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What is a Paso Fino?

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Why are they special?
The most significant way a Paso Fino horse is different from other horses is its natural, genetically inherited, smooth four beat gait that can be performed at varying speeds. This gives the rider a smooth, comfortable, mile after mile, "no bounce" ride. This is what the horses have been bred for for 500 years and why they are treasured.

What are the gaits?
The Paso gait is essentially a walk but it can increase in speed, extension or contraction into various "gaits" with different names for varying forward speeds. The sequence of the hooves is: right rear, right fore, left rear, left fore. The hind foot touches the ground a fraction of a second before the front foot. When performed on a hard surface, a definite rhythm of 1,2,3,4 can be heard. Propulsion is primarily from behind yet the motion is absorbed through the back and loins. The croup remains relatively still. The fact that there are often three feet touching the ground and the legs move independently from each other gives the rider little to no up and down movement. For some reason this gait is often called a lateral gait to distinguish it from the diagonal Trot. But the Pace is a lateral gait and the Paso Fino is in between the two with an even four beat footfall, each leg separate. This gait is natural and the horses can be seen doing it from birth. We (humans) have delineated this "gait" into three "speeds" or lengths of step. Two of these are natural to all Paso Finos:

The Corto (or Paso Corto) is considered the preferred Paso Fino gait. It is what a trot is to other horses and about the same speed. This is the most commonly used gait of the Paso Fino horse on the trail.

The Largo (Paso Largo) is the extended version of the gait, with faster steps and more extension it can cover the ground with a lot of speed.

The Classic Fino gait is characterized by a very fast footfall with very little extension or forward movement and it requires a high degree of collection. This gait is natural to only a few Paso Finos and is usually reserved for the show ring or exhibitions. The rare Paso Finos that can do this are treasured as it is the most difficult, most beautiful and the most unique of gaits. A true Fino requires low lift of the feet and a very short step with very fast execution. The Champion Fino Stallion Capuchino was said to have 126 beats per minute and a 4 inch extension. When heard on a sounding board, the steps can blend into a rolling sound like a machine gun, or a drum roll.

The difference between the Divisions (Pleasure, Performance and Fino) is the amount of collection used and the execution of the action. A Pleasure style Paso Fino will work in light collection, easily, with a light rein and must look fun to ride with excellent manners and disposition. The rider should appear almost motionless in the saddle, and the transitions between the required gaits (walk, corto and largo) should be smooth and clear.

A Performance style Paso Fino should have excellent Brio (excitement), can have more or higher action in the front and back and powerful clearly defined hock execution. They perform with a high degree of collection and need charisma for the show ring. These are exciting horses to watch and the rider should be motionless in the saddle, the transitions should be fluid but the manners are not as important as the energy and ambition of the horse.

The Classic Fino must be performed in almost complete collection, have perfect balance, clarity of gait, and very quick footfall. They should have excellent conformation, a lot of charisma and grace as well as excellent manners and Brio. These are the ultimate show horses of the breed and the most valued breeding stock.

A very versatile horse.
Aside from showing, Paso Finos are actually used primarily for trail riding. Because the entire purpose of the breed is to have a smooth ride over 90% of owners ride their horses, even the big show horses. They also excel at endurance riding, driving, horse sports like team penning, barrel racing, reining, gymkhana, hunting, drill teams, mounted shooting competitions, horse soccer and field dog trials. Some have been used for cutting and roping and there is a Western Pleasure class at our shows. In Germany Paso Finos compete in their own version of Dressage. Some love to jump and we have one class with a jump required. They are raced at the shows here and in Puerto Rico at the Largo with penalties for going out of gait. These horses were bred both for covering ground quickly and comfortably and for climbing mountains. They are extremely agile and balanced.

All Paso Finos walk and when you consider that their other "gaits" are faster walks they walk a lot. Paso Finos also canter and gallop like any horse and can be taught a nice easy western lope. Most Paso Finos can be made to do a broken version of a trot called Troche (still a four beat gait and smooth) which is not encouraged. (After all you can get another kind of horse if you want to trot.) The only Show use so far of this gait is for dressage in Germany.

Paso Finos come in virtually every color including the more rare colors like Pinto, Palomino, Buckskin, Dun, Cremello and Grullo. Most of the great show horses have, however, been Bay, Chestnut or Grey (white) and some Black. The range of possible sizes of Paso Finos is great, from 13 hands to almost 16 hands though the vast majority of them will be between 13.2 to 15 hands. They are neither fragile nor prissy and like all Spanish horses they are "forward" and blessed with almost limitless energy. Also known for their willingness and curiosity they are very people friendly.


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