The presence of the word "Paso" in the name of each breed appears to have been responsible for some confusion of the public thinking that the Peruvian Paso Horse and the Paso Fino are the same or closely related. There are major differences between the two breeds and to follow is a brief description of those differences. Major Peruvian horse breeders and authorities in both Peru and the U.S. believe there is nothing more than a minor similarity between the two breeds.
Anyone who studies the Peruvian Paso and the Paso Fino will find great differences in their size, conformation, way of going, gear, training methods, and historical uses. What is looked for in the two different breeds is almost diametrically opposed. The Peruvian and Paso Fino breeds are related, but even four centuries ago the relationship was distant. They both came from Spain. The countries which developed the horses, known in the United States as Paso Finos, were basically Puerto Rico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, all bordering on the Caribbean Sea and all located within a radius of approximately 500 miles. The Peruvian horse, aided by geography, history and the convictions of breeders in Peru, has been a pure breed without outside influence for over four centuries.
The training methods for Peruvian Horses and Paso Fino horses are so dissimilar that the only common goal is that the horses are ultimately ridden. Because an entirely different way of going is required of the Peruvian Paso from the Paso Fino, they have very different conformation. The most outstanding difference between the Peruvian Paso and the Paso Fino is the way of going: The Peruvian Paso carries his low set tail tucked between the buttocks. The Peruvian Paso has a generous and well laid back shoulder. He is short backed and long in the undersling. The Peruvian horse takes a considerably longer and freer stride and because of this is generally much smoother.
"Termino" (a swimming motion in the forelegs) is highly desired, bred for specifically, and universal in the Peruvian breed. Traditional Peruvian tack has a deep seated saddle which allows the rider to sit in a relaxed upright position, and allows freedom of movement of the horse's shoulders. Traditional training methods developed by horsemen in Peru over the centuries are only used to educate the horse and training is done with a bosal which works off the nose and allows the horse to retain a soft mouth during the training process. He is progressively worked by way of the four-reins method into the bit which is a short shank curb bit with rollers. The horse can engage behind and lift more in front, allowing for greater looseness of the shoulder and allow him to take the longest stride possible. The Peruvian horse is not started under saddle until the age of 3 and usually finished in the bit by age 4 or 5. Gaits of the Peruvian Paso are walk, Paso Llano (four beat lateral movement in even cadence) and Sobreandando (which is the same four beat lateral gait but accelerated). These gaits are used in Gait, Breeding and Pleasure division classes.
The Paso Fino breed is also started in its training at age 3, uses maximum collection with rapid short steps and little advance, and carries his medium high set tail. Termino is rare, undesirable and attempts are made to eliminate it. The Paso Fino shoulder is smaller and less laid back. He is a short coupled horse and he takes a short stride. A Paso Fino is typically bitted on the lounge, driven in long lines with maximum collection and then ridden in the bit. Some of the most influential training methods used for Paso Finos are primarily from Puerto Rico. Paso Finos are typically ridden with English style saddles with balanced and forward seats and the typical bit used, called a "spoon bit" is imported from Puerto Rico and Columbia. There are other training forms also - Colombians may use a bosal. A much desired and admired show ring gait of the Paso Fino is called fino-fino meaning much finer. Paso Fino means fine walk and is an even rhythm, maximum high stepping action with slow forward progress. Paso Finos are catagorized as: Fino Paso Finos who perform with small steps; Performance Paso Finos who perform with ground covering gaits but no cantering; and Pleasure Paso Finos who show versatility with ground covering gaits.
Get to know both the Peruvian Paso and the Paso Fino by attending their approved shows and visiting the major breeding farms of both breeds. This will allow you to see the differences first hand and to become more familiar with each breed and with each breed's special qualities.
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