History of the Paso Fino
The Paso Fino horse originated in South America over 500 years ago, with the journey of the Spanish conquistadors to the New World in 1492. The Spanish imported their own horses; Andalusians, Spanish barbs (originally from North Africa) and Spanish jennets (now extinct). It was the jennet that was responsible for the gait of the Paso Fino, as it had a particularly comfortable pace that was passed on to its offspring. Interbreeding of these animals created the breed that the conquistadors named “los caballos de paso fino”, which translates as “the horses with the fine walk”.
The horses were bred for their stamina, smooth walk and looks, and they became the foundation stock of the conquistadors’ remount stations. Over the years, selective breeding produced regional variations of the breed in Puerto Rico, Peru, Cuba and Colombia, and later, in other Latin American countries.
It is believed that they first spread into North America with the conquistadors, but the Spanish retreat meant that the horses did not become widely known, although their influence can be seen in the modern mustang.
North America first became aware of the Paso Fino after the Second World War, through servicemen stationed on Puerto Rico. The first Paso Finos were imported from here in the 1940s, and from Colombia in the 1960s.
The Paso Fino Gait
The gait is smooth, rhythmic, purposeful, straight and balanced, and should be extremely smooth and comfortable for the rider. The sequence of footfalls is off hind, off fore, near hind, near fore.
The gait of the Paso Fino horse is totally natural and normally exhibited from birth, with no special training or shoeing to exaggerate it. It is an evenly spaced four-beat lateral gait with each foot contacting the ground independently in a regular sequence at precise intervals creating a rapid, unbroken rhythm. Executed perfectly, the four hoof beats are absolutely even in both cadence and impact.
The Paso Fino gait is performed at three forward speeds and with varying degrees of collection. In all speeds of the gait, the rider should appear virtually motionless in the saddle, and there should be no perceptible up and down motion of the horse's croup.
Classic Fino - Full collection, with very slow forward speed. The footfall is extremely rapid while the steps and extension are exceedingly short.
Paso Corto - Forward speed is moderate, with full to moderate collection. Steps are ground-covering but unhurried, executed with medium extension and stride.
Paso Largo - The fastest speed of the gait, executed with a longer extension and stride, and moderate to minimal collection. Forward speed varies with the individual horse, since each horse should attain its top speed in harmony with its own natural stride and cadence. The top recorded speed for this pace is 32mph.
The Paso Fino can also perform the other gaits of the horse, and competes in western classes (trail and versatility), costume and pleasure driving, cow penning, trail riding and endurance.
Conformation and Appearance
The head is refined, with a straight or slightly convex profile (from their Andalusian heritage). Concave (dish) faces are not typical or desirable. The eyes are large and well spaced, without excess white around the edges. The ears are short and curved inwards at the tips. The neck is set on relatively high, and breaks at the poll.
Shoulders should be sloping, with a moderately wide chest, well-sprung rib cage and a topline that is proportionally longer than the underline. A sloping croup, broad loins and strong hocks are also desirable.
Legs should be straight, with well-defined tendons, short cannon bones and sloping pasterns. Hooves should be small, round, strong and dense. Paso Finos are often left unshod. Typically, they may stand slightly under at the rear
Paso Finos range between13 – 15.2hh, typically being13.3 – 14.2hh. They are slow maturing, and will usually reach their full size at 5 years old. Any colour is acceptable apart from spots, and white markings are acceptable.
Paso Finos are shown with full mane, tail and forelock, to which no
additions or alteration are permitted, apart from a bridle path of up
to 4 inches.
Links and Addresses
The Paso Fino Horse Association
Tel (813) 719-7777
www.gaitedhorses.net/BreedArticles/PasoFino.htm - breed description
www.pasofinos.com - information on regional Paso Fino organisations
www.pasopedigree.com - good site, with some in depth articles.
www.qconline.com/paso - another good site, plenty of pictures and links