Caballo Peruano de Paso
(The Peruvian Stepping Horse)

by Cortney Heslington
February 11, 2005

There are many different types and breeds of horses that are used for many different things. Some are specialized in jumping, some in racing, others in showing or parades, and some are great for rodeos. However the qualities that make the best all around horse are temperament, beauty, versatility, low maintenance, and being all around pleasurable. The one breed of horse that meets this criteria and is the most pleasurable of all is the Peruvian Paso.

The Peruvian Paso is known as one of South America’s best kept secrets (Reusser 20 Jan. 2005 ). The first people to introduce the horse to the America’s was the Spanish. Christopher Columbus brought the first horses to the island of Santo Domingo in 1493 that were used to start the first breeding operation. The most outstanding breed at the time was the Andalusion which became the foundation of the Peruvian Paso (Peruvian). Soon after, the breed moved down into the central parts of South America and were used for mounting troops during their conquests. In 1532 Francisco Pizaro’s troops used an early version of the Peruvian Paso when he conquered the Inca empire. It was here, in Peru’s rough terrain, where these lovely animals stayed isolated and were bred to perfection. It would be 450 years later before the secret was unleashed to the rest of the world.

The most important quality in a horse is temperament; and the Peruvian has the best. Due to its isolation in Peru for so many centuries, the Peruvian is one of the purest breeds in the world. During their 450 year isolation, the Peruvian breeders would only breed the horses that had the best temperaments. Any horse that had an unsuitable disposition was banned to field work or even worse, literally banned to the dinner table (Albright, History). So bad traits and habits such as biting, bucking, and kicking faded with each generation and today are very rare among this breed (Kiesow 28 Jan. 2005)! Currently, if a Peruvian has a bad habit, it was most likely taught to them by a human and not inherited (Ripley 1 Feb. 2005).

So if their temperament lacks in bad qualities, what are their good qualities? The best quality is it’s willingness to serve. The Peruvian lives to serve. Horse breeder Annie Kiesow said that Peruvians are so willing to obey that they will literally be shaking when asked to do something scary, yet will still obey. It is almost as if they say, “I am scared about this, but you asked me to do it, so I will” (Kiesow 28 Jan. 2005). Furthermore sensibility, patience, loyalty, and dependability are cherished Peruvian qualities. One example of how sensible and patient the Peruvian is, is that if a Peruvian gets hung up in a fence, it would usually stand and wait to be untangled by its owner rather than go wild such as other horses would (Kruger 20 Feb. 2005). Annie Kiesow commented on their loyalty in the following quote, “My Gelding would die for me, I just know it, bred down from the horses of the Spanish conquistadors, they have the heart of a warrior, I had a young horse once that stood his ground while an angry cow hit him so hard she knocked the wind out of him, but he stayed between her and me.” (Kiesow). “You can even see them reason and they sense your feelings and act accordingly”, Carole commented (Photiadis 6 Feb. 2005). Once they learn something, they generally never forget, which makes them extremely dependable. The Peruvian, because of their great temperament, is the national horse of Peru and is highly respected (Hirthler 1977).

horses 004This horse was also bred for a quality called brio. A horse with brio is focused, willing to work, and is quick to react and learn. The word brio isn’t synonymous with the word “spirit” referring to a horse that is hard to control, such as the spirit of the Arab. Rather, the energy and heart of a horse with brio is completely at the service of the rider. Underneath all that energy is a calm and completely willing horse. To be willing is the most important characteristic in brio (Albright, Peruvian). One great example of Peruvian’s easy temperament combined with their brio took place at a pre-show press conference at the luxurious Radisson Hotel in Odessa, Texas. Joan Box and her associate brought their horses to the show and to accommodate the journalists, they took their horses through the glass doors, down the stairs, and into the lobby with complete calmness. One man in the hotel hoped that they would be staying in the room next to him because they were better mannered than the people who stayed there the night before. After the Press conference, they gave pony rides to all who wanted. Albright said,

“Those who saw them in the show arena a few days later were treated to high-stepping, fire-breathing, show-stopping excitement. Watching them in competition, it was hard to believe that the same horses had calmly walked inside a busy hotel and given pony rides to tourists on a crowded sidewalk. I know of few breeds where this would be typical of high performance show horses.” (Albright, Versatility)

These great horses will be quiet in the pasture and when they are with other horses but as soon as they are under saddle they really “wake up” and all their energy is at your, the rider’s service (Windom 25 Jan 2005). Carole Photiadis describes how brio can be felt by just sitting on a Peruvian. She said, “climb aboard and feel the muscles quiver beneath you, waiting for your command.” (Photiadis).

horses 129Dale Roberson says that, “Watching a Peruvian should induce a special feeling for even the most naive equestrian.” Brio brings out the spirit, pride, and heart of the horse that makes it thrilling to watch or ride. Albright interprets the sensation of brio in the following quote:

“He comes into view, elegant and handsome…maybe even a little pretentious and arrogant. Always on parade, he fills the scene with his ample movements. The universe is barely big enough to contain his boastful gaiety. He is a source of great pleasure to his owner and to those who see him.” (Albright, Versatility)

Brio is the controlled energy that the Peruvian gives off simply in it’s presence. When watching the horse it looks full of energy, movement, and pride but underneath all that, the rider feels complete calmness. Brio is something you have to see yourself because words cannot accurately describe it..It creates the pleasure of catching every eye you pass.

To compliment a Peruvian Paso’s brio is the pleasure of it’s majestic beauty. The Peruvian has a body full of strength and stamina with well developed muscles giving it a refined appearance. It’s height is between 14 and 15 hands (about 4½ to 5 feet to the withers). It’s head is of medium size, proportional with it’s body, and has a small muzzle. It’s eyes are dark and expressive with a graceful, arched neck. The body is long and muscular. The coat is always a deep color that shines and looks and feels soft and silky. The mane and tail are long, thick and beautiful (Reusser 20 Jan. 2005). Overall they are one of the most beautiful breeds to look at.

Another reason owners find pleasure in the Peruvian is because they require such little maintenance in care, riding , and training. They eat very little because of their high metabolism and small size. Consequently, they don’t cost as much to take care of. Where some horse breeds require extensive foot care, the Peruvian’s feet require little maintenance. Their feet are so tough that they don’t need shoes or any other special care. (Kiesow 28 Jan. 2005). The Peruvian is generally less dominant than most making them easier to handle while in the pasture and during training Ripley commented that, “I got my mare out of the pasture when she was six years old and got on her bareback and lead lines on her halter. That was how I “trained” her.” (Ripley). Compared to other horses they are very easy to train, which saves the rider much frustration and time.

After considering all the above qualities, one might question, what is a Peruvian like to ride? Their sensitivity and responsiveness makes them extremely easy to ride and train. They are sensitive and require very little effort for communication. They can pick up even the smallest body movements of their rider and are very light with the reins (Ripley 01 Feb. 2005). It’s easy to concentrate on other things while riding because it’s not necessary to be always jerking on the reins.

Along with their responsiveness, comfort is a quality that can make riding a great pleasure. The years of their isolated breeding has resulted in the Peruvian having the smoothest gait in the world. After riding a Peruvian Paso Arlene Margrino stated , ” After traveling over three continents and riding countless trails on every breed of horse … I’ve found the end of the rainbow. The Peruvian is by far the smoothest riding horse. I’ve ridden them all and believe me this is it!” (Albright ,Peruvian). They are so smooth that a common way to judge a show is to have each rider carry a champagne glass and see who spills the least. Quite often nobody spills a drop. The best thing about their gait or paso is that they pass it on to one-hundred percent of their offspring. (Kiesow 28 Jan. 2005). Even a Tennessee walking horse and other gaited horses seem bouncy compared to the Peruvian (Reusser).

The Peruvian has four unique four-beat gaits: The Walk, Paso Llano, Sobreandando, and Huachano. These gaits are lateral instead of diagonal like trotting horses and so the weight is more evenly distributed and little to no movement is transferred to the rider which creates a smooth ride. These gaits always include three feet on the ground at a time. Even though these are their most common gaits, just like any horse the Peruvian can still canter and gallop. (Reusser).

Another quality that is unique to the Peruvian is a component called termino. The word termino describes the front leg action that is similar to that of a swimmer. This action creates a lot of front leg action without any bounce transferred to the rider; Also it looks very beautiful because of how high they pick up their feet (Reusser).

Ocotillo Wells 08 003Another thing that makes the Peruvian a great all around horse is that it is good for all types of people: old, young, big , little, experienced or not. Because of their quiet disposition and dependability, anyone can handle these horses. In most Peruvian shows, there are separate sections for juniors because they are so good with children (Mindel 1989). Michele Ripley even lets all her nieces and nephews ride her gelding and never has to worry about them (Ripley 01 Feb. 2005). Carole Photaidis believe that, ” the younger the child, the more gentle the horse becomes. I have seen toddlers on the Peruvians and the Peruvians acted as if their cargo was glass.” Many buy this breed as their first time horse, including retired people because the Peruvian gives a nice smooth ride and is easy to handle. The Peruvian is so easy to handle, in fact, that seventy-nine year old Rose Walker from Oregon, and her mother who is one hundred years old often go on all day rides on their Peruvians (Albright, Who). A Peruvian breeder said, “The largest of stallions can be ridden by the smallest of children” (Hirthler 1977).

These horses are a joy because they can be therapeutic. Where most people with back problems, hip problems, pregnancy, and many other heath problems shouldn’t ride horses, the Peruvian is actually good for them. Linda Garro has chronic arthritis in her spine and hips. Throughout her life she had always been a fox hunter but the doctors prohibited it because of her arthritis. But since she has found the Peruvian she is able to ride again with no pain. She even claims that her back feels better on days when she rides. This is just one of countless other stories. Some doctors that know about the Peruvian Paso even recommend the breed. (Albright, Who).

Because of the Peruvians unique body build it is very athletic and versatile. The chest is wide and deep which allows a large breathing capacity which improves endurance. The Peruvian also has an extremely sure foot because of it’s gait and the angle of the pasterns. The original purpose of the breed was to cover a lot of ground while giving the smoothest ride possible. The plantation owners could ride up to forty miles a day and feel like they’ve only ridden one ( Mindel 1989). This horse was meant for anything from the mountains, to the dessert, to the beach. Thanks to the Peruvian Paso the great Andes mountains were conquered by man (Hirther 1977). Some may argue that their small size might hinder their abilities but on the contrary, it proves to be no disadvantage at all. They don’t feel small at all because their heart is so big. Their brio and the way they carry themselves makes the rider feel as if they are riding a much larger horse. Their size contributes to their agility. Their size was originally preferred by the farmers because of the easy mounts and dismounts. They are also much stronger than expected and can carry up to 250 pounds (Photiadis 06 Feb. 2005). A man from Idaho took a Peruvian on an elk hunt and after another larger horse refused to pack an elk out of the rugged country, they put the meat on the smaller Peruvian who not only brought the meat out, but did it in record time (Albright, Peruvian).

Another example is when rider, Joan Box, attempted to compete her Peruvian on an endurance race and the ride manager almost wouldn’t let her come but she ended up being one of the first to finish. Another competitor commented , “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 riders!” Although some think that the only uses for the Peruvian is for show. “Audrey Gaisfield of Ranch Que Sabe often rides her most successful show horse on the trail (or would it be more correct to say that she uses her most successful trail horse in the show arena?)” (Albright Who). There is a saying in Peru, “The Peruvian Paso is a work horse suitable for showing-not a show horse suitable for working. (Albright Who).

Peruvians can participate in many other activities as well. Some additional activities in which they excel include showing, pleasure riding, parades, endurance racing, drill teams, sidesaddle riding, polo, and just about anything any other breed enjoys (Albright, Who). The Peruvian horse is capable of preforming, at least moderately, in all activities and you can be sure it will be the most beautiful horse participating. As Carole Photaidis said, ” There is no other breed that is close to the Peruvian. He is in a class all of his own.”

Therefore for being strictly rodeo queen, the Quarter horse is the best. For only racing, the Thorough bred would be the best. For pulling a carriage, the Clydesdale is great, but for the best all around horse that does a little bit of everything and makes the most pleasurable friend, the Peruvian Paso is perfect.

Works Cited

Albright,Verne. “History of the Peruvian Paso Horse.” AAOBPPH. 20 Jan. 2005.

Albright, Verne. “Peruvian Paso Q. & A.” Gaited 31 Jan. 2005.

Albright, Verne. “Verstility and the Peruvian Paso.” Gaited 23 Jan. 2005.

Albright, Verne. “Who Buys Peruvian Paso’s?”. Gaited 7 Feb. 2005.

Kiesow, Annie. Email interview. 28 Jan. 2005.

Kruger, Brad. Email interview. 20 Feb. 2005.

Peruvian Paso. Hirthler, George. Bonilla, Hugo.Videocassette. LTD Presentation, 1977.

Photiadis, Carole. Email interview. 5 Feb. 2005.

Reusser. “The Peruvian Paso Horse.” Conquistador the World of Spanish
Horses. 7 Feb. 2005.

Ripley, Michele. Email interview. 1 Feb. 2005.

The Peruvian Paso Horse. Mindel, Dan. Knorzer,Gunther. Videocassette. Mindel Productions, 1989.

Windom, Barbara. Email interview. 25 Jan. 2005.


Copyright 2001-2006. The Peruvian All rights reserved.

Pictures added by Valle del Sol Peruvians

12 Responses to “The Peruvian Paso”

  1. Rhonda Garza Says:

    I am planning a ride at the devils punchbowl for the first time on the 12th of February and wondered if anyone has any input as to what trails are horse safe. I am a PCT rider and know this time of the year the trail will break away untill later in the next couple of months when it is better packed and dryed out more. The reviews for the walking hikers talk about devils chair having narrow areas. any advice will be welcome

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    1. valledelsolperuvians Says:

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  9. steven funn Says:

    i was recently fortunate enough to come into two Peruvian pasos and had no idea what I had … I did put an ad in to sell both of them and did get a lot of interest… but mostly everyone wanted a better than good deal, so I didn’t sell . now I read your article and several others …I WILL NOT SELL MY PASOS.
    Thank you for your article .. I have been thinking what will be the best horse on our small farm for our children .. I can stop looking. Thanks to God, they are already here.

    1. valledelsolperuvians Says:

      I’m so happy that you have had the opportunity to own and adore this fabulous breed of horse. Once they are part of your family…. there is no going back. They are truly a devoted and loving breed of horse.

  10. Judith Ann Botts Says:

    I have my PP now. he has a big belly but you can see his ribs?? What do I feed him? I have been giving him grass hay and red cap. he is 13 yo

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