Breeds Native to South America
The Peruvian Paso
The Peruvian Paso, also known as the Peruvian Stepping Horse is the blood brother of the Paso Fino and one of South America's horse breeds. 'Paso' means 'step'. Different characteristics evolved in each breed as each adapted to the different climates and terrains of their particular regions. The Peruvian Paso is deeper in the body than the Paso Fino and somewhat larger and wider.
The first horses to reach South America arrived with Christopher Columbus and the conquistadores during the Spanish Conquest. The Spanish explorers held their horses in such high esteem that they sometimes shod them with silver shoes. The horse is credited as playing a large part in the success of the Conquistadors against the Inca warriors.
The founding breeds of the Peruvian Paso are the jennet (a small Spanish horse), the Barb and the Andalusian. The Peruvian Paso inherited his ambling gait from the jennet, his strength and stamina from the Barb and his spirit, conformation and action from the Andalusian.
The Peruvian Paso has inherited the smooth, comfortable ambling pace from the jennet. Some breeds display gaits other than walk, trot and canter. These breeds are called 'gaited' breeds and include such breeds as the American Saddlebred, the Missouri Fox Trotter, the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Icelandic pony.
Peruvian breeders bred for gait, conformation and disposition. Those of uncertain temperament were culled. The bloodlines were kept pure. Sturdy, willing, obedient animals were needed. Due to strict adherence to selection guidelines, the gait and temperament have been fixed genetically. The gait itself is inbred and only polished by training. Peruvian Paso breeders declare that their horses are the only naturally gaited breed that will throw its gait to 100% of its progeny. In the show ring, horses must be shown without shoes and the hooves must be no longer than four inches.
In the early 1900s, increased highway construction in southern Peru meant there was less demand for horses for transport purposes. However the breed flourished on the haciendas in the northern regions until the late 1960s. The Agrarian Reforms saw severe restrictions brought into play, breeding operations were broken up and stock dispersed. Some of the finest of the breed went to Central America and the United States.
More recently, the Peruvian Paso was announced a Patrimonio Cultural (Cultural Heritage) of Peru.
The Peruvian Paso stands between 14hh and 15.2hh and has a classy elegance. He weighs between 900 and 1,100 pounds. He is powerful without being coarse. The chest is deep, the neck strong and arched. In contrast to most breeds, the tail is low set and is required to be clamped tightly to the body. Most colours are seen including black, bay, chestnut, buckskin, grey, roan and dun. Because of its direct link to the Barb, there are some striking colours not often seen in other breeds. The mane and tail is profuse and gleaming. White markings on the legs and face are acceptable.
The Peruvian Paso adapted to carry a rider in comfort for long distances over rough and mountainous terrain. He is adept at negotiating narrow, rocky tracks at high altitude.
The Peruvian Paso has an exceptionally large, strong heart and lungs. He can operate without stress in the low oxygen levels of the mountains and has an innate sense that allows it to pick its way over sliding shale, through deep water and down steep inclines without panicking or baulking. The Peruvian Paso is noted for his excellent disposition and comfortable ride. He is intelligent and keen to please.
The Peruvian Paso exhibits several gaits which are unique to the breed. The amble of the Peruvian Paso ambles in a kind of broken 'pacing'. This is a four beat lateral gait – off hind, off fore, near hind, near fore. There are two variations of this gait. The first and preferred is the paso castellano (abbreviated to paso llano) meaning the beats are equal and the rhythm even. The sobreandando is faster, the lateral beats closer together with a slight pause between the forefoot and the other hind.
These specialised gaits are natural to the Peruvian Paso and foals will display the gait beside their dams within hours of being born.
The gait enables the horse to cover long distances in relatively quick time without tiring. There is no 'bounce' as with a normal trot when the horse springs from one pair of diagonals (near front foot and off hind foot) to the other (off front foot and near hind foot), no excessive lateral motion as when pacing when both near-side legs move forward together followed by the off-side legs but more a smooth side to side rocking as each foot hits the ground in succession (off hind, off fore, near hind, near fore). There are always at least two feet on the ground so it is a very stable gait. Riders with bad backs have been able to rediscover the joy of riding by using a gaited horse.
Terms unique to the Peruvian Paso are termino and brio. Termino is the graceful, flowing motion which starts from the shoulder as the lower part of the foreleg rolls to the outside in a swinging motion as the horse steps forward. The impact is absorbed by the flexion of the pasterns.
Brio refers to an almost intangible quality exhibited by the breed which is probably best described as vigour and exuberance. When on parade or in the show ring, the breed displays a pride which amounts almost to arrogance. The energy and courage of the horse is always under the control of the rider and he remains an obedient partner whilst displaying a crowd-pleasing brilliance.
There are several differences between the Peruvian Paso and the Paso Fino. Although their original ancestry is the same, they have evolved to fulfil different requirements. The Paso Fino does not show 'termino' nor does it have the length of stride that is part of the Peruvian Paso's ability to cover the ground at a good speed.
South America has a number of individualistic breeds, each of which has developed to fulfil particular purposes. The Mangalarga Marchador, the Falabella and the Criollo are other breeds which are native to South America.