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 Criollo,” among them the Paso Fino that flourished initially in Puerto Rico and Colombia, and later, in many other Latin American countries (primarily Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, and Venezuela).
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, and its attitude seems to transmit to the observer that this horse knows its gait is a very special gift that must be executed with style and pride! The gait is smooth, rhythmic, purposeful, straight, balanced in flexion, and synchronous front to rear, resulting in unequalled comfort and smoothness for the rider. The Paso Fino is a graceful, agile and supple equine athlete that uses all four legs with precision and harmony.
The gait of the Paso Fino horse is totally natural and normally exhibited from birth. It is an evenly-spaced four-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, resulting in unique 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.
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 Paso Fino Horse Association/United States Equestrian Federation (PFHA/USEF) sponsored shows, Paso Finos compete in Western classes (Trail and Versatility), as well as costume and Pleasure Driving. Paso Finos are also seen in parades, drill team competitions, cow penning, trail riding, and endurance competitions and are winning ribbons.
Paso Finos is likely the smoothest , most comfortable mount no matter the speed at which the horse goes. This has been highly sought after in the recent years by not only the avid horseman but also many disabled or injured equine enthusiasts who can not take the rough cadence of other breeds. Their gait combined with their medium stature makes them a perfect mount for the elderly and children alike.
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.