(‘small package’ in Spanish)
By Laura Mann
What a wonderful surprise to learn from a friend that the USDF used a picture of my beloved rescue horse, Paquete Pequeño, taken at a 2019 USDF-recognized show at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center on their website! But there is, perhaps, an interesting enough story as to how this rescue came to find me, and even as to his breeding – it’s a mouthful and obscure, to warrant an article!
Back in 2016, I sang in my church choir and, at one spring service, a lady in the congregation could be seen by the whole choir whispering into my husband’s ear, which caused quite a stir, with my chair getting subtle kicks and me getting elbowed in between hymns. After the service, I was swarmed but knew nothing about the mystery woman. I discovered she was fostering a rescued “16.5h Percheron or Percheron cross” that was jumping out of its paddock into her backyard, and she was worried it would hurt her small children. I am known as “the English horse woman” in my area, so naturally, the mystery lady thought I would be interested in taking this horse off her hands. Since I’m an eventer, she had me at “jumping”. (I decided not to question the 16.5 reference, and I envisioned a huge, magnificent gray, so sure, I agreed to go look at it.)
The animal was deemed too dangerous to be kept in foster care any longer, so when I went to go see it a day or two later, I had to drive to the rescue organization to which it had been returned. As I pulled up, a dark head with large eyes, a very wide blaze, and pricked ears easily dropped over the top of the first stall wall. So, I reckoned it was really more Shire than Percheron, but happily walked over to it. I was abruptly intercepted by a volunteer who, after confirming which horse I was there to see, shoved a halter towards my chest saying something like, “That’s the wrong horse. The one you want is in the last stall on the right. Enter at your own risk.” Okay….what was I going to get myself into?
I opened the stall door, and a tiny, near skeleton of an equine put his muzzle on my chest. He was ewe-necked, cow-hocked, and his backbone and hips stood out. I tried running my hands down his legs and over his body, and all he wanted to do was nuzzle me. I asked if I could see him move on a lunge line, and as he walked out of the stall he over strode his front hoof print by a foot. He had an enormous, fluid walk. His trot was airy. I returned with my trailer, signed the paperwork, paid the fees, and took him home.
He spent a year grazing on good pasture, getting good supplements and a regular diet, learning how to be a civilized horse, and doing groundwork. I spent a year trying to find a barn name he would acknowledge. After backing him and getting the basics down, I asked Lurena Bell for some dressage instruction. She treated him as if he was a 17.1 warmblood, which by now, we all knew that’s just what he thought he was. Every now and then, if I asked too much of him, he would go into a single foot, four beat gait, or do levade. So, the question kept cropping up…what was he?
Guesses from vets, equine dentists, farriers, trainers, and friends poured in from Azteca, Lusitano cross, Andalusian cross, Mustang cross, to Quarter Horse/Morgan cross. He does have a convex profile. I figured if we were going to show in the USDF world, I had better find out his breeding, so I sent off for a DNA test. The results came back as a Mangalarga Marchador! He cannot be registered, and is probably crossed with something else, but the Mangalarga Marchador is a Brazilian breed that has a smooth, ground covering four beat gait, the Marchador. They are also pretty unflappable, which makes them a favorite mount for archery and rifle from horseback, and also explains why halt is his favorite gait.
I love my Mangalarga Marchador! He has a huge personality, yet I can put beginners on him. Plus, as I get older, I like riding a 15.1, calm and steady horse. “Bitty,” as he likes to be called, has my heart for life, even if we aren’t the biggest, flashiest, best-moving duo in the class. And another wonderful surprise is that he is eligible for Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards through the International Rescue Horse Registry. My mom always told me good things come in small packages, and Bitty has proven it true.