Breeds Native to South America
The Paso Fino
The origins of the Paso Fino include the jennet, the Barb and the Andalusian. The Paso Fino is a gaited horse. There are a number of gaits other than walk, trot and canter and a number of breeds which display these gaits. These breeds are called 'gaited' breeds and include the American Saddlebred, the Missouri Fox Trotter, the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Icelandic pony.
Like the Peruvian Paso, the Paso Fino is one of the South American gaited horses. Both came from the same genetic stock but minor changes have evolved due to the different environments encountered by each breed.
Years of breeding to strict guidelines have genetically fixed the gaits and temperament so that it is a given that all Paso Fino horses will exhibit the specialised gait.
The first horses to reach the Americas came with the Spaniards during the Spanish Conquest. In South America, the horse is credited with playing a large part in the success of the Conquistadors against the Inca warriors.
The Paso Fino was bred for transportation and display and is popular now for trail riding. In the United States, the breed has broken into two main groups. The Puerto Rican Paso Fino (PPR) originated in Puerto Rico as a light saddle horse while the Colombian Paso Fino or Colombian Criollo Horse (CCC) developed independently in Colombia. They have been frequently crossbred but enthusiasts are also trying to preserve the pure bloodlines of each type.
The Paso Fino was used on plantations because of their endurance and the comfortable ride they gave. The smooth gait is a legacy from the Spanish jennet, a small horse with an ambling pace. The gait is now inherited by all purebred Paso Finos with hours-old foals displaying the gait while running beside their mothers. Today the breed is noted for its agility and toughness. It also has a superb temperament.
In 1972, an association for American Paso Finos was founded. Today the association is called the Paso Fino Horse Association (PFHA). Another association promotes those horses that display a diagonal ambling gait, the 'trocha'. The trocha differs from the lateral ambling gait of the Paso Fino. It is primarily horses of Colombian breeding that perform the trocha.
The Puerto Rican Paso Fino has a fine, delicate step. The gaits vary in the length of extension in the stride. The hooves are lifted equally but kept close to the ground giving a smooth gait which allows the rider to sit virtually motionless. Good flexion of the hocks and great impulsion are necessary for the gaits to be performed properly.
There are three main gaits.
This is a highly collected, elegant, rapid gait but as little ground as possible should be covered. In its most collected form it is called the fino fino and is breath-taking to watch. At its best, the extremely rapid footfalls sound like a drum roll. There is a very slow forward advance. An upright carriage and a collection which has the head held almost at the vertical produces a dramatic sight. To sustain this gait, the horse must be a natural athlete, supple, balanced and physically fit.
The paso corto would be used during trail rides in place of a trot. It is much smoother than a trot and ideal for those with bad backs or knees as there is no need to 'post' as the horse moves. The paso corto is slightly more extended than the paso fino.
The paso largo is a fast, lateral, four-beat pace. Speeds equivalent to the canter can be reached. While the speed may increase a little, there is a distinct extension in stride. This may be a very fast gait reaching speeds of up to 25 to 30 mph.
The purebred Paso Fino in the USA is not encouraged to perform the trocha which is mostly inherited through the Colombian strains. The trocha is a slightly different, diagonal four-beat gait which is unevenly timed and very smooth.
The Paso Fino being bred in America is increasing gradually in height and some Paso Finos are nearing 16hh, although the breed standard gives 13 to 15.2hh as the extremes. The horse may not attain his full height until around his fifth year. He carries himself with pride and style. As his particular gaits are inherited and natural rather than 'manmade', the action is rhythmic, balanced and purposeful.
The head should be refined with a straight profile and large, expressive eyes. The ears are set close together and curve inward at the tip. The jaws are defined but not excessive. The neck has a graceful arch and allows the head to be carried high and flexed easily at the poll.
The back is strong and muscled with the ribs well-sprung. The legs are straight and strong with short cannons, sloping pasterns and well-rounded hooves. The mane, tail and forelock are profuse and luxuriant. Paso finos come in all colours.