Heaven's Gait 
A Brief Description of the Peruvian Paso Horse 
by Verne R. Albright
 
 
 
        The doctors told Sharon Reynolds that her riding days were over. A 
lifetime in the saddle had caused discs in her lower back to deteriorate, 
and the experience of riding had shifted from exhilarating to painful to 
downright dangerous. Sharon risked permanent damage and even paralysis if 
she continued doing what she enjoyed most, riding horseback. 
 
        "It was the worst news of my life," she said, "and yet -- contrary to my 
wishes -- I had to admit the doctors were right. Every time I rode, it 
wouldn't be thirty seconds before I'd start feeling those painful 
twinges. It kept getting worse and worse." 
        In an unexpected turn of events, Sharon had the opportunity to ride a 
horse recently imported from South America. 
        "It was unbelievable! The ride was so smooth, it felt as if the horse 
was floating!" she exclaimed. "There was no pain or discomfort ... just 
the marvelous sensation of being able to ride again." 
 
        What made the difference? Sharon had ridden a Peruvian Paso horse. 
        Over a century ago, a visitor to South America wrote: "Horseback riding 
is a vigorous form of exercise except in Peru, where breeders have 
managed a triumph over nature. They have created a horse which moves by 
means of a very smooth amble. These horses are greatly sought-after, for 
to ride one is much the same as being seated in a chair." 
        Peruvian horses have long been esteemed for the smooth way they cover 
ground. In fact, the Spanish word paso refers to the gait that produces 
their incredibly smooth ride. 
 
        For those who have yet to understand and appreciate the artistry of 
Peruvian horses, the paso gait may appear somewhat peculiar. Most people 
are accustomed to seeing the motions of trotting horses with legs moving 
in a diagonal pattern. In contrast, the Peruvian Paso's inborn gait is 
lateral. The legs are moved individually, and the sequence is such that 
the Peruvian always has at least two feet on the ground, much the way a 
baby crawls. The "paso llano" gait has no "aerial phase", with all four 
feet in the air. These factors combine to provide that splendid, gliding 
ride for which the Peruvian is widely celebrated. 
 
        But there's more! In addition to the smoothness, there's fabulous style 
to the Peruvian's way of going. The significance of this style is 
difficult to describe. Luis de Ascasubi did it best. 
        "There are times in life," he said, "when one longs for the superfluous. 
And in this world, dominated by statistics, efficiency and materialism, 
it's a joy to see [a Peruvian Paso] come dancing down the road, 
rhythmically tapping out his beat, glowing with good humor." 
 
        Ascasubi was discussing what the untrained eye might see as "wasted 
energy," expended as these majestic horses exhibit their "termino." The 
Peruvian is the only horse with termino, a unique, graceful and flowing 
movement of the forelegs. The front knees bob high and the forelegs arc 
toward the outside as the horse strides forward. It looks something like 
the arm motions of a swimmer doing the Australian Crawl. Combined with 
the breed's carriage, presence and energy, termino completes a beautiful 
picture, one for which Peruvian horses are justly famous. 
 
        Peruvian Paso horses are unique. In fact, a humorist once called them: 
"the animal which most nearly resembles a horse." A Canadian breeder was 
a bit more sentimental when he referred to them as: "the tablet on which 
the Peruvians have chiseled their culture." Both descriptions point out 
that this breed is unlike any other.
 
 

        For further information on Peruvian horses, visit the Internet Web Site
of the American Association of Owners and Breeders of Peruvian Paso Horses
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

 

  
 
 
 
 
THE PERUVIAN HORSE 
by Verne R. Albright 

It's easy to list the Peruvian breed characteristics. They're smooth-riding, beautiful and stylish. They have an action in the forelegs - called "termino" - which is extraordinarily eye-catching and graceful. 
 
Bred by a small number of hacienda owners for hundreds of years, their development was closely controlled. Animals with unsuitable dispositionswere not bred lest that same temperament show up in future generations. Nonetheless extraordinary energy and pride were bred in. Though elegant, these horses were bred for work, first and foremost. One breeder described the priority by saying, "The Peruvian Paso is a work horse suitable for showing - not a show horse suitable for working." 
 
When the breed characteristics are added together, one has animals in which seemingly incompatible characteristics have been miraculously combined. Incredible smoothness is combined with extravagant action. Though they are primarily working horses, Peruvians are stylish and spectacular.
 
Abundant energy is combined with willingness and tractability. Peruvians carry their heads high and yet take a long stride. Best of all, these characteristics are passed genetically. The breed is truly "natural".
 
In fact, the show rules of the American Association of
Owners and Breeders of Peruvian Paso Horses forbid artificial devices and require horses to be shown barefoot, with hooves trimmed to a minimum 
length.