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About Paso Finos
Paso Fino History
On his voyage to the New World in 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered a horseless America. On his second voyage from Spain, Columbus brought with him a select group of mares and stallions to settle in on the island of Santo Domingo, now known as the Dominican Republic. These horses were a mix of the Spanish Barb, Andalusian and the now extinct Spanish Jennet. The Jennet horse was a breed that possessed an extremely comfortable saddle gait, and could pass that particular trait onto their offspring. The result of this select breeding produced the horses that became known as the “Los Caballos de Paso Fino”, or the “horse with the fine step” in English, making it the oldest true native breed of horse in the Western Hemisphere.
The Paso Fino became the foundation stock for remount stations of the Conquistadors. They were hardy endurance horses, carrying soldiers, settlers and supplies throughout the conquest and exploration of the Americas.
Naturally sturdy, surefooted, quick and athletic with very durable hooves, the Paso Fino became a valuable working horse in many Latin American and Caribbean countries, the most influential being Colombia and Puerto Rico.
Paso Finos first came to the United States during the 1950’s when military personnel that had been stationed in Puerto Rico imported a few horses back with them. Since then, their popularity has grown and expanded worldwide as people become instant converts from their first introduction to the breed.
Paso Fino horses are not to be confused with “Peruvian Pasos.” The Peruvian Paso is a separate breed with its own distinct characteristics.
Paso Fino Gaits and Traits
First and foremost what makes the Paso Fino horse so very special is their naturally born, evenly spaced, four beat lateral gait. Rather than trotting, the Paso Fino’s way of moving is an easy, unbroken rhythm of footfall, causing very little up and down movement of the shoulders and croup (top line of the rump) of the horse. They propel themselves forward using their powerful hocks and hindquarters in a way that the entire motion of footfall is absorbed in the horse’s body. This translates into unequaled comfort for the rider. There is no bounce when riding as one would experience with the diagonal trot of other breeds, making them the “Rolls Royce” of horses. It is this exceptionally smooth ride that makes the Paso Fino such a prized possession in the equine world.
Another great attribute of Paso Finos is that their unique gait is completely natural. They are born with this talent, and the foals will gait the day they are born! There are no artificial training aids used- ever. They are also born with a trait that is part of their entire being, and this is called “Brio”, meaning their internal “fiery spirit” and determination. Brio is what makes the Paso Fino horse so willing to perform their gait and show off their God-given gift. While their great spirit and energy is evident under saddle, the Paso Fino is extremely gentle in hand and highly controllable, giving even novice riders great confidence and safety.
They are not only dramatically beautiful and intelligent animals of sound mind, they are also very proud. It seems that they know they were born with a very special talent in gait, and that they must always show it with style!
The Paso Fino has been bred to be very proportional and elegant in conformation. They all exhibit a very striking, noble appearance. With a beautiful flowing mane, tail and forelock, they are power and grace in motion.
The Paso Fino gait will produce a wonderfully smooth ride at many speeds, primarily these three: Classic Fino, Paso Corto and Paso Largo.
In “Classic Fino”, the horse is highly collected and balanced with a very tightly spaced and rapid footfall, each hoof hitting low to the ground in even, four beat succession.
“Paso Corto” is the most common gait, performed at moderate extension and speed. It is the most pleasurable trail gait, again with four evenly spaced beats in succession, but with more ground covered. Most Paso Finos can travel at the Paso Corto for hours without tiring.
“Paso Largo” is executed at a faster speed with longer extension of stride.
The Paso Fino can also perform a flat or animated walk, plus canter and gallop just like other horses. Their tough legs and feet allow them to live and work without shoes. They are a versatile breed, competing in the show ring, performing in timed speed events, competitive endurance and trail riding, cart driving, reining and penning cattle and even dressage.
In a recent Trailblazer Magazine “Battle of the Breeds” contest held November 2008 in Santa Barbara, California, a Paso Fino horse won first place in both the adult and youth categories against competition from over 10 other horse breeds. This is a true testament to their endurance, versatility and disposition.
The Paso Fino is a very people-orientated horse, one that forms strong bonds with their handlers. They possess an extremely willing disposition, and are easily trained, always aiming to please their rider.
They are found in all usual equine colors and vary in size from 13.2 to 15.2 hands, averaging just around 14 hands, making them more convenient for mounting and dismounting. However, do not let their small stature fool you. These horses have been bred for over 500 years to carry heavy loads and work long hours at long distances over rugged terrain. They are a horse for all seasons, and all levels of riding skill.
Header photo credit: stallion - El Marcador de Cache, courtesy El Rancho de Cache.
|Paso Fino Horse Gait Demonstration||Paso Fino Musical Freestyle|