Brazil is the largest country in South America with a beautifully diverse geography and a mostly tropical climate. The country houses many spectacular ecosystems such as the Amazon Rainforest which is known to have the greatest biological diversity in the world. This is an exotic place for a riding holiday and not only does it have a rich wildlife, stunning landscapes and warm weather but it's also home to a fascinating culture.
As a Portuguese colony from 1500 to 1822, the heart of Brazilian culture is based around some Portuguese foundations such as the language, Roman Catholicism and colonial architectural styles. Many other cultures, such as that of European immigrants, has also played a part in shaping the traditions of this beautiful country. Indigenous people influenced the style of cooking (and the language to an extent) and African influences are also apparent in the language, food, music, religion and styles of dance. Brazilian food features a variety of regional recipes and delicious candies, as well as coffee and cachaça, the native liquor used in the delicious Caipirinha cocktails. Brazilian music has many distinctive styles and football is the country's most popular sport.
The variety of natural habitats in Brazil is spectacular and much of the land remains undocumented. Many natural environments are threatened by development and preservation of the rainforests and other landscapes has become an environmental concern across the world. Aside from the Amazon Rainforest, the Atlantic Forest and the Cerrado (a tropical savanna) possess such great biodiversity that it may be higher than anywhere else in the world. The various environments and the wonderful variety of climates make this country a captivating place to explore on horseback.
The “Gaucho do Brasil,” the legendary South American cowboy, refuses to break with tradition which makes the gaucho way of life the liveliest equestrian culture in the world. The Brazilian Gaucho lives in the southern states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul and many are descended from Europe when large numbers of immigrants who arrived in the 18th & 19th centuries, pioneers mostly from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Holland and Belgium.
The national horse of Brazil is the Mangalarga, a wonderful breed which has since split into two - the general Mangalarga (also known as the Mangalarga Paulista) and the Mangalarga Marchador. The original Mangalargas (Paulista) were bred by a Baron in the early 1800s, when the topography and culture of the lands forced him and his family to search for different horses. He crossed Royal horses, a specific breed of Lusitano, with his own colonial mares (mostly Barbs) to create a horse with lovely smooth gaits. This was then crossed further with Thoroughbreds, Arabs, American Saddlebreds and a Lusitano to create the Mangalarga Marchador. Both these sorts of horses are excellent for trails and a variety of disciplines, though their gaits are slightly different.
Other native breed of Brazil are Campolino and the Pantaneiro horses
However, perhaps the most widely used by gauchos is the Criollo (Crioulo in Portuguese. The Criollo is a native horse from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. It may have the best endurance of any horse breed in the world next to the Arabian. In fact, due to the crioulo's low basal metabolism, it may be a better long-distance horse than the Arabian in prolonged races over a week in duration with no supplemental feed. The breed is most popular in its home countries, and is known for its hardiness and stamina.
The criollo is a hardy horse with a brawny and strong body. They have short, strong legs with good bone, resistant joints, low-set hocks, and sound, hard feet. The long-muzzled head is medium to large and has a straight or slightly convex profile with wide-set eyes. The croup is sloping and the haunches well-muscled, the back short with a strong loin. They have sloping, strong shoulders with muscular necks.The body is deep with a broad chest and well-sprung ribs. The criollo is tractable, intelligent, willing, and sensible. Criollo horses average 1,60m or 15 hands high.
For adventurous travellers, Brazil is a spectacular country to visit and offers numerous horse riding opportunities. There are many available activities besides trail rides and rainforest adventures - visitors can ride on cattle ranches as well as practising dressage and other riding disciplines. The landscapes are such that they never become tiresome and the high quality horses, tasty food, inviting culture and tropical climate mean that this is riding holiday paradise.
See our horse riding holidays in Brazil below.