THE BREED STANDARD
General Impression: Smooth, natural gait that is unique to the breed. Movement is balanced and in-sync.
Size: 13 to 15.2 hands with 13.3 to 14.2 being the most typical size. Weight is 700 to 1000 pounds. Full size may not be attained until the fifth year.
Color: Every equine color can be found, with or without white markings.
Disposition: The Paso Fino is an extremely willing horse that truly seems to enjoy human companionship and strives to please. It is spirited and responsive under tack while sensible and gentle at hand.
Mane, Tail, and Forelock: They are as long, full, and luxurious as nature can provide. No artificial additions are allowed.
Head: Well-shaped, alert, and intelligent face. The head is refined and in proportion to the body, with a defined, but not extreme jaw, and large, expressive eyes.
Neck: Gracefully arched, medium in length, and allowing for a high carriage.
Forehand: Shoulders slope into the withers with great depth through the hearth.
Midsection: The top line should be proportionately shorter than the underline. The back is strong and muscled.
Hindquarters: The croup is slightly sloping with rounded loins, broad hips, and strong hocks. The tail is carried gracefully when in motion.
Legs: Straight with refined bones, strong, well-defined tendons, and broad, long forearms with shorter cannons. The thigh and gaskin are strong and muscled but not exaggerated. Pasterns are sloping and medium in length.
HISTORY OF THE PASO FINO
The Paso Fino’s journey to the Americas began more than 500 years ago with the importation of Andalusians, Spanish Barbs from North Africa, and smooth-gaited Spanish Jennets (now extinct) to the “New World” by Spanish Conquistadors. Bred for their stamina, smooth gait, and beauty, “Los Caballos de Paso Fino” – the horses with the fine walk – served as the foundation stock for remount stations of the Conquistadors.Centuries of selective breeding by those who colonized the Caribbean and Latin America produced variations of the “Caballo de Criollo,” among them the Paso Fino that flourished initially in Puerto Rico and Colombia, and later, in many other Latin American countries.
Descendants of the Conquistadors’ horses are believed to have spread into North America after the Spanish soldiers forayed for a brief time into this territory. The modern-day mustang has traces of his Spanish forbears. The Nez Perce Indian tribe, renowned for their expert horsemanship and sophisticated knowledge of breeding spotted horses, may have mixed some Spanish stock into their famous Appaloosas, whose name is derived from the Palouse River region of the Nez Perce’s tribal homeland in Oregon.
Awareness of the Paso Fino as we know it today didn’t spread outside Latin America until after WWII, when American servicemen came into contact with the stunning Paso Fino horse while stationed in Puerto Rico. Americans began importing Paso Finos from Puerto Rico in the mid-1940s. Two decades later, many Paso Fino horses began to be imported from Colombia. For a while, there was some contention as to which country produced the “true” Paso Fino. Though there are still some self-professed “purists” who advocate for one or the other country, the American Paso Fino - true to our “melting pot” tradition - is often a blend of the best of Puerto Rican and Colombian bloodlines.
The Paso Fino is born with a gait unique to the breed. It is totally natural and normally exhibited from birth. It is an evenly spaced 4 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. Footfall is the same as the equine walk, i.e. left rear, left fore, right rear, right fore. Propulsion is primarily from the hind limbs and the horse’s motion is absorbed in its back and loins, 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.
The Paso Fino show ring gaits are:
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 and lope or canter, and is known for its versatility. In PFHA/USEF-sponsored shows, Paso Finos compete in Specialty classes, such as Western Pleasure, Trail (Obstacle), Versatility, Costume, and Pleasure Driving. Paso Finos are also being seen in cow penning, trail riding and endurance competitions and are winning ribbons.
PFHA SHOW DIVISIONS
Classic Fino Division: The only gait performed is the Classic Fino gait. Class protocol is: classic fino, halt, classic fino, reverse, and repeat the same, and line up. Gait is fully collected, with very slow forward speed, very rapid footfall and stride is exceedingly short. Extra tests may be asked by the judge which include: performing the classic fino gait over a sounding board, figure-eights, and reverses. The attire is the official Paso Fino show costume with a bolero style jacket, slacks, english boots and spanish felt hat. Tack is english style.
Performance Division: The gaits performed are collected corto, collected largo, and collected walk. Class protocol is: corto, largo, walk, reverse, and repeat the same, and line up. Performance gaits are executed with brilliant style, and collection. Extra tests may be asked by the judge which include: performing the corto gait over a sounding board, figure-eights, serpentines and reverses. The attire is the official Paso Fino show costume with a bolero style jacket, slacks, english boots and spanish felt hat. Tack is english style.
Pleasure Division: The gaits performed are mildly collected corto, mildly-collected largo, and flat-footed walk. Class protocol is: corto, largo, walk, reverse, and repeat the same, and line up. Pleasure gaits are executed with mild collection, style, and willingness. A back-up is required. Extra tests may be asked by the judge which include: dismounting and remounting in line-up, executing the corto gait over a sounding board, serpentines, halt on the rail combined with a backup or dismount and remount. The attire is a long sleeve blouse or shirt with a vest or a jacket, slacks, boots and hat should match style of tack. Tack is what would be suitable for trail riding -- either english, western, or plantation.
Bellas Formas Division (Halter Class): The gaits performed are a corto or classic fino gait. The horse is shown in hand by either one or two handlers. Conformation, gait and manners/finish are judged. The official Spanish Paso Fino show outfit is worn.
Specialty Division: This division showcases the versatility of the Paso Fino horse. Classes include: Western Pleasure (includes a lope), Versatility (includes a canter and jump), Trail (trail obstacle course), Costume (of Spanish origin), and Pleasure Driving (cart). Country Pleasure gives a relaxed way of going suitable for trail riding.