Peruvian Paso 6 yrs old

Question: This is a conformation question.  I noticed there was already one similar, but I need to rephrase and understand better.  I just bought a Peruvian Paso mare.  She has been used strictly as a broodmare so far, but after she foals out her andalusian cross foal, I had planned on training her to ride (just for light trail work).

When she came off the trailer here, I noticed that she was somewhat dropped in the pasterns.  Not as much as the other post indicated, but dropped so that her pasterns are at
unusually odd angles.  I thought it was odd, and that I might not be able to ride her after all.

I don't have a lot of experience with gaited horses.  Since that time, I've seen several breeds of gaited horses all having some sort of lower pastern (what I would call
dropped).  I started to think it might be a natural conformation of a gaited horse.  Then I read the other post out here that it was definitely a flaw and so now I am confused.

Do gaited horses, in general, have a lower, dropped pastern, or is this a particularly common fault in gaited horses, or am I just running into some type of fluke where the gaited horses I'm seeing all happen to have this conformational flaw?


From Panelist Annete

Ok. Let's sort this out. Your mare has pasterns that are lower than other horses, probably trotting breeds, that you've seen, but then you notice that other gaited horses have lower angled pasterns in general than trotting horses, so you begin to think perhaps it is normal, but then someone says this is a flaw so now you're going ARGH!

You are right that gaited horses in general have lower more flexible pasterns than trotting horses. This is as it should be because the angle of the pastern should follow the average of the angles of the shoulder and the elbow, or to put it more simply, usually the angle of the pastern should be about 2 degrees below the angle of the shoulder (which then is also the
angle for the front hooves). Gaited horses have lower shoulder angles because that is part of the conformation that "pushes" them to gait. The theory I favor as to why that is, is this: the lower shoulder angle means that their neck comes up out of the body at a higher angle, which means that they can lift in the front, get their front feet up out of the way of their
rear feet, and it allows them to "walk under" themselves in the rear and drive off the hind quarters when in gait. Somebody else probably has another theory. Be that as it may, look at bunches of gaited horses, and you'll find that they have lower shoulder angles than trotting horses, and equally lower, longer more flexible pasterns. The longer, lower more flexible pasterns also contribute to shock absorption for the rider. So, up to a point, lower longer pasterns are both normal and desirable in gaited horses. 

So, at what point does the low angle of the pastern become a flaw? Answer: When the low pasterns are detrimental to the horse's short and/or long term usefulness. Where is this seen most often? Answer: In Peruvian Pasos. What correlates with too low, too long over flexible pasterns? Answer: DSLD. Do pasterns that are low and long to the point of excess contribute to DSLD? Answer: Maybe, or perhaps they are a symptom of incipient DSLD. At this point, no one is sure. All that is known at this time is that there is a correlation between the very long pastern conformation and DSLD. What the heck is DSLD? Answer: Go to the following web sites:

Follow the links on those pages to very detailed information. There is an article "Mechanical Observation of the Peruvian Horse" by Ed Houston that is an outstanding discussion of the critical conformational flaw that is a sure fire diagnosis of impending DSLD in a horse, being that the point of the hip is located forward of the rear lumbar joint (the lumbosacral joint). That article should be required reading for all gaited horse owners, and certainly for all Peruvian Paso owners, or wannabes.

I realize this is not a "bright line" answer to your question about your specific horse, but I hope it provides you with some direction in which to take your research to answer your question as to your particular mare. 

Thank you for your consideration of my thoughts.

Annette L. Gerhardt

From Panelist Liz


No it is not normal or considered correct conformation for any breed to have  long or dropped pasterns. It can be seen in every breed but is not an acceptable trait.

IMO I am seeing it  on more Peruvians than in  the other breeds. This is not correct for the breed and I think it has come into the breed due to some poor choices is breeding practices.

It is something to be careful of and I recommend using support boots on a horse when riding and know the limitations of stress on a horse with this problem. I would consult a good vet as to how much work and stress your horse situations is limited to.


From Panelist Lee

No, gaited horses in general do not have lower, dropped pasterns.  It is not a particularly common fault in most gaited breeds, but it is more common among Peruvians than among others.  Some gaited horses are trimmed  and shod with low heels, long toes, which may make their pasterns appear somewhat lower than other non-gaited horses.  Gaited horses in general should have  the same sort of conformation as it relates to soundness as non- gaited breeds.  You may indeed be witnessing some atypical horses.

Lee Ziegler


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