We describe the Trocha as a resting movement that the horse executes to travel from one place to another. The word “Trocha,” according to the dictionary, means, “A great stretch of wilderness that can be used as a chute. An open path in the brush.” This definition from the dictionary helps us understand the name “Trocha” we ascribe to the gait that many of our horses execute. The dictionary also says the word “Trochar” is" to trot.” In our case, we define Trocha as a very short and quick trot, without cadence and of great smoothness that gives the rider a good ride in flat or rolling terrain, and an even better ride in rough terrain.
Trocha is the most comfortable gait for those trails or natural paths (trochas) that are found throughout all of the land, especially broken terrain, that riders can encounter during their outings. Trocha is a very ancient movement, a diagonally executed, four-beat rhythm that differs from the Paso Fino which is executed laterally and diagonally. In Trocha, we hear a sound like “trah, trah, trah, trah, a rhythm that is peculiar to this movement and very noticeable to the ear.
At the end of the last century and the beginning of this century, many people utilizing their horses for transportation and work, enjoyed this trocha gait. It allowed them to traverse their ranches and mobilize their livestock. We do not have many records about when Trocha was “born.” It is a fact that many of the Conquistadors used these horses and others that executed the “Paso Castellano” to get them through all of the rough terrain they had to cover to colonize the Colombian countryside, in such states as Antioquia, Caldas, Santander, and some areas of Cundinamarca.
When we speak of Trocha, we have to remember those times when our horse was our mode of transportation, our companion, our right hand throughout all of the difficult tasks that we encountered together. They had that very smooth and silent Trocha. During long journeys, they would get mixed with the Paso Fino in order to rest a little; and today we are looking and analyzing it as its own masterpiece and entertainment in our shows, to demonstrate the variety of gaits or modalities that our “Colombian Criollo Horse” can execute.
This modality has been the subject for a number of important men of Colombian literature like Tomas Rueda Vargas, who salutes the modality that provided so much enjoyment and pride as we rode our horses through the countryside. In Sr. Jose Manuel Marroquin’s work, “El Moro” (The Grey One), he refers to the Trocha gait when he says: “My natural gait is the gateado (crawling), that looks like only one leg is moving at a time, in order to rest or allow the rider to rest when he deserves attention. I’d rather have the Trocha. Trocha is a movement where the opposite hind leg and foreleg move simultaneously, without releasing in a rough way the weight of the body, like in the trot. In this way I am able to maintain, in a light way, the body weight over one foreleg and back leg at a given time”. Sr. Jose Maria Vergara y Vergara, the great critic, poet and custumbrista (someone who writes about customs), when he advises his colt he says graciously and graphically: “If you get a soft Pasitrote (horse of travel), you should be; and if you Trot with a voluntary Pasi Trochado and a soft mouth, secure feet and beautiful figure, I could not do more for you than I did for my heart, which I gave to my wife.”
To explain what was mentioned above, we must look back at the country shows that preceded the small town shows, which were numerous and well attended. This is where all the farmers got together to sell their cattle and buy their working horses and the mules that were so essential as well; and the herds of colts that would satisfy those who really appreciated the use of this horse. In the past, the shows, better called exhibitions, no stalls or arenas were available. Everything took place at the main plaza (square), attended by everyone in town without any promotion or cost to the public. The judges were chosen by the mayor of the town and the show management. They were chosen from all of the known farmers in the vicinity that were very horse-oriented. The criteria that was followed came more from the taste, experience and common knowledge of a good horse. The horses were picked as the “Best Stallion” and the “Best Mare”, without specifying whether it was Paso Castellano, as it was called then, or Trocha.
In the big cities, the shows were organized in a bigger fashion, like the Centennial Show of Bogota, where horses like “El Rey”, owned by Aureliano Marino and ridden by that great horseman Elias Paez; and “Sarraceno”, owned by Eduardo Garnizo, came to fame. At other shows it is important to mention the horse “Mahoma”, owned by Roberto Bermudez; “Marino”, owned by Jose Jaramillo from the Dept. of Quindio; and “Cometa”, owned by Dr. Fidel Ochoa in Antioquia. These were horses that had strong abilities in the Paso Castellano and the Trocha.
I have made this statement about our shows and exhibitions in the past to simply point out that “Trocha” has always been part of our Paso breed since the ancient days of this horse. No great distinction was made about it. Since our horse was used strictly for work and the plain enjoyment of the farmers and any other individual that had the privilege of owning a horse with brio, good gait and that was well trained, whether it was Paso Castellano, Trochador o Galpero (Gallop).
ASDEPASO was created in 1946, the first equine association in Colombia. Rules and regulations were established, and criteria and the division of the classes by age groups were formed. In the first few years of ASDEPASO, a judging system was formed, separating the horses by regions: Calentanos and Sabaneros. The criteria was that the horses from Bogota, Ubate, and the valley of Chinquinquira were more fino than the horses from the Calentanos. The Sabaneros were horses from a more flat terrain, and the Calentanos were horses from a more mountainous terrain, making them different in their styles. This was maintained until 1953, when the criteria changed from a regional view to a strictly technical form.
This is a good time to clarify why I make note of the horse Paso Castellano. It was not until the middle of the century (1952) that our horses were invited to the United States to put on an exhibition in the city of Dallas, Texas. ASDEPASO changed the name from Paso Castellano to “Horse of Paso Colombiano” to honor our breed as they represented Colombia in such an event. It was not until some time later that ASDEPASO separated modalities at, i.e., Paso Colombiano, Trocha, Trote, etc., at the shows. Once the modality of Trocha was established, its importance in the shows gradually grew. As time went by, the classes and age divisions got larger. Due to the growth of the breed in the country and the crossings of so many bloodlines, Trocha has suffered many variations, as described by a dear friend, Raul Estrada, in his book, “Colombian Chalaneria (Horsemanship).”
In my opinion, Trocha has been around since the beginning of the breed. The good horses were able to effortlessly execute both modalities in great form, depending only on the cues of the rider. Trocha is a low, soft and relaxed movement, a product of pure bloodline crosses. Trocha was called the movement that “came from the Finos.” Today, we have a quicker movement with more action of the front legs, but it makes it a less smooth trocha and less relaxing for the horse that executes it. It is more exciting in show form than the working form.
Undoubtedly, since the 1960s, the breeders have made a great effort to separate and strengthen the bloodlines to produce a more Fino and/or more Trocha horse. Due to this effort, we have today the great quality of Paso Fino Horses around us. Trocha today in Colombia has separated itself tremendously from the Paso Fino, but I credit a lot of it to the training and handling of the riders. I say this, because we can see in our young colts and fillies that as they start their training, some will trocha or trot and as they get further and are asked more of, then they settle into the Paso Fino. The trocha movement is an authentic complement of the Paso Fino, when it is executed in the fields during labor to make their job more comfortable, especially in broken terrain.
Article written by Jaime Mejia Escobar