Most people have dreams but few people ever achieve them! That’s not the case for Ronald Knaack who has accomplished most of his dreams. Ronald has owned his own businesses all of his working life. From ranching, raising crops and breeding exotic breeds of cattle, to selling the energy company he founded, he is a true entrepreneur. In the 1990s, he even enjoyed some acting spots including a Pro Bowl commercial with Peyton Manning, being in films such as “You, Me and Dupree” with Michael Douglas, Kate Hudson, and Owen Washburn and he played a part in the TV show LOST in Hawaii.

Living his Best Life and Following his Dreams…

Ever since he was a young boy, Ronald has had a passion for horses and a desire to be a real “cowboy”! Fond memories of riding his stick horse around the farm he grew up on in Iowa led him to participating in The Great American Horse Drive that has been rounding up hundreds of horses for Sombrero Ranch in Northern Colorado since 1959. This six-day authentic Western horse drive is an experience that fulfills every young and old “cowboy’s” dream. It was on this ride in 2009 that Ronald proudly gained his nick-name “Rattlesnake Ron”. Riding along the trail on his Paso Fino, his horse suddenly spooked and spun around to avoid stepping on a rattlesnake that was only 3 feet away! During the scuffle, he fell off and rolled down a hill, suffering a broken hip. With the camp being miles away, he had no choice but to get on top of his horse and ride back through pain and sheer grit! That experience didn’t keep him from going on more round-ups; “in the past, I have gone on horse drives in the spring with other cowboys, herding 500-700 head of horses sixty miles from Brown’s Park to Craig, Colorado. It’s a very uplifting experience and you get to spend time with real cowboys.”

From Small Things Grow Great Things!

Prior to moving to Hawaii for the energy company Interstate Energy Savers which he founded and sold, Ronald and his wife Nancy lived in Ramona California for about 25 years. “In the mid to late 70s, I and some other 4-H parents started the Ramona Country Fair so the kids would have a place to showcase their animals and sell them at auction when the animals matured. I chaired the Country Fair event for several years. The Ramona Country Fair is still a favorite annual event over 50 years later!”

Being more than an avid fan, Ronald Knaack also became a board member of the Professional Bull Riders sports organization and the PBR Rider Relief Fund, the nonprofit founded in 1998 to provide a financial safety net for athletes injured in the sport of bull riding. “I have been on numerous boards since the 70’s, and the more important one was the PBR RRF board. We helped bull riders pay their doctor and hospital bills when they got hurt.”

A Simple Trip That Changed Everything! 

Ronald and his wife Nancy were breeding Paso Finos in Ramona California when in 2014 they decided to go to the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) competition in Las Vegas. While watching the opening procession, they saw two striking gaited horses that looked similar to the Spanish Paso breeds but were larger in stature. Upon inquiring and learning they were Brazilian Mangalarga Marchadors, he knew from watching their powerful smooth gait that he wanted one. In fact, he wanted to breed Mangalarga Marchadors!

“From my knowledge of breeding cattle artificially in the 70s, I wanted to see what I could do with this breed by breeding with top stallions in Brazil and new lines of imported stallions. They are a beautiful horse of many colors so it’s interesting for breeding. My vision is to breed for the best I can, with a splash of color, and try to improve the bloodlines in North America.” With his beautiful 2023 foal crop from imported Mangalarga Marchador stallion Haiti do Porto Palmeira, Ronald Knaack’s dream of developing a top level breeding program for High Country Marchadors has come to fruition. Ronald is very grateful for Dr. Brittany Harris Bell, DVM, who is the owner of Centennial Equine Sports Medicine in Pagosa Springs, CO. “If it wasn’t for Dr. Harris, with her knowledge, skill and patience with breeding using frozen semen, I wouldn’t have the horses that I do today. She is available any time day or night to get the timing right and I couldn’t find a better reproduction veterinarian!” refer to photo of Dr. Harris Bell

Now past 80 years old, he not only still rides his horses, he exemplifies living his retirement dream. “I’ve always had a love for Colorado and the cowboy way of life.  My Pagosa Springs ranch was everything I was looking for including the dynamic view.  It took a lot of hard work and time to get it “up to par” for the Mangalarga Marchadors I planned to breed and raise. As a breeder of Brazilian Mangalarga Marchadors, I always want my foals to approach me so they feel comfortable with being around me.”

Careful breeding has paid off with a jewel in his breeder’s crown! Having Daniel Pulliam train and manage his horses and the Mangalarga Marchador Breeders Registry represent his stallion as a stud (Bonsall, CA), has elevated Ronald Knaack’s breeding program, High Country Marchadors, even further. His tri-color Marcha Picada (triple-hoof support lateral gait) Mangalarga Marchador Stallion, Apache do High Country (sired by champion stallion Talismã Kafé), won the championship for stallions and mares at the most recent Jingle Bell show in Southern California. Working with Daniel and the MM Breeders Registry, I’ve gone to the next level with showing my horses that I have bred since 2015.  We are getting the breed in front of the public. It was exhilarating to ride Apache in the show. Daniel’s management has brought out the best attributes possible and I couldn’t be happier! Horse breeding is not just my job it’s my way of life. I’ve died and went to heaven!”

Currently Ronald Knaack is celebrating the achievement of “breeding” the very first Mangalarga Marchador stallion, Apache do High Country, to export semen to Germany. Per the regulations of the European Union, member countries will accept imports from the United States, but not from Brazil, so this is a very big deal! It’s also a big deal for Sabine Krüll as well, who has been a breeder of Mangalarga Marchador horses since her first foal was born at her farm (Hartungshof) in Germany in 2012. Since then she has been breeding with three different guest stallions and one resident stallion. Now with the addition of champion genetics from Apache do High Country, she not only diversifies her bloodlines but will contribute to other breeders in Germany who wish to breed to him. “It’s a real privilege and honor for me and High Country Marchadors. Apache is the only Mangalarga Marchador stallion qualified in the world at this point to ship to Europe. I’m so proud of my man!” And…who can disagree?

To sum it up in the words of Ronald Knaack, “Apache is one of a kind to ride and be around. When you’re proud of your work, I think it shows in the end product. ‘Breed to the Best and Forget the Rest’ and it will all fall into place.”

Mangalarga Marchador, the National Horse of Brazil

Surprisingly, the Mangalarga Marchador is one of the largest breeds in the world, having the most numerous horses in Brazil. Like other gaited breeds, it was bred to be both a comfortable “saddle horse” that can go long distances over rugged trails, and also be athletically versatile with a talent for western equitation and working cattle. This breed is known for having two unique gaits in lieu of a trot. Either a natural diagonal gait (called Batida) or a lateral four beat gait (called Picada), with both gaits alternating diagonals with a brief moment of triple hoof support for a different length of time. Mangalarga Marchadors have a natural quick rhythmic walk, a breed “marcha” gait (that is faster than a canter), a very comfortable canter and they can full out gallop, mostly on the range. For more information about the breed, sales and breeding contact: Daniel@marchadorstallions.com, www.marchadorstallions.com and High Country Marchadors, RonaldKnaack@gmail.com.

By Linda Holst