When Christopher Columbus, the explorer, landed in North America, he discovered that there were no horses there. So, the next time he sailed over from Spain, he brought with him a group of mares and stallions from the Spanish provinces of Andalusia and Cordela. The herd was a mixture of Barbs, a hardy breed from North Africa, Spanish Jennets, a gaited horse, and beautiful Andalusians. Most of these horses ended up in Santa Domingo, on the Caribbean called the Dominican Republic. Columbus began breeding the horses to each other, and the blending of these three breeds eventually resulted into a new gaited breed known as Los Caballos de Paso Fino, which translates into "the horse with the fine step." After a while, this name was shortened to Paso Fino.
The offspring of these gaited horses became the mounts of conquistadors, soldiers and explorers who traveled around the newly discovered continent of America. These sturdy, smooth-stepping horses carried riders for days over mountains, across open ranges and through dense jungles. They were very popular with the explorers because of their comfortable gaits.
The Paso Fino breed has a natural four-beat lateral gait. If you are listening to a Paso Fino move, you'll hear 1, 2, 3, 4 separate footfalls. If you watch one move, you'll see both legs on one side move forward at almost the same time. Even tiny Paso Fino foals can stand up and do the gait without being taught it. The gait has three distinct speeds. The Classic Fino, a high-stepping, collected gait, is mainly used in shows. Each hoof hits the ground in rapid succession. It's about the same speed as a normal walk, but the feet seem to hit the ground faster.
The Paso Corto is the gait you'd use out on a trail ride. It's about the same speed as a normal trot. It covers a lot of ground and is a very comfortable gait for the rider. A very fit Paso Fino should be able to travel at the Paso Corto for several hours.
The Paso Largo is the fastest speed. It has a lot of extension (the horse takes big strides).
Paso Finos can walk normally, too, and many can canter and lope like an un-gaited horse.
Paso Finos are not big horses, they vary in size from 13.2 to 15.2hh. The average size is slightly over 14hh. They have refined, pretty heads with large, well-spaced eyes and small, dainty ears. They carry their heads high. Their necks are powerful and arched. Their backs are strong and muscled, and their hindquarters are slightly sloped. Paso Finos have straight, strong legs, and round, nicely shaped hooves.
Paso Finos come in every horsey color, including bay, black, buckskin, palomino, chestnut, gray, roan and pinto. They have thick manes, tails and forelocks. Paso Fino fans do not trim or pull their horses' manes or tails-they prefer them to be long and flowing.
The Paso Fino became popular again in the USA in the 1950s, when a group of Army soldiers based in Puerto Rico began riding some Paso Finos there. They soon got hooked on the breed, and when they returned home, they brought some Paso Finos with them. More and more people found out about the breed, and in 1972 a Paso Fino breed registry was launched in the USA.
Today the Paso Fino Horse Association registers horses from Brazil, Columbia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Puerto Rico and the USA. The PFHA sponsors shows, clinics, trail rides, demonstrations and other fun events. It also educates people about the Paso Fino breed, and helps people buy and breed Paso Finos. Anyone can join the PFHA and participate in all of the Paso Fino fun.
Paso Fino owners say that their horses are very versatile. Paso Finos have been spotted on competitive trail rides, competing in gymkhana events and tearing around barrels in speed events. They have also been used for team penning, roping and working cattle on ranches.
For more information:Paso Fino Horse Association, Inc.
101 North Collins Street
Plant City, FL 33566-3311