Present and Vital Challenges in Breeding Peruvian Paso Horses
By: Raul Risso

The need for foundation stock based on a better STRUCTURE of the Peruvian Paso Horse must become a priority in breeding programs. In North America in particular, where areas for riding horses are available throughout the region, our horses compete in a wide market of many gaited breeds. Our PPH has captured the attention of a very particular sort of rider. This is, generally speaking, a middle aged person who at their stage of life can afford a valuable horse but is no longer looking within the trotting breeds, preferring a “passive equitation” on a bounce free trail riding kind of animal. At the same time we must continue to supply the market with unquestionably the smoothest, most elegant and refined gaited horse in the world, but one with a longer productive riding life span. To achieve this strength without losing the IDENTITY of our breed, with it’s wide thread of gait including termino and arrogance, is the subject that I am addressing in this article.

Our breed has long since transcended the limits of Peru and become internationally recognized. Our horse was a traveler’s horse, ridden between valleys of the semi-deserted coastline of Peru. It was also a Plantation Horse, a rugged animal used by landowners and overseers of laborers engaged in agriculture practices along the coastal land of Peru. Beginning in 1968, and for a long period of time after, Land Reform was decreed by the government. Large estates of property owned by rich and prosperous families were confiscated. This event changed the scenario of Peru. The Peruvian Horse owners and/ or new aficionados did manage to preserve our breed and moved the horses onto small plots of land. At the same time, mechanized vehicles mostly substituted the horse. The horses bred during the 70’s and 80’s (a time when large numbers of PPH came to the US) were predominantly bred with the show ring mentality in mind. Preference was given to adornments such as collection, lift and termino. The same has happened in the promotion of this breed here in North America where horse shows have been the main attraction for the established breeders. As a consequence Peruvian Horses today are not as strong as we would like them to be in order to fit the immense market of trail riding people.

Unfortunately, in Peru horse shows remain the predominant goal in mind for most aficionados. Furthermore, there is still only a Breeding Division competition, with no Pleasure or Performance classes that demand an able horse capable of more mileage. Consider that the ANCPCPP owns a fantastic show facility in Lima that could hold many more events, perhaps opening the market for a more basic riding horse. In the “good old boys mentality” that still prevails in Peru, only now are women timidly beginning to participate in activities related to the Peruvian Horse. On a positive note, “Cabalgatas” (as Trail Rides are known in Peru) are becoming frequent among new aficionados and many family groups participate. Further, well known judges and breeders such as Mariano Cabrera, in his excellent article “Breeders and the Destiny of our Horse” published in the ANCPCPP’s 2002 Annual Report, writes about the need for going back to breeding a more rugged horse.

CULLING is the first step and forever the primary tool for the improvement of a breeding program. Therefore we must continue to use it, eliminating (and by that I mean “put down”) any weak or defective foals that give us any signs of being such. All breeders, LARGE and SMALL, must be prepared to do this! It is our responsibility and obligation if we choose to fool with nature. The rule of “three days, three weeks, three months” is a pretty accurate one for observing and deciding. Additionally, bilaterally broken down horses of any age should be culled.

The second most important tool we need to apply within our relatively small gene pool is to OUTCROSS the available important bloodlines that we have. In fact, I believe that presently we have a more diversified, wider genetic pool in the USA than in Peru. This is not due to the fact that the USA has the largest Registry in the world, rather that an elite group of many outstanding horses, in particular stallions such as Piloto, Laurel, Hercules, Mantequilla, Palomo, HNS Domingo, AEV Cascabel, FG Candela and others, were exported from Peru and left little or no descendants in that country before their departure. Others born in the USA, such as Principe de la Solana, El Palomilla, RDS Me Llamo Peru, Antares, Soberano, etc., have made a stamp in many breeding programs in North America. This is the reason why we are now seeing a reversal and a select few stallions are being imported back to Peru from the USA, Central and South American countries. Before I raise controversy on this subject, let me very clear: I have not said that North America has either more nor better show horses. I am merely expressing my opinion about the options different countries have for breeding opportunities.

My wife and I can tell you from our own experience that the introduction of outside bloodlines has improved our breeding programs. First it was through “Principe de la Solana” (Hercules x Ingrata), still going strong at age 29. Principe crossed excellently with predominantly Northern Cayalti x AV Sol de Paijan mares who present only a touch of Sol de Oro (V) blood. Presently we have“WFP El Joven Peru”, (Me Llamo Peru x Pacifica) a 9 year old, very strong National Ch.of Ch. breeding stallion, “Oro Blanco” a 21 year old and the last living actively breeding son of Piloto. Each of these three excellent stallions is OUTCROSSED and only remotely related to each other.

Nevertheless, we should always breed a special mare to prominent stallions other than our own if it would be a more complimentary breeding for her. Which brings me to a third, very important consideration in breeding: HUMILITY. Be open minded and use other than your own bloodlines when it benefits a particular mare. Thus we achieve a wider genetic base in our stock, preventing degeneration such as infertility and weakness. Many breeders proudly exhibit pedigrees of their horses, displaying ancestors carrying the same bloodlines intertwined with each other. As many of us have learned, this can be a double edge sword. Often, breeders that achieve notability become vain and refuse to use outside bloodlines.

As well as culling, out crossing and humility we need the other essential tool: FOUNDATION STOCK. Quality begets quality. Have the best possible mare you can afford instead of a herd of lesser individuals. A mare is a precious investment. You can upgrade by breeding her to the right stallion and get an improved offspring, but you are going to be behind the overall better horses if you did not start near the top. The stallion, who is so much what people want to have, is the least important to own. You can incorporate most stallions into your program as they are available for breeding service if you choose to use them.

Now, having before us the tools of culling, out crossing, humility and good stock, how do we continue to improve our breed as a whole, where do we go from here? As we have in the last 50+ years, since the creation of the ANCPCPP Peru’s National Breed Organization, we must continue to make our breed more attractive to the equine world and therefore STRONGER, in order to cover our deserved portion of the market.

First, let us analyze the present situation. We have come a long way but there is still a great deal of improvement to be made in conformation, in particular to the REAR END of our PPH. Despite it’s lift and termino, it is not surprising that DSLD (Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis) manifests itself much more dramatically in the branches of the suspensory ligaments of the hind limbs as Dr.s Mero and Poole’s confirm in a recent report to the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners). The rear end is the crucial area to improve in our breed at present. There are only a select few stallions that can really help in this area. We must use them!

Over the present “chat lines” on the Internet, we find opinions of long established and knowledgeable breeders coinciding that until and IF we locate a genetic marker for the detection of DSLD, conformational defects and/or weaknesses are the only lead that we have to recognize susceptibility to future soundness problems. Other people have responded that some horses break down even though, they claim, the horse had correct conformation. It is my experience that defects show up soon after birth (a good reason to cull them) and then, as the individuals grow and until they reach adulthood at 6 or 7 years of age, their weaknesses are “hidden” or “covered” to the eye of most viewers. Such is the case especially with the post legged horse. We need to breed for improved angulations (not too much and not too little), more bone that generally speaks of stronger well wrapped joints and well proportioned hoofs.

We need horses that are able to stand plumb and decisively under their body mass. They must have a rather short muscular loin area, a long and inclined croup and proper correlative ANGULATIONS beginning at the stifle, to the hock, (slightly sickled), continuing at the pastern, (medium to short and not too flexible or squishy) with the hoof following the axis of the angle of the pastern (not coon footed).

When viewed from the rear or the front, the horse’s limbs should be perpendicular to the ground. Whether standing or in movement, the hoofs in the rear should touch the ground closer together than the hoofs in the front, with the footprints forming the figure of a trapezoid. This last quality provides our breed with more IMPULSION from behind. PPH that are rectangular in their footfall have less power and when in motion, “waddle like a duck”. Such horses, generally speaking, reach far under their body mass while in gait but lack the DRIVE that the rear end described above provides.

When viewed from the side, a horse’s profile must show a front end with rather sloped shoulder blades (allowing looseness) with front legs that are VERTICAL to the ground.

Individuals that stay “close to the ground” with deep bodies that provide a lower center of gravity give our breed of horse the ability to move in a GLIDING MODE. Long, arched, lean, elevated, firm necks (avoiding fallen crests) with correct insertions of the head and neck into the withers permit NATURAL COLLECTION. This last trait makes training much easier as the horse requires little assistance from tack devices or the rider’s ability in order to travel elegantly with the head up. Proper angulations, deep bodies and elevated necks as described above are conformation traits that allow the Peruvian Paso Horse to propel itself elegantly in a natural manner.

The basic requirements of a good Peruvian Horse along with CONFORMATION (the main subject I wanted to deal with at this time) are PISOS (*) and BRIO with GENTLE DISPOSITION. As with other traits, brio is inheritable. An unruly horse does not have brio, is not a desirable individual and CULLING should be considered out of kindness to the animal as well as the human. Not all people are kind people. It is not different with horses and dangerous individuals should be eliminated.

In as far as gait, there is one “rule of thumb” that I learned from the old master breeder Jorge Juan Pinillos. He used to say and repeat: “Pisos mas Pisos = Pisos”. This is very true as Pisos are recessive to Paso, a Paso is recessive to an Ambler and an Ambler is recessive to a Trotter. I have written before sustaining that “Pisos” is the most important characteristic in the breeding of the PPH. I have not changed my opinion because Pisos IDENTIFY our breed and make a Peruvian different from other gaited breeds, be it the ancestrally related Paso Fino or the Walker, the Islandic or others. Conformation, brio and pisos all complement each other. I am quoting from an article I wrote back in 1984: “no horse has an excellent gait if it is not strong enough, or lacks the temperament or character to sustain the paso llano over a lengthy distance”.

Finally, I suggest that the “Standard of the Breed” should be re-examined in order to portray an Ideal Type for the future and not merely a carbon copy of our present PPH. It needs to reflect a vision, through its conformational/functional requirements of, first and foremost, A HORSE, capable of carrying us for many miles over many years. Many years ago, Fito Matellini proposed that in order to obtain an ideal type we should outcross individuals of prominent bloodlines. In those days inbreeding and line breeding were in swing and some of us, with disdain, referred to his suggestion as “Fito’s Cocktail Horse”. Eventually, I followed that path. Fito was right! 

PISOS (*) An expression used in Peru referring to the original and natural ability in which the PPH travels by breaking it’s predominantly lateral gait into a four beat one, showing a wide thread of “Aires” within that motion. With smoothness and advance, they identify themselves by the gliding-driving long and energetic stride of their rear legs while showing body collection and adornments in the front limbs with what is referred to as “Termino”, elevating, extending and laterally rotating the forearms with the forefeet returning to land squarely under the body mass.


Visit RyR USA 

Go to Pasos on the Web  This page created and maintained by "Pasos on the WEB!"
First Posted December 11, 2000
Last checked October 02, 2008