by Verne R. Albright

Above all things, Jorge Juan Pinillos was a salesman and an opportunist,
though his prowess as a breeder of fine Peruvian Paso horses and mules
was a close second. He excelled in any and all activities that had to do
with equines, included riding.

Thus it was that an inexperienced owner once asked him to show a paso
mule at a small regional show.

While circling the arena, Jorge Juan quickly took note of the mule's
uncommonly high quality. The animal was smooth-riding, energetic and
stylish, and there was little doubt that he'd win the class. In fact, he
stood so far above his competitors that Jorge Juan was confident of
victory before he'd completed the first lap around the huge, grass
covered field where the competition was bring held.

On his second lap, Jorge Juan heard something that jolted him upright in
the saddle.

"Jorge Juan, I like your mule. How much do you want for him?"

Sensing potential profit, the old man was immediately energized. He named
a price that left a stunned look on the face of the would-be buyer. Then,
on the opposite side of the arena, he slowed the mule as he passed its

"This mule might have possibilities," he announced casually. "Of course,
he'll needs a lot of training before I'll know for sure, but I'm willing
to take a chance. Do you want to sell him?"

The owner had brought the mule to the show for that express purpose and
readily quoted a price. Jorge Juan dismissed it with a disdainful wave of
his hand, riding off without even bothering to make a counter offer.

For the remainder of the class, Jorge Juan relentlessly beat down the
owner's selling price each time he passed. On the opposite side of the
field he skillfully cajoled ever-higher offers from his buyer. In both
endeavors, he skillfully used the enormous respect commanded by his
almost-legendary reputation.

On the buyer's side of the arena, he showed the mule brilliantly. While
there, the mule glided across the ground, giving his rider an incredibly
smooth ride. All eyes were on the stylish hybrid as he proudly swept
past, crisply drumming his musical four-beat rhythm on the ground.

With uncanny regularity, however, the mule's performance deteriorated on
the other side of the spacious field, where his owner stood.

The judge watched in frustration as Jorge Juan's mount alternated between
being the best and the worst in the class. Were it not for these
fluctuations, the class would have long been over; but, of course, Jorge
Juan was in no hurry for that.

Finally the difference between the two prices was satisfactory. On his
next lap around the arena, with a single word -- repeated twice - Jorge
Juan brought the masterful negotiations to a successful conclusion.

"Sold," he said to the seller, and moments later the buyer heard that
same word.

Then Jorge Juan collected the mule into a perfect, four-beat gait, which
the animal never left for the duration of the class. Head held high and
proud, legs pumping like pistons, the animal glided around the arena,
passing his competitors and eclipsing them in the process.

After a class in Peru, competitors line up at one end of the arena. Then
they're called out to receive their awards, in reverse order, starting
with fifth, then fourth, etc. When the second prize winner was announced,
only Jorge Juan and his mule were left unsummoned. He smiled. Now all he
had to do was keep his "buyer" and "seller" from meeting one another
before the cash changed hands.

For centuries high-quality gaited mules have been much-sought-after in
Peru, so much so that dealers like Jorge Juan Pinillos could work their
magic in the marketplace. Until recently, however, Peru's Paso mules have
been relatively unknown outside of that country's borders.

The specific kind of agriculture practiced in Peru was on a large scale
and required horses or mules for those whose job it was to inspect the
crops. Many of Peru's farmers preferred mules, and why not? Peruvian Paso
horses produce wonderful mules with a smooth, ground-covering, lateral
gait and a remarkably docile nature.

Since it began in 1945, the National Tournament of Peruvian Paso Horses
offered classes for these remarkable hybrids. In the early 1960's, I
became fascinated with Peru's Paso horses and began to attend these
annual shows. I didn't know much about mules, but listening to spectators
discuss them, I came to realize that paso mules were special and
deserving of respect. Like Jorge Juan, I was also intrigued by the
commercial possibilities.

Importation costs eliminated the possibility of bringing these animals to
the States for profit, and I quickly gave up on that idea. So did
everyone else, or so I thought.

In the back of my mind, however, I made a note that there seemed to be
enormous potential for gaited mules in North America. If they could
somehow be produced here - and therefore be free of importation costs -
Peruvian Paso mules could be profitable. The problem was that the
Peruvians had ambling donkeys with an exceptionally high-quality gait,
and these were the key to producing laterally gaited mules.
Unfortunately, these donkeys were scarce, expensive and awfully small to
be used in the production mules for people the size of Americans.

Time, however, revealed that North America, too, has laterally-gaited
donkeys. Though I've never since seen one with a gait as precise as that
done by Peruvian donkeys, a high-quality lateral gait is reliably
transmitted to mules produced by crossing these with Peruvian horses.
Already a couple of North American breeders are selling all the Peruvian
Paso mules they can produce. Before long they are sure to be a lot more.


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