The Paso Fino Horse

About the Paso Fino Horse

During the last years, gaited horses of various breeds have become increasingly popular. Exotic breeds with unique gaits from all over the world, including the Paso Fino, have found their way into Europe. "Paso Fino" literally means "fine walk" and this is what these horses are named after: "los caballos con el paso fino" – the horses with the fine walk.

Thanks to his smooth gait and noble character the Paso Fino has conquered Europe by storm. The interest in the fiery horses from South America has been constantly increasing. The population has been steadily growing due to imports mostly from the USA and the great efforts of Paso Fino breeders in Europe. Currently, there are more than 1.000 pure-bred and registered Paso Finos in Europe.

The Paso Fino horse reflects its Spanish heritage through its proud carriage, grace and elegance. Modern care and selective breeding have enhanced its beauty, refinement and well-proportioned conformation that convey strength and power without extreme muscling. With its lively but controlled spirit, natural gait and presence, and responsive attitude, the Paso Fino is indeed, a rare and desirable equine partner in the show ring, on the competitive trail rides and on that Sunday afternoon pleasure ride.

History of the Paso Fino

Although, the Paso Fino has been bred in Latin America since the days of the conquistadors, this breed was completely unknown in the USA until the 1940s. As a cross of three European breeds - Andalusian, Spanish Barb and the now extinct Spanish Jennet – the ancestors of the modern Paso Fino originally served as breeding stock for the remount stations of the Spanish conquistadors. For days, these horses relentlessly carried their riders over mountains, across plains, through dense jungles. Without them the Spanish soldiers would not have conquered South America so easily.

Bred for their stamina, sturdiness, gentleness, and above all for their smooth gait the Paso Finos were the ideal horses back in those times when horses were an indispensable means of transport. Thanks to their sure-footedness these horse were essential to travel long distances across rough terrain.

Due to their “cow sense” the Paso Fino was also very popular for working with cattle on the huge estates and haziendas. In addition, horses had to be beautiful, outstanding, with enough fire and a gentle character, for, the owners of these vast estates wanted to have horses radiating their high ranking position.

Over the centuries Paso Finos were cross-bred with horses from Spain or North America. Since local preferences and “trends” varied from region to region the Paso Fino developed into the different modalities. The different climate and geographical conditions also called for horses who adapted to well to the respective environment.

Today, the USA is the biggest Paso Fino breeding country outside South America. Although it is still necessary to import horses from the USA, European-bred horses offer excellent quality, therefore, the need for good horses can be met by breeders in Europe. Nevertheless, it is still important and interesting to bring some new bloodlines into Europe to keep the quality at a high level.  

The Four-Beat-Gait

The Paso Fino is born with a gait unique to the breed, and its attitude seems to transmit to the observer that this horse knows its gait is a very special gift that must be executed with style and pride! The gait is smooth, rhythmic, purposeful, straight, balanced in flexion and synchronous front to rear, resulting in unequalled comfort and smoothness for the rider.

The Paso Fino is a graceful, agile and supple equine athlete that uses all four legs with precision and harmony. The gait of the Paso Fino horse is totally natural and normally exhibited from birth. It is an evenly-spaced four-beat lateral gait with each foot contacting the ground independently in a regular sequence at precise intervals creating a rapid, unbroken rhythm. Executed perfectly, the four hoof beats are absolutely even in both cadence and impact, resulting in unequaled smoothness and comfort for the rider.

The Paso Fino gait is performed at three forward speeds and with varying degrees of collection. In all speeds of the gait, the rider should appear virtually motionless in the saddle, and there should be no perceptible up and down motion of the horse’s croup.

  • Classic Fino - Full collection, with very slow forward speed. The footfall is extremely rapid while the steps and extension are exceedingly short.
  • Paso Corto - Forward speed is moderate, with full to moderate collection. Steps are ground-covering but unhurried, executed with medium extension and stride.
  • Paso Largo - The fastest speed of the gait, executed with a longer extension and stride, and moderate to minimal collection. Forward speed varies with the individual horse, since each horse should attain its top speed in harmony with its own natural stride and cadence.

The Paso Fino is capable of executing other gaits that are natural to horses, including the relaxed walk, the canter and the gallop.

Characteristics and Conformation

The Paso Fino varies in size from 140cm to 155 cm. The Paso Fino horse reflects its Spanish heritage through its proud carriage, grace and elegance. The ideal Paso Fino is noble, gentle, impulsive with a breathtaking presence – a combination of energy and temperament best described by the Spanish word „brio“. Brio comes natural and cannot be achieved by training.

Brio is one of the most unique characteristics of Paso horses, it is important for breeding and makes these horses outstanding compared to other breeds. In addition, the Paso Fino horse is very affectionate towards humans and always strives to please his owner and rider. Despite their willingness to perform and their fiery temperament, Paso Finos are generally easy to handle.

Ideally the Paso Fino has a near-to-perfect conformation with refined but strong bones, small and hard hooves as well as sound and short pasterns. The very harmonious conformation and the high bone density turn the Paso Fino into a very strong and robust horse.

The Paso Fino radiates pride, grace and style. He has a refined head with the preferred profile being straight, large, expressive eyes and a gracefully arched neck set on at an angle to allow high carriage. The top line is characterized by defined withers, a rounded croup with a low tail. In contrast to other breeds e.g. the Arabian horse, the tail is ideally carried like a flag adding to the striking appearance of the Paso Fino. Every equine color can be found, with or without white markings. There are Pintos or other “special colors” so that anyone can find his or her “dream color”.  

The different types

The Paso Fino is divided into three different types based on the show divisions used by the PFHA, Inc. (USA) and the horse’s individual talent and movements, making the horse suitable for different usages. When choosing the right type a rider should be aware of his or her personal preferences and riding skills and have a clear idea of what he or she would like to do with the horse.

The Pleasure Horse

The gaits performed are mildly collected Corto, mildly-collected Largo, and flat-footed Walk. Pleasure gaits are executed with mild collection, moderate extension, style, and willingness. The horse’s head carriage is natural and relaxed. The gaits should be fluid showing no tendency to labor or become "strung out" Manners and obedience of the horse are particularly important. The horse should be controlled with minimal restraint and the rider should appear to be enjoying themselves. Thanks to their friendly and gentle disposition Pleasure horses are uncomplicated and easy equine partners under saddle and in daily handling.

The Performance Horse

The gaits performed are collected Corto, collected Largo, and collected Walk. Performance gaits are executed with brilliant style, and collection. The horse is collected, fully balanced and exhibiting symmetry in flexion and extension. The extension is longer and the footfall not as rapid as shown in the Classic Fino gait. The horse should demonstrate pride, style, elegance and enthusiasm, along with good manners and ready response. The Performance type is highly suitable for the experienced rider who loves spirited horses with lots of power.

The Classic Fino Horse

The only gait performed is the Classic Fino gait. Gait is fully collected, with very slow forward speed, very rapid footfall and stride is exceedingly short. The Classic Fino gait is an evenly spaced, four-beat lateral gait that is smooth, animated, exciting and executed with brilliance and style. Flexion and extension should be harmonious in all four legs. The horse must present a picture of symmetry and fluidness of motion. The horse must perform this highly collected form of the gait naturally and willingly.
Paso Finos of this type are very popular as show horses in the USA and Latin-America. Nothings holds the crowd on their seats when these horses perform the shortest reverses and tap-dance across the Fino Strip or sounding board (a long wooden strip to hear if the horses are in gait or not). The rapid footfall reminding of the sound of Spanish snappers and the sheer beauty of these horses are so fascinating that it can hardly be described by words. Since only a very small percentage of Paso Fino offspring has the natural abilities to compete successfully in Classic Fino divisions these horses are quite expensive.

What can you do with your Paso Fino?

Usage and riding a Paso Fino The Paso Fino is a very versatile breed; their easiness, sure-footedness and smooth gaits make the Paso Fino into ideal trail horses. Small jumps over e.g. logs are also no problem. Their handy size and gentle character turn them into ideal family horses and reliable leisure time companions.

Well trained horses can even manage mid-range endurance rides without difficulties. Also Western riders will love them: Thanks to their suppleness and agility they can be used for reining and barrel race disciplines. Since Paso Finos are still frequently used as working horses on cattle farms in Latin America, they are also talented cow horses.

Due to their natural ability to collect themselves, Paso Finos can also be taught classic dressage movements by experienced riders. Their extremely smooth gaits make Paso Finos increasingly popular among people who suffer from back problems, even outside the USA. Paso Finos are often used for therapeutic riding, too. They also look very elegant in front of a light sulky or under a side saddle.

And of course the Paso Fino ist he perfect horse to shine at gaited horse shows. No matter if performing at classic fino or flying in a fast Paso Largo a Paso Fino will excite riders and spectators alike. In all classes the primary focus lies on the smooth, clear, rhythmic, cadenced, even-spaced 4-beat lateral gait – the trademark of the Paso Fino.

His unique gait and characteristics turn the Paso Fino into an ideal equine partner who will please the ambitious show rider as well as the trail rider looking for a comfortable and easy-to-ride horse. Paso Finos are suitable for all disciplines. During the basic training the focus should be on suppleness, flexibility and a rhythmic, clear, cadenced four-beat lateral gait. The traditional way of riding a Paso Fino is similar to Western riding. Light rein contact is required but no pressure. Otherwise minimal aids, primarily body aids suffice.

In training – be it basic or advanced training – the focus primarily lies on the horse’s balance, suppleness and conditioning. Most horses begin their under saddle training at the age of 3 or 4 years and are started in a bosal without using a bit. Bits are generally introduced only if the horse responds well to all rider’s aids when ridden with a bosal. The desirable collection is achieved by balance, suppleness and conditioning during the horse’s basic training years. The horse is taught to carry himself at light rein contact. The Paso Fino should gait naturally and rhythmically without any form of manipulation (such as shoes, side reins, weights etc.).

Paso Finos can be kept in open stalls without problems. Even if they originally come from warmer climates they quickly adjust to their European environment and can be kept in open stalls even in winter time. As for most southern breeds they need a protected, dry and draught-free shelter and must be fed accordingly. Generally Paso Finos are easy keepers.