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Cantrells' Paso Fino horse wins national championship

By Braden Willis
Carmi Times
Thu Oct 29, 2009, 04:46 PM CDT

Crossville, Ill -
Jim and Suzanne Cantrell are putting Crossville on the national map - at least in the world of competitive Paso Fino riding.

Jim is a Crossville native and lives east of town with his wife, Suzanne, a native of Australia. They have been training Paso Fino horses for the last several years and brought home a national championship in September.

The horses were first brought to the Americas on Christopher Columbus' second voyage to the "New World" and have been a sought-after breed ever since. Conquistadors rode them in battle because of their small but stout build and endurance - as well as their gait.

Jim said he's owned and worked with quarter horses since his childhood and has also owned Tennessee Walkers, but he said the gait of the Paso Fino is different than a Walker, without the head bobbing.

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This Paso Fino horse, "Valeroso," recently brought home a national championship following competition in Perry, Ga. Pictured with the horse are Jim and Suzanne Cantrell of near Phillipstown, owners. Suzanne rode the horse in the competition. Jim is holding the plaque presented for the win, while the back wall is covered in ribbons and other awards from the season.

"It's a smoother gait and is very rhythmic," he said.

The couple lives on 10 acres east of Crossville (and just north of Phillipstown) and have recently constructed an indoor riding ring to train and work with their six Paso Finos. The horses were purchased from Dr. and Mrs. Glen Van Loon of Murray, Ky. Suzanne said she and Jim fell in love with the breed and went to the Van Loons to "learn to ride them more correctly."
The Van Loons helped get the Cantrells started in the show ring, which is a "gentlemanly" affair, complete with riders in tuxedos and fancy ribbons for the horses. There are no "cowboys" in Western garb.

The horses are required to walk on a wooden sounding board so judges can hear the rhythm of their gait. The rider and horse are judged on the gait, the rider's ability to bring the horse in and out of different speeds (walk, corto and largo) and appearance.

Suzanne and "Valeroso" brought home the national championship in only her fourth try in the amateur/owner pleasure class and in the horse's first season of competition. "Valeroso" is a 4-year-old colt and is the offspring of "Imponente," a nationally known Paso Fino.

Jim has also competed and placed in many events throughout the season in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and elsewhere. His competition horse is "Caporal," the offspring of "Vitral," a top-10 ranked horse in the nation.

"We've tried to purchase and maintain good, quality horses," Jim said. "We just enjoy them and we enjoy competing with them."


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