Little is known about the beginnings of the Paso Fino breed, although we know it was the horse of choice for the Spanish Conquistadors as early as the 15th century. Prized for its unmatched willingness and strength, the Paso Fino carried the conquerors into battle over the rough terrains of Europe and scaled mountains, jungles and rugged plains with ease.
The Paso Fino was relatively unknown in the United States until the 1940s, but today is a popular horse for trail and endurance riding. Because of the Fino’s unique ambling gait and sure-footedness, it is also a strong contender in the show ring. The breeds which may have contributed to the Paso Fino bloodline include Andalusian, Barb and Spanish Jennet (a horse that is now extinct) influence.
Two strains of Paso Fino are recognised, these being the pure Paso Fino from Puerto Rica, and the Criollo from Columbia. Extensive crossbreeding of the two strains has taken place, although efforts are now being made to preserve the separate bloodlines.
The Paso Fino is characterised by a refined conformation with strong legs, a powerful head, a low-set tail and a thick mane, and is common in colours of bay and brown, although all except Appaloosa patterning are seen. Generally speaking, a Paso Fino will stand at a height of 14-16 hands.
The Paso’s unique gait has been passed down through the generations and it is not uncommon to see foals performing the four-beat gait shortly after birth.