In every breed there are many people who make many different kinds of contributions.
There are the breeders and the historians, the promoters and the horse traders,
and always there are the judges. In this last category, two brothers named
Antonio and Fernando Grana have made outstanding contributions to the Peruvian
It would be hard to imagine any two people more different than these two
Grana brothers. Both are extremely intelligent, successful, confident and
athletic men. But the contrasts are marked. In general. Fernando is a highly
complex and somewhat solitary man. Antonio is uncomplicated and direct.
Fernando is comfortable in the limelight and seeks it to some degree. He
is imposing and incredibly well spoken. Antonio is more of a private man.
He is most comfortable in small groups of friends, and it can be very difficult
to understand his speech since he runs his words together and speaks in
hushed tones. Fernando is a classical example of polite and studied good
manners. Antonio's speech is salty and full of words that are more appropriate
in men's company than in women's. Fernando is almost always serious. Antonio
is very often subtly playful and has a wry sense of humor. Laughter often
breaks out along while after he has cracked one of his jokes. They are so
subtle that they sometimes pass unnoticed or aren't appreciated immediately.
His humorous remarks usually make a well chosen point, and he is famous
for his biting one liners.
Antonio has had a life long interest in the Peruvian horse. Fernando was
disdainful of the breed until the late 1950's, and many breeders still remember
that he chided them about their horses until he was bitten by the bug and
began to get interested. The two brothers are not often seen together. It
is a surprise for new breeders to learn that they did not work as a team.
They judged in entirely different eras, and neither one had any particular
influence over the other. Yet together they shaped the modem Peruvian breed
as much as or perhaps more than any other men. Antonio Grana was a judge
at the National Championship Shows from the very first. He served with Wenceslao
Rosell and Aurelio Malaga in both 1945 and 1946. In 1947 he served with
three fellow judges: Alberto Leon, Pedro Rivadeneyra and Jose Antonio Delgado.
In 1948, he did not judge. Then for nine consecutive years he was the sole
judge, from 1949 through 1957. At first, while working with co-judges, his
outstanding qualities as a judge were not immediately visible. He was recognized
as a complete and well-rounded horseman familiar with many different breeds
while most paso enthusiasts knew only their breed. But in the give and take
of decision making, the multiple judge system led to some bad decisions
and, worst of all, it failed to clearly indicate the direction that the
breed should take. When Antonio Grana began to serve as the sole judge,
breeders began to see that he had many important qualities for the job.
He was, first of all, an eminent man, successful and self-confident. He'd
had much to do with building the Grana's Hacienda Huando into the most important
producer of oranges in the Republic, and he sat as a director for some of
the most important financial institutions in Peru. He did not seek confrontations,
but he did not shrink from them if they seemed necessary. He had clear ideas
in an era when confusion reigned, and he was able to demonstrate that his
ideas were valid. On top of all of that he was popular enough that he was
able to be selected for nine consecutive years as the sole judge, and he
could have continued for additional years had he not decided to give other
judges an opportunity. After its first few years in existence, the National
Championship Show had failed to clearly indicate to breeders the direction
in which the breed should be taken. Many of the people who were breeders
at that time were new to the breed. Horse breeding in Peru had been severely
curtailed with the building of highways and the coming of the auto age.
When the breeding of horses began to make a comeback stimulated by competitive
shows, the new generation of breeders was cut off from the experience that
had always been passed on from one generation to the next. The machine age
had temporarily interrupted that process. The new breeders separated from
the breed's traditions and customs were full of new ideas. They said that
they wanted to "improve" the breed, but the fact was that their
"improvements" would have been significant changes that would
have eventually ruined the breed. For example, the Peruvian breed had been
kept pure and free from the influence of any outside blood for several hundred
years, leading to the creation of a unique genetic entity. In the early
1940's for the first time in the breed's history, people came on the scene
to suggest the injection of outside blood; and worse yet, a few breeders
succumbed to this temptation. During the first years of the show, a few
horses of impure blood managed to win prizes, some of them important prizes.
When Antonio Grana became sole judge, he decided to stop this terribly dangerous
trend immediately. His opportunity to make his point came quickly, and it
brought him into conflict with one of the most powerful men in Peru.
Some two dozen beautifully matching grays arrived at the National Show in
Lima from the Hda. Chiclin. They were owned by the Larco family. A family
that had once been more powerful in the Chicama Valley than even the formidable
Gildermeisters of Casa Grande, the Larcos were still one of Peru's leading
families. In a matter befitting the status of their owners, the continent
of Chiclin grays were beautifully prepared, conditioned and groomed. Each
was almost a mirror perfect match to the next and each wore a custom made
matching halter and was handled by his own private scrubbed and uniformed
stable boy. After having been unloaded from the trucks that had brought
them all the way from their home north of Trujillo, the horses were being
held by their handlers outside of the arena. Antonio, between classes introduced
himself to the man in charge of Chiclin's horses and inquired as to their
lineage. He was advised that they were sired by the Larco's imported Arabian
stallion. Don Antonio congratulated the Chiclin representative on the wonderful
preparation and presentation of their horses and expressed his regrets that
he wouldn't be able to permit their entrance into the arena because they
were not purebloods.
The Larco family never returned to show again. It was a hard blow for the
fledgling National Show and its sponsor, the Asociacion Nacional de Criadores
y Propietarios de Caballos Peruanos de Paso (ANCPCPP). At other times and
in other places, a man of Antonio Grana's convictions was not present to
stop many other gaited breeds, including the Tennessee Walker, from being
crossed with trotting breeds by breeders in search of more size or prettier
heads or some other such "improvement". But Antonio Grana took
a stand that was so inflexible that it stopped this dangerous trend before
it had much more than barely started. Those few people with impure horses
found that they could no longer show them. Neither could they sell them
or even give them away as breeding animals, and they were erased from the
face of the earth without a trace.
Simultaneously there was another problem threatening the breed. The Peruvian
breed throughout its history had been a plantation horse, a mode of transportation.
As such, their smoothness and advance had always been at least as important
as their termino and showiness. But when showing became the breed's principal
purpose, there was a strong tendency to give far more importance to termino
and showiness than to any other quality. If this trend had continued, it
would have been the end of the Peruvian breed as it has been known for several
centuries. The breed was at a critical crossroads. Today one can visit Central
America, to where many Peruvian horses have been exported, and get something
of an idea of what could have happened in Peru, itself, if the wrong fork
in the road had been taken. Peruvian horses have long been admired and bred
in Central America, and the Central Americans have always prized termino
and high knee action at the expense of any other characteristic. Their definition
of a good horse could be simply stated, "The more termino the better
the horse, and the higher the termino the better." The results of this
over emphasis on a single characteristic have been to completely alter the
breed in most of Central America. Horses there often have so much termino
that they are unable to stay in their gait and almost always have lost the
"advance" that is so important in the breed. Furthermore, many
Central American breeders have taken the breed prized as the smoothest riding
horse in the world and have changed it into a horse that is almost as uncomfortable
as most trotting breeds since one can at least find relief by posting on
a trotting horse.
Forty years ago there was a great danger of the same things happening in
Peru. The strongest force in favor of this "improvement" was Federico
de la Torre Ugarte, the most respected breeder in all of Peru and the Honorary
Lifetime President of the ANCPCPP. The main obstacle in the path of this
"improvement" was Antonio Grana. When Torre Ugarte and Grana clashed,
it was one of the most fascinating conflicts in the history of any breed.
It was a monumental clash in which don Antonio had to stand up under extraordinary
pressures. But most of all it was a classic study in how men value horses
in accordance with the uses they make of them.
Don Antonio is a man who has ridden on a horse for six to eight hours a
day during most of his adult life. During the years when he was laboring
to establish the vast orange groves on Huando, he was often in the saddle
from early morning until sundown. To help himself get the best possible
look at the entries, don Antonio frequently judged from horseback and rode
along with the entries. Even now when he is well into his 70's, scarcely
a day goes by when he does not ride. With a chuckle he often says, "The
day I can no longer ride, I'll probably have a fatal attack of nerves."
Such a man as don Antonio will inevitably know the advantages of a good,
smooth, efficient gait. Don Federico, on the other hand, did not frequently
ride. During all of the interviews I conducted for these articles, I could
find only two people who had ever seen him on a horse, and both of them
admitted that it was a rare occasion and something which became rarer as
he grew older. Most breeders who met or knew him never saw him on a horse.
There is no doubt that he rode privately. But he was a short man with a
wide, thick build, and it seems that he realized he did not appear to be
a fine figure on a horse. By the time he emerged as a prominent national
figure in the world of paso horses, don Federico was advanced in years and
was at the point where he rode very little. The most agreeable moments of
his life were very possibly when he was seated in the audience during an
equine exhibition and heard his horses receive enthusiastic applause and
verbal recognition as "don Federico's horses". Such a man as don
Federico is, obviously, more likely to value flashiness in a horse than
a fine gait, smoothness or advance. His breeding program had produced an
astounding number of winners over the years, and there was scarcely an important
breeder anywhere in Peru who had not purchased bloodstock from him at one
time or another. He was loved by all and riding the crest of his fame and
power when he came to have a fatal infatuation with a stallion named Altanero.
One year the breeders in Lima were particularly looking forward to the appearance
of Torre Ugarte's mare, La Zapata II, who had been enormously impressive
at the show the year before. Disappointed when the mare did not arrive,
her fans sought out don Federico for an explanation of her absence. He explained
to them that she had foaled only a month earlier and that it was "a
colt worth more than all the prizes in the world". He was speaking
of Altanero, a horse that was special to him and dear to his heart from
the moment of his birth, a horse that would grow to be his favorite of all
time and a horse that would cause him to fall from the pinnacle of the breed.
Altanero 's first trip to the show in Lima as a halter colt was heralded
by unprecedented publicity. The great don Federico was bringing to the show
the greatest of all the great horses he had bred. Federico and his close
friends, who were many, believed that the horse was nothing short of invincible.
Observing that the horse's extravagant termino made it impossible for him
to gait properly, don Antonio considered the horse to be the antithesis
of what a good Peruvian horse should be and placed him last in his class.
Federico de la Torre Ugarte was ashen with shock and fury, and he vowed
that when the horse came back under saddle the results would be very different.
Many agreed with him. Altanero was one of the most spectacular Peruvian
horses ever seen, and a great dispute arose.
When Altanero came back to Lima in the bit two years later, it produced
one of the most tension filled moments yet during a competition. Torre Ugarte
arranged for his favorite to be ridden by Carlos Gonzalez, considered the
most talented rider of his day. A great deal of pre-competition discussion
took place. As don Antonio remembers it, "The only thing left to do
was sell tickets."
During the competition don Antonio noticed that the horse still gaited poorly
and lacked advance, overstep and smoothness. At one time during the judging
don Antonio walked next to Altanero to study the horse's lack of overstep,
and he remembers having been quite surprised to note that he was faster
on foot, without particularly extending himself.
The results that day were no more to don Federico's liking than they had
been the first time, and he returned to his Hacienda Palomino near Chiclayo
never to return again to the National Show as an exhibitor. The most important
breeder in Peru had withdrawn his support, but the National Show continued
to grow and flourish without him. And Antonio Grana was asked to judge again
and again for a number of successive years afterwards.
Don Antonio remembers his great clash with Torre Ugarte without visible
emotion and without any sign whatever of animosity. During the interview
I had with him while preparing this article, he stated the facts calmly,
and then said "It would have been a shame to lose something that had
been preserved for several hundred years." It would have been a shame,
indeed; but thanks to don Antonio, the characteristics of a great breed
A very traditionalistic and conservative man, Grana once said about the
National Show, "This show has to do with the Peruvian Paso horse not
with some sort of circus." About the breed, itself, he said, "What
makes this breed unique in the world is its paso gait, and that had to be
preserved. The gait is more important that an ugly head or even a missing
ear or tail. My .sole purpose was to preserve the gait. I didn't move from
that position. The horse had to have a good paso."
Antonio Grana can look back with great pride on his accomplishments, for
today horses with inferior gaits have practically disappeared. Thanks to
don Antonio, most of the Peruvian horses one sees today have the high quality
of gait which is the trademark of their breed and they transmit it genetically.
Before he considered his work done, Antonio had one last objective. He wanted
to convince horsemen in Peru to avoid the problems which would come with
riding their breed too fast in show competitions. Once when some riders
passed him at too fast a rate of speed, he quietly said, "I believe
that you gentlemen are in the wrong place. The race track is across town.
This is a Peruvian Paso horse show." In reference to the subject of
speed, Grana says, "One doesn't care if a draft horse can jump higher
than other horses, and one shouldn't care if the Peruvian horse is faster
than other horses. It has never been their purpose to be extremely fast.
They weren't bred for that. When a Peruvian horse is made to go too fast,
it is doing something that is unnatural. A good Peruvian horse can go all
day long at his natural speed, but he will be worn out in less than an hour
if he is pushed to an unnatural speed. Excessive speed is simply used to
fool people. It will mask an inferior gait, lameness and lack of brio. Such
speeds could never be used when a horse is working. He simply wouldn't last.
Furthermore, if breeders begin to select crosses based on the speed of sires,
the whole breed will change and not for the better. Extremely fast horses
very often do not have a very good gait."
This is a subject which continues to be important to don Antonio even today.
The tendency to show the Peruvian horse at too high a speed is a persistent
one. Riders always seem to feel that they gain an advantage over the competition
if their horse is faster. Though this tendency has gotten out of control
in recent years in both Peru and the United States; a strong unity of opinion
is emerging that this gravely dangerous tendency must be controlled.
After the 1957 show, don Antonio decided that he would not accept the post
of judge again. He had accomplished a great deal, and it was time to give
someone else a chance. One of the breed's most important men stepped from
the center of the stage. He had left a legacy that few will ever match,
and he was not allowed to go easily. He probably could have continued to
judge for many more years, but he decided against it.
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