With its smooth gaits and striking presence, the Peruvian Paso makes a popular mount both in the United States and throughout the world. This elegant breed may have a fiery presence when parading or competing in shows, but it’s still an agreeable horse that’s easy to work with. It’s no wonder that breeding programs worldwide are dedicated to preserving and refining the Peruvian Paso.
WEIGHT: 900 to 1,100 pounds
HEIGHT: 14.1 to 15.2 hands
BODY TYPE: Medium-sized strong, elegant body
BEST FOR: Trail riding, parades
LIFE EXPECTANCY: 20 or more years
Peruvian Paso History and Origins
The Peruvian Paso’s origins begin with horses that were brought to South America during the Spanish Conquest, which began in 1531. These horses came from locations like Spain and Panama to serve as transportation mounts. Peru was home to huge sugar and cotton plantations, requiring owners and staff to travel long distances across the land. These rides could take days, so there was a high demand for smooth-gaited riding horses.
Many breeds contributed to the Peruvian Paso’s formation. The Jennet, known for its ambling gaits, the Barb, and the Andalusian were all major contributors. Peruvian Pasos were bred and refined with a focus on conformation, gait, and temperament. These horses needed to be comfortable to ride and easy to work with, since riders spent so much time traveling across the farms.
During the 1900s, major highways were constructed and the need for the Peruvian Paso declined in southern Peru. However, the breed was still valued for transportation in the northern areas of the country.
In the 1960s, many breeding operations closed. The breed was, however, growing in popularity in other countries like the United States, so many breeding stock were exported.
The Peruvian Paso has had a resurgence in popularity in Peru over the past 30 years and has also spread worldwide. Approximately 25,000 Peruvian Pasos were located throughout the world in 2003.
Peruvian Paso Size
These medium-sized horses typically stand between 14.1 and 15.2 hands, weighing between 900 and 1,100 pounds. Their build is similar to that of a Morgan or an Arabian, making them comfortable to ride and easy to mount from the ground.
Breeding and Uses
Peruvian Pasos are excellent riding horses. They are often used as trail horses and they make great parade mounts because of their impressive presence. Breeding programs exist throughout the world, with many programs located here in the United States.
Colors and Markings
Because the Peruvian Paso is descended from the Barb, you’ll find Pasos with some stunning colors and brilliant coats. Coat colors include chestnut, black, bay, palomino, buckskin, gray, roan, and dun. These horses also have long, fine manes and forelocks.
Unique Characteristics of the Peruvian Paso
The Peruvian Paso is known for its distinctive gaits. In addition to the walk, trot at liberty, and canter, the breed has two natural ambling gaits that are between the walk and trot.
The first gait, called the paso llano, has four equal beats and is very comfortable to ride. The second gait, the sobreandando, is a faster gait. Rather than even beats, the horse pauses between beats two and three. This ground-covering gait is comfortable and the horse can sustain it for long periods of time, making it ideal for traveling long distances. Peruvian Paso horses are born with this gait, and foals can perform it naturally.
The gaits do not create the bounce or moment of suspension that a trot creates, so there’s no need for riders to post. Because two or even three feet are on the ground at any time, the Peruvian Paso feels smooth. Many riders who have back pain seek out these horses because of this.
Diet and Nutrition
A Peruvian Paso’s nutrition needs will vary depending on the type and amount of work that the horse is doing. Horses in intense work may need supplementation with a feed concentrate, while horses in less work may be fine with access to quality hay and grass.
Many Peruvian Pasos are easy keepers, so it may be necessary to limit their access to lush pastures to help keep them at a healthy weight.
Common Health and Behavior Problems
Peruvian Pasos tend to have great temperaments and to be cooperative and easy to train.
This breed is prone to Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis, or DSLD. DSLD is a disease that was first identified in Peruvian Pasos. Horses with DSLD experience heat, swelling, pain, and degeneration in the connective tissues of their lower limbs. This progressive disease usually requires that a horse be retired from riding.
While supportive care methods are available, there is no cure for DSLD at this time, and horses with worsening cases may need to be euthanized if their pain cannot be controlled. The condition can be hereditary, so affected horses should not be bred.
Peruvian Pasos benefit from a regular grooming regimen. Thorough currying can help to keep their coats healthy and shiny. These horses have longer manes and tails, so an owner will need to condition and detangle the hair regularly to help keep it from knotting or breaking.
Smooth, comfortable gaits
Prone to some health issues
Small build isn't ideal for taller riders
Champion and Celebrity Peruvian Pasos
Peruvian Pasos compete in many types of classes, including pleasure, halter, and performance classes. There are countless champion Peruvian Pasos throughout the United States and the rest of the world.
Is the Peruvian Paso Right for You?
If you’re looking for a cooperative, smooth-riding horse, the Peruvian Paso might be the perfect fit for you. These horses are easy to work with and train, making them suitable for many intermediate and advanced riders. Some may also be a good fit for beginners.
The breed’s gait also makes it an ideal choice for a variety of riders. Trail riding enthusiasts may find the Peruvian Paso offers a comfortable ride for long distances. Many riders with back pain and other health issues may seek out the breed, too.
How to Adopt or Buy a Peruvian Paso
The Peruvian Paso is quite common in the United States, and it’s possible to buy a horse from a breeding program or from a private seller. Peruvian Pasos typically range from $2,000 to $10,000 in price, so this breed is an affordable choice for many potential owners.
You may also be able to adopt a Peruvian Paso from a horse rescue, and you could reach out to local and national rescue organizations.
Regardless of whether you adopt or buy a Peruvian Paso, it’s a good idea to invest in a pre-purchase exam before bringing a new horse home. This exam can help to identify any health issues that might restrict the horse’s ability to perform the work that you’ll be asking it to do.
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