The Paso Fino has had a long history in the Americas. Its ancestors were first brought to the Caribbean Islands by Columbus on his second voyage from Spain and were bred to be mounts of the Spanish Conquistadors. Centuries of selective breeding by those that colonized the Caribbean and Latin America produced variations of the “Caballo de Criollo,” among them the Paso Fino that flourished initially in Puerto Rico and Colombia, and later in other Latin American countries (primarily Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, and Venezuela).
The Paso Fino did not make its way into the United States until after World War II. The U.S. serviceman stationed in Puerto Rico during the war discovered the Paso Finos and were the first to import them back to the United States after the war. During the 1960’s and 1970’s many Paso Finos began to be imported from Columbia. 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 is often a blend of the best of Puerto Rican and Colombian bloodlines in true melting pot tradition.
The Paso Fino has a proud, graceful carriage and a lively but controlled spirit. Its size varies between 13 and 15.2 hands, and comes in all equine colors except appaloosa. It is sure footed and athletic. It can be trained to drive, participate in cow penning or endurance competitions, as well as be a trustworthy trail horse.
Its characteristic natural 4 beat gait set this breed apart to make it the smoothest riding horse in the world. The gait of the Paso Fino is genetic and normally exhibited from birth. The footfall is the same pattern as the walk – left rear, left fore, right rear, right fore. Each foot contacts the ground independently in a regular, evenly spaced sequence at precise intervals creating a rapid, unbroken rhythm. The sound of the hoof beats should be absolutely even in cadence and impact. The Paso Fino propels itself primarily from the hind legs while the motion is absorbed in its back and loins. Thus there is no up and down movement of the horse’s croup, and that is why there is no bounce when riding as there would be at the jog or trot of other breeds.
The Paso Fino gait is performed at three speeds. The slowest is the Classic Fino, where the horse is fully collected, the footfall is extremely rapid while the steps and extension are very short. The gait is used primarily for show. Not all Paso Finos can execute the Classic Fino gait and those that do are highly prized for breeding. The intermediate speed of the Paso Fino gait is known as the Paso Corto. At the Paso Corto, the horse is collected, and its step are ground covering but unhurried. The speed is comparable to a trot. The fastest speed of the Paso Fino gait is the Paso Largo. This is executed with a longer extension and stride, and a more moderate collection. The speed of each horse’s largo will vary depending on the extension which can be achieved given the horse’s conformation, especially the slope of the shoulder.