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First Posted: July 13, 2009
Apr 19, 2013

Paso Fino/A Gaited Breed

Paso Fino


Paso Fino is a naturally-gaited light horse breed with a history dating back to horses originally imported to the Caribbean from Spain. Pasos are prized for their smooth, natural, four beat, lateral ambling gait and are used in many disciplines, but are especially popular for trail riding. In the United States there are two main groups of horses that are popularly called "Paso Fino:" One, also known as the Pure Puerto Rican Paso Fino (PPR), originated in Puerto Rico. The other, often called the Colombian Paso Fino or Colombian Criollo Horse (CCC), developed in Colombia. Though from similar Spanish ancestors, the two groups developed independently of one another in their home nations.

Note: A Brief History of the Aristocrat of the Paso Fino Horse (Pure Puerto Rico Pasa Fino Federation)

In 1493, Columbus, on his second voyage, introduced the ancestors of the Pure Puerto Rican Paso Finos to the New World. During this and subsequent trips by Columbus and other conquistadors, Andalusians, Barbs and Spanish Jennets were brought into what is now Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and other areas of the Caribbean. The Spanish Jennet - now extinct - was the primary contributor to the uniquely smooth gait.

The Spanish Jennet consistently passed on their smooth natural gait to their offspring - even when blended with Barbs and Andalusians. The selectively bred offspring became the foundation stock for the conquistadors' remount stations and eventually what was to become known as 'Los Caballos de Paso Fino' the horses with the fine gait - or Paso Finos.

The descendants of the jennet became particularly prized for their four-beat lateral gait. As colonization spread, demand grew for these smooth riding horses on haciendas and plantations. These horses provided a refined mount for the gentry as well as a tireless work horse for the managers and owners of vast sugarcane plantations.

Over the last 500 years many of the specific details of the Paso Fino history have been lost, but the fact that the smooth gait remains, especially in the Pure Puerto Rican Paso Fino horses, is a great testimony to the breeders who had the foresight to preserve it.

The Puerto Ricans have generally prized the presence of gait and smoothness as primary considerations for choosing their breeding stock. Hence, the Pure Puerto Rican Paso Finos are consistent in terms of passing on gait to their offspring.

While owners of many other paso fino horses have to hire trainers to train the lateral gait into their horses, this practice is unknown among Puerto Rican Paso Fino owners. Pure Puerto Rican Paso Finos gait naturally from birth, without special training or appliances!

With fewer than 500 Pure Puerto Rican Paso Finos registered with the Federation and only a relatively few breeders in the U.S. & Puerto Rico who have not yet diluted their bloodstock with horses of outside origin, the Pure Puerto Rican Paso Finos are very rare and valuable horses.

These two groups have been frequently crossbred in the United States and Europe. In recent years, a trend has developed favoring preservation breeding to preserve the undiluted bloodlines of each group..."

History

The Paso Fino is a blend of the Barb, Spanish Jennet, and Andalusian horse and was bred by Spanish land owners in Puerto Rico and Colombia to be used in the plantations because of their endurance and the comfortable ride they provided. All Pasos share their heritage with the Peruvian Paso, the American Mustangs, and other descendants of Colonial Spanish Horses. Puerto Rican and Colombian horses, as well as Paso Finos from Cuba and other tropical countries, have been interbred frequently in the United States to produce the modern American Paso Fino show horse.

On the second voyage of Christopher Columbus from Spain to the Americas in 1493, he disembarked with 20 horses and 5 mares on the island of Borinquen at the bay of Aguada, (today Añasco) and gave the region the name San Juan Bautista. Soon after, In May of 1509, the first governor of the island, Juan Ponce de León, brought horses to Puerto Rico from his Hacienda, El Higuey, located on the neighboring island of La Española (now Hispaniola).

Development of the Puerto Rican Paso Fino

Dulce Sueño - The Puerto Rican Paso Fino was developed on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico by the isolating factors of island geography over a 500 year colonial period and the desires of a people for hardy, sure footed, comfortable horses. Frenchman Andres Pedro Ledru, in a notation about horse races held on the 17 of July, 1797 expressed that the speed of these indigenous horses was admirable, "they have no trot or gallop, but a type of pace (Andadura). A gait so precipitated that the eye cannot follow the movement of the legs." As early as 1849, Paso Fino competitions along with established prizes for winners took place in Puerto Rico for the purpose of improving local horses. In 1882 the first racetrack was built and in every race there were Paso Fino and Andadura categories.

According to Ramirez de Arellano, at the root of the American invasion in Puerto Rico, the Paso Fino played a first order role in transportation as well as agricultural work. One most famous horse of the time, "Manchado" who belonged to Don Nicolás Quiñones Cabezudo of Caguas was said to be "so fine that it gaited at liberty without its rider in the town square when asked."

In 1927 the most influential sire in the modern Puerto Rican Paso Fino breed, Dulce Sueño, was born in Guayama. In 1943, the Federation of the Sport of Paso Fino Horses of Puerto Rico and a breed registry were established. Copita Don Q, a Dulce Sueño Grandson, was the winner of the first annual Federation contest in 1943. In an Agricultural almanac published in 1947 Gustavo A Ramirez de Arellano wrote "at present the descendants of the famous stallion "Dulce Sueño" are the ones who have most obtained titles and trophies from the association of owners of saddle horses."

Development of the Colombian Paso

Importation and development in the United States

The rise of the Paso Fino in the United States began in the 1950s and 1960s. The first paso finos in the United States were imported from Puerto Rico by members of the armed services who were stationed in Puerto Rico and purchased Paso Finos while living there. Rather than sell their horses when they left, they brought them back with them and this stock provided some of the first Paso Finos bred in the United States.

Colombian Pasos came to the United States beginning with a rancher who visited Colombia and purchased quite a number of Paso Fino horses to work his cattle. This brought the second strain into the USA. While the two strains are still bred individually to retain their purity, they are also crossbred to produce the best of both strains.

Today, the Paso Fino Horse Association (PFHA) oversees and regulates registered Paso Finos in the USA. It was founded in 1972 under the name "American Paso Finos," later changing to its current name. It registers and promotes both Puerto Rican and Colombian horses, and under the PFHA two groups have been frequently crossbred. However, recent years, particularly as the numbers of Colombian horses has begun to significantly outnumber those of Puerto Rican bloodlines, a trend has developed favoring preservation breeding to preserve the undiluted bloodlines of each group.

Another spinoff organization, the American Trote & Trocha Association, formed to promote the horses, primarily of Colombian breeding, that perform a diagonal ambling gait known as the "Trocha." The trocha differs from the classic lateral ambling gait of the Paso Fino.

Characteristics

Blood Bay Paso Fino with "Tiger" or yellow eyes - The Paso Fino has several different body types from quite small and refined to very large and powerful. The action of the two strains is somewhat different. The Puerto Rican Paso Fino is prized for its fine or delicate step while the Colombian Paso Fino tends to have more of a rapid, piston-like action.

This is a lively horse that has a natural drive and willingness, known colloquially as "brio," and generally a nice disposition. Paso Finos come in a variety of colors, sizes and body types but the even four beat gait and brio are present in all good representatives of the breed.

A Paso Fino gelding of predominantly Colombian breeding - This horse can easily carry a large rider comfortably for an extended period of time. An 800 lb. Paso can easily carry a rider who is over 6' tall and weighing 250 lbs. over the worst trails, up and down hills, without a problem. The trick is in how they move and how they are built.

Gaits

Ambling

The Paso Fino executes a natural evenly spaced four beat lateral ambling gait, similar to many gaited horses. Both the Colombian and the Puerto Rican strains of the Paso Fino execute the lateral gait naturally, without the aid of training devices.

The Paso Fino's gaits are performed at varied levels of extension in stride. All four hooves travel close to the ground while in motion and are lifted equally in height the horse covers ground. At whatever speed the horse travels, the smoothness of the gait ideally allows the rider to appear motionless with little up and down movement.

Paso Fino performing Classic Fino - The classic fino or paso fino is a collected gait with rapid footfalls that covers as little ground as possible. It requires a high degree of collection. This is show gait reserved for competition. Walking, trotting, cantering or any detected break from the rapid evenly spaced sequence of steps is grounds for disqualification at any time during a fino event.

The paso corto is slightly more extended, and used during trail rides. The speed of this gait is comparable to the speed of a trot but is much smoother.

The paso largo is a fast, lateral, four-beat gait in which the horse can reach speeds equivalent to a canter or slow gallop. The paso largo is not just an increase in speed but also shows a distinct extension in stride. The paso largo can be extremely fast, up to 25-30 mph.

Only a few Paso Finos can perform a true classic fino, but the majority perform the other gaits with ease. The correctness of the gait is very important by today's standards, therefore, horses with a very even four beat gait are much preferred for professional breeding.

In Colombia, there are related native horses who perform a slightly different, unevenly timed diagonal four beat gait, known as the trocha, which is similar to the fox trot, and very smooth. While some Paso Finos will perform the trocha, it is discouraged and considered a fault in the purebred Paso Fino. In Colombia the"trocha" has evolved, becoming a separate genealogical line, and is inherited in a manner similar to the lateral ambling gaits of the purebred Paso Fino. Trocha rivals in popularity with paso fino in Colombia, but crossbreeding is now avoided. Another Colombian breed performs what is known as trote y galope. The trote y galope horses perform an exaggerated diagonal two beat trot and a very collected canter but they do share some common heritage with the Paso Fino. Not as well-known as Paso Fino, these variants are just beginning to be recognized in the United States.

Uses

These horses are versatile and can be used in many disciplines. They are often seen competing in Western classes such as trail, barrels, reining, versatility and cow penning, and are also commonly used for trail riding and endurance competitions, driving and gymkhana.

Note

Paso Finos are particularly vulnerable to EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome) although it can occur in any breed. EMS/theHorse

For More Information

Paso Fino Association/Europe
History of the Paso Fino
Oklahoma State University - Breeds of Livestock


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