| Like their animals, Peruvian horse owners have an uncommon mixture
seemingly incompatible characteristics. They are usually independent
thinkers, yet they respect tradition. They are people who like to control
their destinies, yet they're fiercely protective of a breed left natural
while others are being engineered by man.
Many of them, such as Tammy Rimes, dreamed of horses when they were
and, like Tammy, waited a long time to finally indulge their fantasies.
"My dad was a cattle rancher, and I always thought I'd raise horses,"
Tammy says. "The way things worked out, I rode less than a dozen times
the first fifteen years after I left home."
As time passes, people become less willing to overlook the fact that
horseback riding can be strenuous and painful.
"On a trail ride, I rode my first 'gaited' horse," Tammy remembers.
was so comfortable that I decided to look a little closer at the gaited
breeds. My search led me to the Peruvian Paso. They were the smoothest
all, but what sold me was the spirit - or brio, as it's called - combined
with a sweet temperament."
Tammy knew that a lifetime with Peruvian Pasos would mean a lifetime
Peruvian Paso owners, so she decided to take in a Peruvian show.
"I found that not only were the horses everything I'd hoped for, but
people are very helpful and eager to share information, something I
hadn't experienced in other competitive show atmospheres."
Other Peruvian owners are reaching back in time for their roots. Manny
Martinez was born in Peru but moved to New York with his mother at
Whenever they visited Peru, Manny felt a kinship with the culture and
people there. When he discovered that his grandfather had been an
important horse breeder, he reached back for those roots. Today he's
among the larger Peruvian Paso breeders in California, and his horses
a force in the show arena.
A Texas cowboy named Glenn Cochran also saw Peruvians as a connection
with the past, a past he thought had died.
"Just before I got into horses," Glenn remembers, "most working horses
around here had a blend of cowhorse, or Quarter Horse, and gaited saddle
horse blood. These smooth-gaited "single-footers" were highly esteemed.
As late as the 70's, a few of these crossbred - but registered - Quarter
Horses could still be found. Occasionally they could be taught a running
walk or a single-foot. For decades I endeavored to teach every horse
rode, but with almost no success."
One day, Glenn's wife, Sallie, came home, full of enthusiasm after riding
her first Peruvian Paso. Sallie finally succeeded in overcoming Glenn's
doubts and got him to try Peruvians while working their Simmental cattle.
Glenn was astounded at how good they were.
"The Peruvians have good cow sense," Glenn reports. They'll never replace
Quarter Horses, but in some ways they're better: comfort, for example."
Dave Leewaye agrees that Peruvians will never put Quarter Horses out
work. Nonetheless, he and his fifteen-year-old Peruvian Paso compete
successfully in team penning. Five years ago, neither Dave nor his
had worked a single cow. Since then, they've climbed up to the top
of their classification in the year-end, county-wide standings That
bad considering that Dave is a retired educator - not a cowboy.
Colleen Cates uses Peruvians to follow her dogs during field trials.
"Most of our friends thought they wouldn't be able to keep up," she
recalls. "I'm happy to say that not only do my Peruvians keep up, but
have to hold them back! They perform beautifully. The field conditions
don't faze them at all, and what style they have! They've gained
Others buy Peruvians to extend their riding days. Among these are people
like Jeannie Sullivan, who have painful diseases or injuries and were
told by doctors that their riding days were over. Jeannie changed to
another doctor and bought a Peruvian Paso.
"You can believe it or not," she insists with fierce conviction, "but
my back feels much better on days when I ride, not to mention my new
outlook on life."
Linda Garro can sympathize. She has chronic arthritis in her spine and
hips. Nonetheless she foxhunts on her Peruvian Paso. Linda doesn't
pretend the Peruvian Paso is the best possible choice for foxhunting;
for her, it's the only possible choice. She can either ride a Peruvian
give up the sport. A few years back, her malady had become so serious
that Linda sought relief from the cold, damp Connecticut winters by
moving to Southern California.
"I wondered if I'd ever again do anything with horses besides ride at
walk," she remembers.
Foxhunting seemed out of the question because of Linda's arthritis and
one other little matter. There are no foxes to speak of in Southern
California! But further participation in her favorite activity was
possible by two animals that are found around her new home, Peruvian
horses and coyotes.
For Linda, it feels like a miracle that she's hunting again.
"My Peruvian gelding just motors along in his gait," she says. "We cover
a lot of ground. He's so smooth that I'm very comfortable, even more
when I see all the posting and bouncing around me."
The smooth ride of the Peruvian horse was a revelation to Rose Walker
even though she's ridden gaited horses most of her life. At 79 years
age, she rides nothing but Peruvians, often on all-day outings. When
people tell her how remarkable she is, Mrs. Walker is embarrassed.
all, her 100-year-old mother often comes along on he own Peruvian.
There are many who buy Peruvians for their grace, style and beauty.
them, these horses are living art or - as a Canadian once described
- "the tablet on which the Peruvians have chiseled their culture."
Dianne Bickford was intrigued by the beauty and mystique of Peruvians
now breeds them for the show arena. However, she has never forgotten
they are horses, and she doesn't baby them. She has ridden her Champion
of Champions stallion in the wilds of Colorado and Montana and once
into Yellowstone Park.
"We were way back in Yellowstone," she remembers, "where we could hear
elk bugling. You don't usually see stallions in places like that. People
are always astounded that mine behaves so well. Absolutely nothing
Diane also has a very successful show mare that she loaned to another
rider for an NATRC ride.
"She did great for her first time out," Dianne reports, "and finished
very difficult ride when some veteran horses didn't."
Others see Peruvians only as athletes. Peruvians compete successfully
a number of tough sports, and they take the bruising part out of these
activities. Furthermore, these smooth-riding, levelheaded horses are
noted for an uncanny ability to make inexperienced people look good.
Canadians Marian Taylor and Joyce Wallbridge were so green that they
finished dead last on their first competitive trail ride. Determined
to let that happen again, Marion won the Lightweight and Joyce the
Heavyweight Division in both of their next two rides. Following that,
two ladies reported a lot of phone calls from competitive trail riders
interested in Peruvians.
In their first endurance race, a fifty-miler, Joan Box and Tempie Butler
were so obviously inexperienced that the ride manager approached them
just before the start. Concerned, he asked them to hold their horses
one side and let the other 40 riders go ahead.
As the race went along, Tempie caught and passed all but five of those
riders, and Joan caught her share, too, finishing 12th. Not only that,
but Tempie's horse was judged the 4th best-conditioned horse of all
started the ride.
After that one competitor good-naturedly groused: "I think the Peruvians
and their riders should have to go back out and ride at least another
hour. It's only fair. The horses aren't tired, and neither are the
"The amazing thing was the competitive spirit of the Peruvians," Joan
recalls. "They knew it was a contest, and they wanted to win!"
Ruth Riegel was in the same boat when she entered her 10-year-old show
and exhibition horse in his (and her) first NATRC ride. Ruth won her
division. Afterwards a disgruntled competitor demanded to know what
was doing in the Novice Division with such a seasoned horse.
Renee Been moved her Peruvian ahead of a grateful lady whose horse was
panicked by passing semis where an NATRC trail briefly followed a highway
shoulder. Renee's calmer horse steadied the other until the trail veered
away from the highway.
"You're lucky to have such a seasoned horse," the lady said afterwards,
with a sigh of relief.
"I didn't bother to tell her that my horse had been under saddle for
of seven months and that this was only her second NATRC ride," Renee
recalls. "If she'd never been around Peruvians, she wouldn't have
believed it anyhow!"
After the ride, it was announced that Renee's mare had won second place.
Peruvian horses mean many different things to many different people.
there are few - if any - who would disagree with the notion that this
a natural breed, unspoiled by man. That's the way they want to keep
and that tells us something about American values, something very
different from what we see and hear on the news.