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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 fruits.


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.

Iberian Heritage

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.

Association Information:

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 www.campolina.org.br

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: pedro@impactoinvestimen-tos.com.br

Rancho Mata Nova, S„o Paulo. Owner: Luiz Augusto do Amaral Filho. Contact matanova@matanova.com.br

Haras JHR, Minas Gerais. Owner: Henrique Salvador - contact:henrique@materdei.com.br

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 arabian.dasilva@iol.it