Featured Breed- Paso Fino
A Paso Fino gelding of predominantly Colombian breeding
The Paso Fino is a naturally gaited light horse breed dating back to horses imported to the Caribbean from Spain. Pasos are prized for their smooth, natural, four-beat, lateral ambling gait; they are used in many disciplines, but are especially popular for trail riding. In the United States two main groups of horses 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.
The Paso Fino name means 'fine step'. 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 comfortable ride. 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 his soldiers, 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 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).
The Paso Fino tends to be refined, standing an average of 13 to 15.2 hands (52 to 62 inches, 132 to 157 cm) but is powerful for its size. It has a convex head, clean legs and a relatively short back with prominent withers. Cannon bones tend to be short and the hooves are hard. The Paso Fino often has a thick mane and tail. It is found in all horse colors and there are no restrictions by the various breed associations. The Puetro Rican Paso Fino is the only breed in which tiger eye was found. Tiger eye which usually lightens the eyes to a striking amber, yellow, or bright orange color.
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 an amiable 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.
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 as 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 a 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, some related native horses 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. It 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.