The Peruvian Paso horse has been gaining recognition in the United States in the past decade or so as the smoothest horse ride in the world. It’s natural four-beat, lateral gait, collected energy, and gentle temperament are an asset to the show arena, trail rider, cattle rancher, and pleasure rider.
Peruvian Paso horses are prized in Peru for their stamina and strength, as seen in the horse shows throughout Peru. These horses are used in cattle and herd ranches throughout Peru, in the high Andes mountains to the coastal plains, for pleasure riding, and for showing.
The Peruvian Paso horse is the only horse with “termino”, which is a swimming motion of the forelegs that allows the long reach of the hind legs and creates such a graceful, flowing stride.
The Peruvian Paso horse was introduced to Peru from Spain in the fifteenth century. These horses were from bloodstock of the Andalusian and the Spanish Jennet (North African Barb/Arabian descent). Peru has maintained the purest link to the naturally gaited horse, and that trait is carried on throughout the world by Peruvian Paso horse owners and breeders.
According to the registry of horses, there are over 12,000 Peruvian Paso horses in the United States, with two U.S. national associations and approximately 42 recognized local and regional clubs. These horses can also be seen in Canada, the Americas, and Europe, all of which have their own associations and clubs.
The Distinct Appearance
Peruvian Paso horses have a low-set tail, with a long, abundant mane and tail. They range in size from 14.1 hands to about 15.2 hands. The neck is set high, is slightly heavier than most breeds, and has discreetly marked withers. The overall appearance is of energy, grace, strength, and refinement. Their color may be black, brown, bay, chestnut, gray, palomino, buckskin, roan, and variations, though the solid colors have always been considered more desirable.
The Peruvian Paso horse is prized for Brio, a term referring to a presence and arrogance, combined with alertness and enthusiasm to please — so notable in the breed. The horse is a beautiful blend of spirit, energy and intelligence, with a great willingness to please.
The Gait (Spanish: Pisos)
The Peruvian Paso horse is referred to as the smoothest riding horse in the world. Both the gait and the flashy leg action are completely natural. The Peruvian Paso transmits its smooth gait to all purebred foals. It is the only horse in the world with “termino”, which is the graceful, flowing movement as the forelegs are rolled towards the outside as the horse strides forward, much like the arm motion of a swimmer.
A visual observation of the correct movement for this horse is an overstepping action, with the rear legs pushing the horse forward, and with relatively no tail movement. The natural gaits include the Paso (walk), Paso llano, and Sobreandando. The walk is a relaxed, equal 4-beat lateral movement. The Paso llano is an equally spaced, four beat gait. The Sobreandando is slightly faster and more lateral than the Paso llano.
The trot, gallop, and pasitrote (diagonal gaits) are highly undesirable and sometimes seen in horses when misridden.