What is the Paso?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Paso is a unique horse gait exhibited by the Paso Fino and, to a lesser extent, the Peruvian Paso Horse. This distinctive gait is extremely smooth and also very energy efficient, making it ideal for long days of riding. It is also entirely natural; many Paso Finos display this gait within hours of birth, and it is very easy to develop and refine it for specific purposes, such as showing and ranch work.

Woman posing
Woman posing

These horses are descended from animals brought to the New World by the Spanish. Over time, selective breeding generated a small, extremely muscular, very refined horse suitable for ranch work throughout Central and South America. The distinctive gait appears to have emerged more or less naturally, but it was quickly recognized as a desirable trait and actively cultivated by breeders and riders.

This gait is somewhere between a walk and a canter in speed, and it consists of a four beat lateral gait very similar to the pace. However, the gait has an extremely regular 1-2-3-4 rhythm, and it is also very smooth; it does not produce the rocking motion associated with pacing. Paso Finos can sustain the gait for an extended period of time without resting, which made it ideal for people inspecting huge ranches and other land holdings historically.

There are two basic forms of this gait. The Paso Corto is a version similar to the trot in speed, while the Paso Largo is faster, almost like a canter. In the latter type, the horse extends its legs much more to cover more ground, while the horse is more compact and collected in the former type. In a special third version, the Classic Fino or Fino Fino, the horse steps extremely rapidly, but takes only small strides, so it moves at a walking pace. This gait is usually only used in show, because it strains the horse, but it is quite a remarkable sight, as the horse almost appears to be dancing.

Some horses develop the trocha, a diagonal variant on the gait. This is often discouraged, except in parts of Colombia, because, although natural, it is not as desirable. Some horses develop a diagonal version of the gait when they are stressed or tired, so it can be a sign that a horse is overworked or picking up bad habits.

Paso Finos are often used in trail riding, because they are very comfortable to ride and they have a lot of stamina. Endurance riders also sometimes ride them to take advantage of these traits.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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