The Paso Fino is known for its brilliant presence, smooth-riding gait, and beautiful appearance. These horses are popular in the show ring, but they’re surefooted and great choices for trail and endurance riding, too. This versatile breed is often a favorite of riders with back pain or other injuries, and with its comfortable gaits, you can ride all day. Many Paso Fino owners say that once you ride this breed, you’ll never want to ride another breed again.
Weight: 700 to 1,000 pounds
Height: 13.3 to 14.2 hands
Body Type: Compact, strong, and athletic
Best For: Trail riding, showing, endurance riding
Life Expectancy: 25 years
Paso Fino History and Origins
The Paso Fino’s history spans more than 500 years. Christopher Columbus brought mares and stallions to the Dominican Republic during his explorations. Those horses included Barb, Spanish Jennet, and Andalusian bloodlines, and the conquistadors rode them as they explored Latin America.
Those horses bred and produced new generations with great endurance, that were elegant, and that had a smooth-riding, comfortable gait. Their offspring became the Paso Fino breed. Land owners in Puerto Rico and Columbia rode the horses on their plantations, favoring them because of how comfortable they were to ride.
It wasn’t until World War II that American soldiers arrived in the Dominican Republic and discovered the Paso Fino breed and its desirable smooth gait. After the end of World War II, soldiers bought Paso Finos and shipped them from Latin America to North America. Since then, selective breeding has helped the modern-day Paso Fino to retain the hardiness, endurance, and versatility of its ancestors.
Paso Fino Size
The Paso Fino typically stands between 13.3 and 14.2 hands high, though some horses can be as short as 13 hands or as tall as 15.2 hands. Paso Finos take time to mature, and some horses won’t reach their full height until they’re five years old. This breed weighs between 700 and 1,000 pounds.
Breeding and Uses
Today’s Paso Fino is a highly versatile mount. Paso Finos excel in many disciplines and activities, including competitive trail riding, endurance riding, mounted shooting, parade riding, drill team competitions, working cattle, and so much more. You’ll often find these horses in the show ring, where they’re ridden both English and Western. Paso Finos are also shown by riders in official traditional show costumes including bolero jackets, Spanish-style hats, and a suit or jacket and pants.
The Paso Fino is favored as a riding mount, and its surefootedness makes it particularly well-suited for trail and endurance riding. Paso Finos are people-oriented and smart, and they can be trained in many different disciplines. Because Paso Finos are heavily bred for the show ring, they tend to be spirited, forward-moving, and elegant.
Colors and Markings
You’ll find Paso Finos in any coat color, and horses of all colors can be registered. These horses tend to have distinctive long, flowing manes and tails.
Unique Characteristics of the Paso Fino
One of the Paso Fino’s most distinctive trait is its four-beat gait. This gait is incredibly smooth for the rider, since the horse keeps a foot on the ground at all times. Unlike the trot, which creates lots of vertical motion, the Paso Fino’s shoulders only move slightly vertically, allowing the horse’s back to absorb most of the motion. The result is a rhythmic gait that riders can comfortably sit for long distances.
Paso Finos perform this gait in three speeds:
- Classic Fino: A collected gait where the horse steps quickly but almost seems to dance in place
- Paso Corto: A medium gait with the speed of a trot, ideal for long distances
- Paso Largo: The fastest gait, allowing the horse to cover significant ground quickly
This gait is natural to Paso Finos, and they are able to perform it from birth.
Diet and Nutrition
Paso Finos generally don’t have any special dietary needs. They often thrive off of a diet in which they consume between 2 and 2.5 percent of their body weight in forage daily. A combination of hay and pasture is often suitable.
A Paso Fino in regular work may need a concentrated feed to supply additional calories, but this need will vary depending on each individual horse. Horses who maintain a healthy weight on pasture and hay alone will still benefit from a ration balancer to ensure they get appropriate nutrition from their diets.
Common Health and Behavior Problems
While Paso Finos tend to be fairly healthy, they are prone to degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis (DSLD). This condition often affects the hind legs and can emerge later on in a horse’s life. When a horse has DSLD, the suspensory ligaments degenerate and the fetlock sinks toward the ground. Horses diagnosed with DSLD have to be retired from riding and suffer progressive degrees of lameness. There is no cure for this condition and affected horses often have to be eventually euthanized because of the pain this condition can create.
With long, thick manes and tails and beautiful coats, Paso Finos benefit from regular, attentive grooming. Paying regular attention to mane and tail conditioning and grooming can help to minimize hair tangles and breakage. Most owners allow their horses’ manes to grow long, so braiding the manes and tails is a popular management technique.
Gaited and smooth-riding
Common and relatively affordable
Susceptible to DSLD
Can be quite forward
Can be too small for larger adults
Champion and Celebrity Paso Fino Horses
There are countless champion Paso Fino horses.
- Dulce Sueno, a stallion, was a hugely influential sire. His offspring went on to win many titles and trophies. Dulce Sueno was born in 1932.
- Capuchino was a legendary stallion who passed away in 2009. He was inducted into the Paso Fino Horse Association Hall of Fame in 1999, and earned the title of the Paso Fino Horse Association Horse of the Millennium. He sired thousands of offspring all over the world, many of whom became national and international champions.
Is the Paso Fino Right for You?
Paso Finos are versatile mounts and they’re well-suited for many different riders. These gaited horses can make great trail horses both for competitive and for pleasure riding purposes. They’re also excellent show mounts and they command attention in parades, show rings, and other settings.
It’s important to understand that many Paso Finos are forward rides, so they’re not natural fits for beginning riders or for timid riders. Because their gait is so smooth, they’re popular among riders who have back pain or other injuries that make riding non-gaited breeds difficult or uncomfortable.
How to Adopt or Buy a Paso Fino
If you plan to buy a Paso Fino, it’s best to find a reputable breeder or trainer who specializes in this breed. This breed is quite popular, so you can probably find a breeder or trainer somewhat locally. Paso Finos are often affordable, with prices for younger riding horses starting at $3,000 and up, depending on where in the country you’re located.
You may also see Paso Finos available for adoption through horse rescues. Rescuing a horse can be a rewarding experience and adoption fees are often lower than the prices you’d pay when buying a horse outright. Be sure to carefully research the reputation of any horse rescue that you’re considering, and ask questions about how they ensure that a horse is a good fit for you. Read your adoption contract carefully so that you understand any rules that may restrict your ability to sell the horse in the future if you should choose.
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