by Verne R. Albright
| In the early 1940's, two
dozen beautifully-matched grays -- each a
mirror-perfect match to the next -- arrived at the National Peruvian Paso
Tournament in Lima, Peru. Each was groomed to perfection and was handled
by a freshly-scrubbed-and-uniformed stable boy.
After having been unloaded from the trucks that brought them, the
twenty-four horses and their handlers stood in a group outside the arena.
Quickly, a large group of admiring spectators gathered.
The show was underway, but the judge couldn't help noticing the
commotion. Between classes, he left the arena and introduced himself to
the man in charge of the newly arrived horses.
"May I inquire as to their lineage?" he asked quietly.
"They were all sired by our imported Arabian stallion," the man
The judge had already guessed as much.
"I must congratulate you on the marvelous preparation of your horses,"
he said graciously. "You've spared no effort, and they're absolutely
beautiful. I deeply regret that -- since they're not purebloods -- I'll
be unable to permit them to enter the competition."
For several hundred years, the Peruvian breed had been a pure and
distinct genetic entity, completely free from the influence of outside
blood. But in the early 1940's -- for the first time -- people had come
on the scene to suggest the injection of outside blood, and a handful of
breeders actually succumbed to the temptation. The permanent judge of the
National Show, Antonio Graña, had decided to stop this dangerous trend in
its tracks, as quickly as possible and as drastically as necessary. He
took a stand so inflexible that it stopped this dangerous trend almost
before it had started. The few people with impure horses found that they
could no longer show them. Neither could they sell or even give them
away, and these horses were erased from the face of the earth without a
Having survived such a critical challenge, the breed still wasn't home
free. There would be another serious challenge, and it would come when
large numbers of Peruvian horses began to arrive in the United States.
Considering the American tendency to "Americanize," it's something of a
miracle that the Peruvian Paso horse has been here in quantity for over
thirty years without the imposition of changes. This is a very rare event
in the history of livestock and pets imported into the United States.
In the beginning, however, it was the "breed changers" who had control.
The importance of the struggle between them and the "traditionalists" can
be seen in the simple story of a well-known breeder from Peru who
attended an all-breed show in southern California. He was there to see a
special class for Peruvian Pasos, and that class was more than halfway
finished before he realized that the horses before him were the same
breed he raised!
All horses in the class were being ridden much too fast and as a
consequence were out of gait. All were ridden in gear other than
Peruvian. The riders were mostly dressed as cowboys and rode their horses
in the western style. Not one of the horses was even slightly collected.
When asked what he thought of the Peruvian Pasos, the breeder answered:
"I didn't see any. Those were North American Pasos."
The changes promoted by the "breed changers" would have made the
Peruvian horse more similar to other breeds. The legacy of such people --
if they'd had their way -- would have been to reduce a fabulously unique
original into a mere copy, mimicking other breeds. However, other people
-- who valued the breed for what it was -- prevailed. Many Americans had
been looking for a breed such as the Peruvian Paso. When they found it,
they were determined to protect it.
Speaking of the decision to publish Peruvian Digest magazine, Donna
Bearer, the editor, said: "We were so impressed with the temperament and
beauty of Peruvians that we wanted to write about them and promote them.
Most of all, we wanted to protect them. Too many imported breeds have
been destroyed by 'Americanization'."
But not this one!
Once described as "the tablet upon which the Peruvians have chiseled
their culture," Peruvian horses have brought a piece of that culture to
the United States. One cannot describe Peruvian horses by using inches,
pounds, miles-per-hour or any of the other "quantifiable" measurements
that most Americans use in making evaluations. Instead terms like
"elegance", "grace", "style" and "energy" must be employed, and that
encourages us Americans to think in terms that expand our horizons.