|Nine-year-old Skylar Martinez was one of the
riders exhibiting Peruvian Paso horses during
intermission at a polo game in Texas. A local
television news crew had taped the demonstration
and afterwards decided to interview Skylar. On
camera, the reporter asked her why
Peruvian horses are special.
"Well," she said, thinking fast, "a car or a
truck can run out of gas, and these horses just
keep on going."
Then the reporter asked why Peruvian horses
are so smooth.
"Because God made them that way," she
answered, "and they're just more comfortabler."
Skylar's comments stole the show. After the
Peruvian Paso segment was televised, the
station's anchor people appropriated her word --
"comfortabler" -- and used it on the air for
several days afterwards. Every time they said
it, they reminded everyone of Skylar and
The woman who introduced Skylar to the
Peruvian Paso horse is her mother's employer and
friend, Joan Box. Joan has raised Peruvians at
her Chimney Rock Ranch in Edwards County, Texas
for ten years.
"These horses are unique," Joan says. "They
seem to have been made especially for the kinds
of riding I like to do, but they do kind of take
some getting used to."
Joan tells about the time she, Skylar and
Skylar's mom, Tempie Butler, rode Peruvians over
to the local rodeo grounds. The Quarter Horse
people weren't sure just what was wrong with
their horses. The adults politely tried not to
stare and refrained from comments, but there was
one young boy who couldn't restrain his
"Ma'am, can your horses walk normal?" he
"No, darlin', they can't," Joan answered,
truthfully. Later she had the following comment
for Tempie and Skylar: "So enters the Peruvian
Paso into Quarter Horse country."
Little boys aren't the only people who find
the Peruvian gait new, unusual and a little hard
to understand. Some very experienced
veterinarians at a Texas endurance ride had
The ride was a fifty-miler in the rugged
Texas Hill Country. There were forty horses
entered, thirty-eight Arabians and Arabian
crosses along with two Peruvians, ridden by Joan
and Tempie. After the ride, the vets were
evaluating the finishers for the purpose of
determining the winners of "Best Condition"
awards. One by one, the vets asked each
contestant to "trot out" his or her horse on the
"Peruvian horses don't trot," Joan explained
when it was time for Avion and Cazador, "but if
we could just ride them for you, you'd get a
good look at their gaits."
"Well, ma'am," the vet said politely, "after
everything you and your horses have just been
through, I hate to ask you to ride them any
more; but it's okay with me, if that's what you
As part of an extensive examination, the vets
were grading the horses A, B or C depending on
how they traveled when they were "trotted out".
With maximum concentration, the vets watched the
Peruvians move, shaking their heads from side to
side the longer they watched. When Joan and
Tempie were finished, the lead vet asked if
they'd mind riding their horses back and forth a
little longer. Afterwards, he looked more
perplexed than ever. Joan saw him mark down both
horses' "grade". In each case, it was a "P".
"May I ask what the "P" stands for?" Joan
"It stands for "Peruvian", ma'am," he
"I think the Peruvians and their riders
should have to go back out and ride at least
another hour," one of their competitors teased
them at that very moment. "That's only fair. The
horses aren't tired, and neither are the
"That "P" from the vets must have also stood
for 'pretty good'," Joan comments, "because
Tempie's horse, Cazador, was judged to be the
4th best-conditioned horse out of the 40 that
started the ride."
That was the second pleasant surprise of the
day. The first was when Cazador finished 6th
(averaging 8 1/2 miles per hour) and Avion 12th
(averaging 8 MPH) with such inexperienced
"I think it's safe to say that no one
expected that, including us," Joan says with a
smile. "Before the race, we'd explained that
this was our first endurance ride, and they
asked us to hold our horses to one side during
the start and let the other riders go ahead of
As the race went along, Cazador caught and
passed all but five of those horses, and Avion
caught his share, too.
"The amazing thing was the competitive spirit
of the Peruvians," Joan recalls. "They knew
immediately that this was a contest, and they
wanted to win!"
"There were a lot of things we didn't know,"
Joan remembers, "but fortunately, the Arabian
people couldn't have been kinder or more
helpful. Before the race, though, we could see
they were genuinely concerned about the welfare
of our horses. There was one man who was
especially worried. He kept trying to caution us
that our horses seemed inappropriate for such a
difficult ride, but he wouldn't have felt that
way if he'd realized the kind of country where
we'd done our conditioning."
Joan's Chimney Rock Ranch encompasses 2,300
acres of exceedingly rough country.
"The Peruvians climb the hills almost as
smoothly as they cross a show arena," Joan
reports. "I would never have believed it. We
have creeks, ravines, logs, rocks, narrow trails
and all kinds of obstacles. Some of the climbs
are unbelievably steep and rugged.
"We often have trail rides there, some for
all breeds and some for Peruvians only; and we
seldom go out riding for less than six or seven
hours. People riding other breeds are amazed at
how fast we go. We usually wind up waiting for
them every so often.
"The Peruvian Paso has to be the number one
trail horse, and we're reminded of that on the
all breed rides when we temporarily 'trade'
horses with our guests … so they can try out
that smooth Peruvian ride!"
It's a shame that so few Peruvian owners have
used their horses in endurance rides. One of the
few who has is Maurice Ungar of Canyon Country,
"The Peruvian owners are missing out on
something very enjoyable when they don't
participate in these rides," Maurice says.
Maurice was the first to own a purebred
Peruvian horse registered with the Endurance
Horse Registry of America. To earn the right to
be so registered, his stallion, Domecq (now
owned by Barbara Windom of Tesuque, New Mexico)
had to complete a required number of AERC
(American Endurance Ride Conference) sanctioned
rides. These rides had to be 50 miles or more in
length. They also had to be completed within a
time limit, and the horse had to be in good
condition and sound at the post-ride vet check.
In August of his best year, 1991, Domecq --
at fourteen years of age -- was ranked eighth in
the annual, national standings of the AERC for
"Unfortunately, I couldn't get him to many
rides during the rest of that year, and he
slipped out of the top ten," Maurice remembers.
"Nonetheless, it was a great year, and riding
Domecq in those rides was one of the highlights
of my life. I had many wonderful experiences,
and one of the best was riding him on a long,
wide dirt road for six miles alongside a group
of competitors whose Arabians and other
diagonally-gaited horses were in an extended
trot or canter. Domecq was in his extended
sobreandando. His back and rump remained level
and motionless as we smoothly covered the miles.
I felt almost weightless in the saddle, seeming
to hardly touch Domecq's back and without weight
in the stirrups or tension on the bit. It was
obvious that Domecq didn't want the other horses
to pass him, and they would have found it very
hard to do so without expending more energy than
was called for only 15 miles into a fifty-mile
race. The other riders were astonished to see
this smooth, laterally-gaited horse easily
keeping pace with them.
"It seemed that my horse's hooves were barely
touching the ground," Maurice remembers, "and a
wonderful feeling of exhilaration came over me.
It was as if Domecq and I were a single being.
"At the end of that day -- as always --
Domecq came to the finish line with head held
erect, mane flowing wildly, ears alert, moving
effortlessly and showing little sign of the
hours spent covering fifty miles of rugged
"There was an additional bonus, too. When
riders got off other horses, they didn't feel as
good as I did after I got off my Peruvian!"
"Everyone seems to know Peruvians are
breathtaking in a parade or a show," Joan Box
says, "but a lot of people aren't aware of their
When Joan initially got involved with
Peruvians, she looked upon them as breeding and
show stock. Then … little by little … Joan began
to suspect that they might be good for a lot
more than that. One day she, Tempie and Skylar
were sitting on their Peruvians outside the
rodeo arena, in Barksdale. Several cowboys on
Quarter Horses were moving cattle back and forth
between the pens at one end of the arena and
those at the other.
"The second time the steers came out, the
three Peruvians stepped forward in unison -- on
their own -- as if to say, 'We can do this. Let
us show you,'" Joan remembers. "They seemed to
have cow sense, but we decided to try them out
So that's what they did.
"The Peruvians turned out to be surprisingly
good with cattle," Joan advises. "They'll never
challenge the supremacy of the Quarter Horse on
the rodeo circuit; but over the years, we've
learned that the Peruvian makes a wonderful
ranch and working horse. Their endurance
and willingness to work (not to mention the
smoothness) makes hours in the saddle a pleasure
whether we're riding fence, checking water
damage, looking for livestock or working
Joan Box is understandably proud of the
Peruvian's reputation as a first class show,
parade and trail horse, but Joan would like to
see that reputation expanded.
"For those Peruvian owners who haven't tried
endurance riding," Joan suggests, "we recommend
it. It's great, and you don't need to set aside
one particular horse for only that activity,
either. That same summer that they tackled their
first endurance ride, Avion and Cazador
thrilled the spectators at a lot of parades; and
Avion was Champion of Champions at the Western
Colorado Championship show in Grand Junction,
Colorado. Who says you can't have it all?"
television interview at the polo game was
probably among the highlights of Skylar
Martinez's life. However, she's a lot more than
just another pretty face on television. Riding
her beloved Peruvian Pasos, she's had a
brilliant career in the showring, winning quite
a number of High Point Junior titles, including
the one at the 1997 U.S. National Championship
Peruvian Paso Show. She's also ridden many
hundreds of miles on the trail with her mother
and Joan Box.