Idaho 13 year old Paso Fino ridden in Snaffle and Western Saddle in Pasture by rider experienced, but not with Paso Fino's.


Iím new to the gaited horse owners club and I recently acquired a registered 13-year-old Paso Fino gelding. My dad actually bought him at a cattle auction just before he was going to be shipped off for horsemeat. The previous owner stated for experienced Paso Fino riders only. I'm an experienced rider, but not with one of these little rockets. I've ridden him a few times and he seems to have one real fast smooth gait, but he doesn't seem to like his bit at all. I've been using a snaffle bit on him because that's what was handy, and I didn't know what else to use anyway. I think he is a good horse that just hasn't been ridden much in his life, but we we're not able to contact the previous owner so we don't know his history at all.

The first question I have is what kind of bit should I use on a Paso Fino?

The second question is how can I adjust his speed from turbo down to maybe second gear and then shift back to turbo when I want to go fast again?

Tom in Idaho

From Panelist Stella

Particularly out west, the "largo" -speed - type Paso Fino is quite popular,  and some horses have not had enough training time doing the medium/slower speed of the corto - some owners just get carried away developing the largo, sounds like what may have happened with your horse. The good new is, it can be done!

Snaffles are not usually used on Paso Finos; it may, in fact, be contributing to his propensity for speed by jutting his nose out, due to the broken center, rather than allowing him to set his neck back over his body and break correctly at the poll. They are usually started in a Paso bosal, which is similar to a western sidepull, and I have found that to work quite well on numerous Paso Finos. When they are bitted, the bit - usually a loose-shanked curb, the mouthpiece depending on what's needed - is placed over the bosal, and the pressure gradually switched from one to the other, until the horse is completely responding well off the bit. This greatly helps keep the mouth light.

Often, if I get a horse in for further training, I will go back to using both until I get a better "feel" for the horse...and certainly in the case of a horse needing to be "refreshed in the corto, and other varying speeds, so that I can still work mainly off the bosal (or sidepull), yet have the bit available for any extra control I may need, especially with horses that do prefer to go, go, go. So, if you feel the sidepull may not give you enough control, you may do the same. 

While there are specialized loose-jaw bits for pasos, if not easily  available in your area, something like an arabian cutting horse bit, which  has a low port and short shank, should work well, and be the correct  width (usually 4 3/4" mouthpiece). Before we were able to have colombian paso bits imported, this particular bit was quite popularly and successfully used on many pasos, and should work as well today, unless you can find a simple low to medium ported bit, preferable loose-shanked, or else short. Work in a smaller area, give and take, give release as a reward when he "comes back to you" in a corto. Pasos can have a tremendous range of speeds in gait, ranging from slower than a walk to as fast as a hand gallop, and are capable of being very "handy," doing turns, circles, serpentines, rollbacks, etc in all speeds of gait; they are used to work cattle in many of their native 

Stella Manberg-Wise

From Panelists Liz

Hi Tom,

Sounds like you have a fun project here. This is a very common situation and I would recommend actually going back to baby basics of grown work in a round pen. Nice and slow asking him to go slow , walk and whoa, with a slow speed up of gait after that. This will take time and you with then learn what has been missed in his basic training and it sounds like a bunch. He also needs much more time to settle in and for you 2 to hook up and he needs not to fear you but respect you and your commands and enjoy doing it as well. I may even go to a PF bosal in a round pen for a while and teach more than just going forward fast, but flexing , bending, some good lateral work, half halts, to
stand quietly ,a one rein stop.

When is comes to bit time look in his mouth first to see what the structure is and then try some than look like they may work. Nice easy slow work and time will pay off big for you. I know of so many cases that sounded just like this and they turned out beautifully with awesome horses for the time and hard work put in.

Good luck!! You could very well have a real diamond in the ruff!


From Panelist Lee

It is entirely possible that this little horse has never had a bit in his mouth before you started using the snaffle on him.  My first thought would be to try a sidepull (since that is more likely to be available to you than Paso Fino headgear).  Keep the noseband snug, but not extremely tight, and get him used to responding to leg and seat aids to slow down (the same ones that work on non-gaited horses will work for him, if you teach them to him.)

If you feel that a bit is necessary, a better choice than the snaffle would be a solid mouth Kimberwicke, low port.  This is fairly mild, but more in keeping with what he may have had in his mouth in the past.  (Paso Finos are not routinely ridden in snaffle bits, but instead go from a bitless headgear to a small spoon curb as they advance in training)  You could also try a simple western grazing curb, short shanked, and see if he is comfortable in

To slow him down, work on half halts, (light pull/slacks on the reins, accompanied by a gentle tilt to the rear of the saddle with your pelvis,a squeeze/release with your upper thighs,  and a softening of your lower back).  Reward any slowing down with a relaxation (very subtle) of pressure on the reins, then take contact back up as you ask for "turbo speed" again. 

Have fun with your little rocket, these horses are a blast to ride!

Lee Ziegler


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