Printed in the Peruvian Horse Review, Volume 2,
Number 1, Spring 1975
By Henry Curry, Jr., MD
with drawings by Karen Zahlis
Termino is the most distinctive feature of the
Peruvian Paso and is perhaps the most difficult to analyze. It
is a complicated movement involving the entire forelimb and is
executed so rapidly the human eye can only perceive it in
fragments. Even the most experienced aficionados find it
difficult to concisely describe the subtle variations. A
neophyte will probably be confused about termino for at least a
year and much of the problem lies in the lack of a uniform
definition. When I became interested in Peruvian Pasos several
years ago, the only consistent thing I heard about termino was
that all horses of the breed have it. Some people say, "the
more temino the better the horse" and other opinions are equally
adamant that exaggerated termino is undesirable. References are
made to "high termino" and "low termino" but these terms are
bantered with no common point of reference. "High termino", to
some means a movement originating in the shoulder but others
refer to it as exaggerated action in the lower leg.
Janetta Michael and I were discussing breed
standards a couple of years ago and after discovering that it is
somewhat like describing a spiral staircase* without using your
hands, we agreed on a reasonably concise description.
"Termino is an outward rolling of the front
limbs during extension. It should originate in the shoulders
and be associated with obvious "looseness" and fluidity in the
movement of the shoulder girdle. This allows well gaited horses
to reach out and forward in a smooth, graceful manner with
minimal transmission of vertical force to the back. Horses
devoid of this quality cannot extend smoothly and they
frequently move in the front with short, "choppy" steps.
Termino in the lower forelimb consists of anterior and lateral
rotation around axes in the knee and fetlock. As the limb
extends, the foot swings out in a lateral arc before returning
squarely to the ground. The amount of vertical action varies
considerably among individuals and must be evaluated in accord
with the smoothness and elegance of gait. For example, a horse
with limited vertical movement may be extremely smooth and
extend well, but lack the crisp animation that is desirable in a
show horse. Conversely, a horse with high action and poor
extension or roughness of gait cannot be considered desirable.
Ideally termino begins with a free, fluid rolling movement in
the shoulders and is executed with good extension. The
relationship between lateral and vertical action in the knee and
fetlock should provide the appearance of brisk, harmonious
animation with no appreciable sacrifice in smoothness."
This was subsequently incorporated into the
Peruvian Paso Breed Standards and has received the approbation
of several Peruvian breeders including Sr. Fernando Grana.
Whether this definition gains popular acceptance remains to be
seen. But it isn't important to quibble over definitions so
long as everyone is aware of the importance of looseness in the
shoulders as an absolute requisite for a Peruvian Paso to move
rapidly and smoothly. A horse with flashy action in the lower
forelimb will cover ground slowly or be rough in gait if there
is not an accompanying freedom of movement in the upper limb.
conversely, a horse may have meager action in the lower foreleg
but still have smoothness and good reach because of the ability
of the shoulder to swing easily in a forward lateral arc.
Several years ago a North American judge with
little knowledge of Peruvian Pasos, gave a high award to a horse
with high, eye-catching movement in the lower front legs but
almost no lateral flexibility in the shoulders. The rider was
able to conceal the roughness of the gait by not sitting down
firmly in the saddle. The judge didn't ride any of the horses
and probably didn't suspect what a rough unpleasant gait he was
awarding as meritorious. The selection would undoubtedly have
been different had he known to observe the shoulders for free
lateral movement and not fixate entirely on "low termino".
Loose shoulders and good high termino.
The optimal blend of esthetics and function is free lateral movement in the shoulder combined with crisply animated rotation lift and extension of the leg. A horse with this movement has the flashy action desirable for show and can also cover ground with speed and smoothness.
Loose shoulders, meager low termino.
This action will enable a horse to move efficiently and smoothly but not command as much attention as the first example.
Tight shoulders, high action.
Visually impressive, but not a good ride, this horse will either take short steps, be rough in gait, or both.
Although this discussion has dealt exclusively
with action in the forelimbs it is not meant to belittle the
importance of other factors in determining the quality of gait.
The manner of impulsion provided by the hind limbs is also
distinctive in the Peruvian Paso and will be the subject of
future discussions. The sequence and tempo of limb movement as
well as variables in conformation demand consideration, but are
not within the scope of this article.
Probably the best method of analyzing termino
and gait is with slow motion and stop action video analysis.
Sr. Fernando Grana utilized a video tape record of the North
American Championship show in Santa Rosa, California this year
to conduct the judging seminar. It was tremendously effective
and enabled him to communicate his observations to the group
with ease and clarity. A more formal and extensive use of video
would be invaluable in a post show analysis of the gait classes
each year and over a number of years could provide a repository
of material useful in studying genetic factors in determining
gait characteristics. How would you like to see slow motion
movies of Limenito, Carnaval or Caramelo in their prime?
* Spiral staircase -- a series of equidistant
steps built in an arc around a common vertical center with a
predetermined rise and fall in each complete circle.
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