The Paso Fino horse developed in Colombia and Puerto Rico, and their ancestors date back to the Barbs and Jennets developed in Spain. The smoothness of the breed’s ambling gait is their defining characteristic. They have three speeds – the Classic Paso, Paso Corto, and Paso Largo. The four-beat lateral gaits display a rapid and cadenced movement of the legs. This breed is so pleasant to ride that the beautiful Paso Fino is a favorite among trail riders and equestrians of many disciplines.
The Paso Fino horse was bred for and is known for its smooth gaits, stamina, and beauty. Breeders selectively crossed horses for these traits. They originated in Colombia and Puerto Rico, and then were bred in other parts of Latin America as well. The breed developed in relative isolation from other horse breeds, creating a truly unique and distinct horse.
Unlike other gaited horse breeds, the Paso Fino is born knowing how to gait. Additionally, their gait has earned them the reputation as the “smoothest riding horses in the world.” These highly intelligent horses perform harmonious gaits that look effortless as they glide along in a collected frame.
History of the Paso Fino Horse
The history of the Paso Fino horse begins in Spain with the Moor invasion and occupation of the country. The Moors brought their Barb horses with them. These were crossed with Spanish horses and created the Spanish Jennet, a breed that’s now extinct. Next, the horses were crossed with Andalusians. Spanish Jennets on the ships when Colombus sailed. They landed in what’s now the Dominican Republic and left the horses there.
Other expeditions left horses in Mexico and South America. Conquistadors moved horses throughout the region; they used the horses for travel and as remounts. Other people used Paso Fino horses for travel, working cattle, surveying fields, and in other roles. All these horses were descendants of the original Spanish Jennets along with Barbs and Andalusians. Thus, the Paso Fino horse breed developed in relative isolation and created a unique breed that incorporates all the best features of the breeds that helped develop it. Selective breeding and development continued without any outside influence until the 1940s.
Journey to the United States
Equine enthusiasts in the United States were unaware of the Paso Fino horse breed until after World War II. Servicemen were stationed in Puerto Rico. They became fans of the horses and their talents, especially their spirit, smooth gaits, and endurance. They imported horses to the United States in the 1940s where the breed gained popularity. The United States started importing Colombian Paso Fino horses in the 1960s. Although the two are similar, some prefer to maintain distinct breed organizations.
Paso Fino horses are between 13 and 15.2. hands. You’ll find most colors among members of the breed; bay, black, chestnut, grey, palomino, roans, and pintos are all common. Horses can have white markings too, usually in the form of white markings on the face and legs unless it’s a roan or pinto.
Large, intelligent eyes are wideset on a refined and pretty head. An arched neck sets high out of the shoulder. They have a high head carriage, and the neck is strong because of this. The horses have a sloping shoulder, a strong back, and straight legs. The hooves are very strong, and Paso Finos rarely require shoes, even in endurance sports. The long flowing mane and tail are signatures of the breed.
Paso Finos have a spirited temperament. These are lively horses. They were bred to traverse tough terrain, spend the day working and be horses for soldiers. The spirited attitude is combined with intelligence, a Paso Fino is trained once and understands what it needs to do. They are also kind and gentle horses, traits that make them popular with older adults and children.
Paso Fino Gaits
The Paso Fino gaits are four-beat, lateral gaits. Each hoof strikes the ground independently from the others, but they are moving rapidly and in a rhythmic fashion. The cadence of the gait should be even among all four hooves. The three Paso Fino gaits are Classic Fino, Paso Corto and Paso Largo. Classic Fino is the slowest and Paso Largo is the fastest.
The Paso Fino horse is born knowing how to gait, they perform the gaits naturally, without training. First, the gaits are stylish, and these are proud horses – this personality trait exudes from the horses. Second, they are very smooth, think carrying a glass of water without spilling it smooth. The rider doesn’t move at all in the saddle, and the horse’s croup doesn’t go up and down at all either. The breed can also walk and canter or lope.
Paso Fino Horses Today
Today’s Paso Fino is quickly moving from the category of best-kept secret into a favorite breed among equestrians. Trail riding, endurance, competitive trail, horse shows, drill teams, parades, working cattle, cowboy mounted shooting, pleasure riding, and youth horses are a few of their uses. The Paso Fino can do anything their rider wants to do; driving is another discipline where we find them.
The smooth ride is one of the features that make the Paso Fino popular; people that thought their riding days were over because of an injury can ride and enjoy a Paso Fino without the pain of posting or a diagonal gait. However, Trocha horses are Paso Finos with a diagonal gait.
The Paso Fino horse delights with its beauty, intelligence, and smooth gaits. They are introducing youth and new riders to equestrian sports and keeping older equestrians in the saddle longer. The breed effortlessly carries riders over tough terrain in a smooth and enjoyable ride. No wonder they have become so popular.
Sources: Paso Fino Horse Association, Oklahoma State University, and United States Equestrian Federation.