The History of the Paso Fino: a Classical Horse
By: Quentin Justice
When Christopher Columbus landed in the New World in 1492, he found a continent without horses. After returning to Spain, upon his return to the Americas, he brought back mares and stallions from Andalusia and Cordela. These horses were a mixture of Andalusian, Barb, and the now-extinct Spanish Jennet. The resulting offspring of this mixture was a horse with a very smooth and comfortable gait suitable for the varied terrains of the New World. Because of a trait contributed by the Jennet, of passing the most desirable characteristics along to its offspring, the horse quickly became favored by the Conquistadors. This was the founding stock of the Paso Fino breed. The breed established a place in the history of Western Civilization, being cited as instrumental in the conquest, exploration, and development of the Americas.
Over the 500 years since the introduction of the founding stock in the Western Hemisphere, the Paso Fino has been selectively bred and refined. And although they can be found elsewhere Peru, in South America, claims the most famous and purest bloodlines of this breed.
The most outstanding characteristic which makes the Paso Fino unique is the pattern and even cadence of its instinctual 1-2-3-4 gait. The hoofbeats are individually and distinctly heard as the horse moves. The movement is smooth and lateral, rather than diagonal. The rider feels very little, if any, up-and-down movement when the horse is in motion. This most unusual gait is performed at three speeds:
Classic Fino – Used for show purposes only, this is the same forward speed as a slow walk. The horse is collected and balanced. Watching the leg motion is fascinating.
Paso Corto – this is similar in speed to a trot. It’s a moderate speed, yet allows one to cover a good distance in leisurely fashion. Because of the smoothness of the stride, both horse and riders can go for hours tirelessly.
Paso Largo – this is a faster speed with a longer stride. The actual speed is different for each horse because it will reach its top speed in natural coordination with its tempo and stride.
Description and Conformation
The Paso Fino’s colors run the gamut of the equine color range. There is no one defining color assigned to this breed as being necessary for it being registered as a purebred horse and they can be with, or without, white markings.
This breed ranges in height from 13 to 15.2 hands (52 to 60.8 in,. or 132 to 154 cm.), with the most typical being 13.3 to 14.2 hands (53.2 to 56.8 in., or 135 to 144.2 cm.), which is considered small to average height for a horse. The weight ranges from 700 to 1100 pounds (49.7 to 78.1 stones). The full size of the Paso Fino may not be reached until it is five years of age.
The Paso Fino is often described as being of noble appearance. The immediate impression that one has is that of power, grace, and overall athletic balance in this horse. Its mane and tail are luxurious and flowing. The neck is sinuous, arched, and muscular. The shoulders are well-defined, but not prominent. The back is short and connects with slightly sloped hindquarters. The legs appear short, but powerful. The breed is naturally sure-footed with extremely durable hooves. Unless the horse is habitually used on rock or hard surfaces, it is rarely shod.
This beautiful breed of horse possesses a natural affection, is very intelligent, and is built for hard work. It performs well in gaited events, for showing, trail riding, and for pleasure riding.