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Paso Finos: Are They Suitable for Kids?
A little horse with a big heart and gaits as smooth as silk, the Paso Fino is gaining widespread popularity throughout the United States. Suited to many purposes, their small size and pleasant disposition make them seem like a logical choice for a child's mount. But some experts advise that the Paso's "brio" might be too much for the average young rider. Read and see what you think.
This proud little horse has a long history. Paso Finos in Spanish means fine step. A Latin breed, which was developed in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Columbia and Venezuela, he is known for his beauty and the quality of his gait. His roots go back to the Spanish horses brought to the new world by Columbus in 1493. Columbus established horse ranches in the West Indies. The West Indies was a stopover for European explorers and colonists to replenish supplies. As traffic flowed to the New World the horses were bought from the ranches, rather than transport them over the whole trip.
Standing between 13 and 15.2 hands and weighing in at 700 to 1100 pounds, the Paso Fino comes in all colors, with a long and luxurious mane and tail. His head is refined and proportionate to his body. A medium neck, gracefully arched, ties into a sloping shoulder. He has a medium wide chest, his croup is slightly sloped and hips are rounded.
What sets this horse apart from any other in the world is his smooth gaits. It is a natural, four beat, lateral gait with a rapid, even rhythm. The Classic Fino is extremely collected and balanced. While moving very slowly forward, the footfall is rapid.
Paso Corto is described as a ground-covering gait, which is the preferred gait for pleasure riding. It is a fast, running walk, showing mild collection and it is very relaxed and smooth in spite of the speed.
Showing the greatest speed is the Paso Largo. The horse can move up to twenty miles per hour, while the rider appears motionless.
The Paso also can travel at the normal walk, lope and canter. The lope and canter are straight and true, with three beats.
A Breed of Paradoxes
The Paso Fino is a breed of paradoxes, spirited, yet gentle; they possess knowledge that they are special. "Brios" is what the Spanish call this attitude. Brios are a highly desired characteristic in the breed.
When asked if he considered the Paso Fino a good choice for children to own, Mr. Heiz Reusser, editor of Conquistador Magazine, cautions, "Many of the Paso horses, even though they have a wonderful temperament and character are quite high spirited for youngsters." Mr. Reusser believes youngsters must appreciate the "treasure of charisma, elegance, brio . . ." to handle the Paso.
Breeders Deborah and Steven Goldman of Stoney Fork Paso Fino Farms consider the breed an excellent choice for children, "We trust the Paso Fino horses with our children who are 6 and 12 and there are thousands of other young riders out there on Paso Finos having a great time." They go on to say that the Paso's size, disposition and willingness to please make them, "a truly wonderful, exciting horse for children." Visit Stoney Fork Pasos online at their website http://stoneyforkpasos.homestead.com/ to see lots of pictures of Pasos.
Jeany Hicks is a Paso Fino owner with two daughters who ride. When asked if she found them good mounts for children she replied, "Overall they make great kids' horses. I will say that they have a different feel and do have to be ridden a bit differently. I think a kid has to learn to get use to a horse that, although it can relax like an old quarter horse, can be called upon to be rev'd. It does feel like you are on a horse that needs to let the clutch out and go sometimes. Once they [young riders] are used to that and the way they don't walk slow, then they probably will not want to trot again."
Ali Casey who owns Flat Rock Farm and breeds Paso Finos in North Carolina. She welcomed young horse campers to her Flat Rock Farm for a field trip. The group walked right out into the pasture to pet the babies. The Paso Fino mares looked on with patience while their offspring mingled with the human children, showing their gentle side.
The consensus is that like other breeds, the Paso Fino is an individual. Pick the right horse for the right child, and Pasos are a fun ride for the young and young at heart.