The history of today’s Peruvian Paso Horse began in Spain. Christopher Columbus brought 30 horses from Spain to Hispanola on his second voyage in 1493. For the next 50 years, additional horses were brought in the subsequent arrivals to the West Indies. Breeding farms were quickly set up on most of the West Indian islands and the horse population rapidly increased. When Francisco Pizarro invaded Peru in 1531, he was able to take about 85 horses from the breeding farms in Panama and Nicaragua.
In the years following the conquest of Peru, the horse population in Peru grew. In 1560, there
were said to be 4000 brood mares divided among about 10 ranches in the country. Because of
the altitudinal diversity of Peru, three general altitudinal types of horses developed: the horses
of the coastal plain; the horses of upland canyons and plains of medium elevations, up to 10,000
feet; and the horses of the extreme mountain heights above 10,000 feet. The horses of the extreme
heights are small, very hardy horses, noted for their nimbleness and ability to travel the high
mountain trails quickly and safely. The horses from the middle altitudes are larger and more robust
and, over the years, have been horses of choice for the military and police. The horses of the coastal
plains are variable, many of them having been bred by the great haciendas as work and riding animals for the ranch workers and owners.
During the second half of the 1800’s, some of the large landowners on the coast began to select horses for their smooth gaits. Toward the end of the 1800’s, a few breeders in Peru also began to incorporate the “termino” into their breeding programs. In 1948, a group of 13 breeders and owners of selected horses gathered to form the “National Association of Breeders and Owners of the Peruvian Paso Horses” and selectively bred to produce this “National Horse of Peru”.
The Peruvian Paso Horse is relatively new to the United States and Canada, having been initially imported from Peru in the early 1950’s and 60’s. However, as gaited breeds are gaining in popularity, the Peruvian Paso Horse is becoming a natural favorite among horse owners and enthusiasts.
When viewing a Peruvian Paso Horse for the first time, one is struck by its rhythm of movement. With its unique, inborn, four-beat lateral gait, the Peruvian Paso Horse is one of the smoothest riding horses. In addition, it has a graceful, flowing movement called “termino” in which the front legs are rolled towards the outside as the horse moves forward, much like the arm motion of a swimmer. The spectacular and natural action makes a magnificent movement. The real power comes from behind, with the under reach of the hind legs and propulsion of hindquarters which moves the horse forward in a smooth manner.
Peruvian Paso Horses have a tractable temperament and demonstrate a high level of energy and willingness to please. This willing spirit, called “brio,” demonstrates itself in numerous ways when asking the horse to perform. He can be high-spirited, while easy to handle and relaxed in his movements… a truly unique quality. This attribute makes them a versatile horse… participating in the show ring, on the trails, at play days and exhibitions, or as the family riding horse.
With long flowing manes and tails, the Peruvian Paso Horse is very beautiful. Maturing at 13.1 to 15.1 hands, its conformation is well muscled, yet refined. Bright, solid colors are the norm; however, many have contrasting manes and tails, which lend itself to a beautiful image.
For many, the beauty, smooth gait and willing temperament make the Peruvian Paso Horse the “Right Horse for all the Right Reasons”.
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