a free lancer. Each year she visits the U.S. in May for
farm visits. You can reach Paula in Italy by phone at 0322870006, or via email