History of the Peruvian Paso
"History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past,
trying to reconstruct its themes to revive its echoes and pale gleams
the passion of former days." Sir Winston Spencer Churchill
In this article we will revisit the history of the Peruvian Horse and demonstrate that many popular ideas held today are historical myths not realities. Our investigation on this subject began 7 years ago in Spain and our findings deviate from the recounts that are now being perpetuated. Our travels have led us to many interesting places and people, in fact to some of the leading Equine authorities on the Iberian Peninsula, the European Continent, North Africa and North America. We feel historical accuracy is vital to the vitality of-our breed because it profoundly effects the way we market and promote our horse. It also gives us ideas about which groups of people to target for sales and services. Separating fact from fiction can only give our breed more recognition, clout and credibility within the international horse community and the general public at large who are educated.
We will start with where the confusion began. In 1968 a major work in the field was written by Ascasubi, called, "El Caballo de Paso y Su Equitacion." From this one account a tremendous amount of misinformation has grown and, to date, has created a polarization within our breed. At this point we can liken our situation to that of Christopher Columbus. We ask, "how do we begin to change a paradigm that people cling to just because it is familiar to them?" This is no easy task as Christopher Columbus knew. Columbus was originally judged a heretic, trying to convince people that the would was round instead of flat. We are at the same juncture.
The question we all face is: Is the Peruvian Horse a warmblood or is it a hotblood? After belaboring this question for many years our contention is, the Peruvian is definitely a "hotblood", a purebred Spanish horse that was selectively bred for the amble after reaching the shores of Peru. We discovered that many Andalusians in Spain had a propensity to amble and it is those horses that the Peruvians selected to breed to one another to get the broken lateral gait. It is well documented that the Spanish Conquistadors brought with them both Hacks (amblers) and Chargers (trotters) of the same breed to the New World, and as recorded in the Archives of the Indios, the Spanish Horse was (and still is) a breed consisting of Galitian (Celtic) horses of the North, Sorraia, and Barb of Morocco. Horsemen in those days often traveled as much as a "full thirteen leagues" (thirty nine miles) which is not a bad journey for those who had only a single horse a piece and were not certain of the road. This they did at what is called in the records as a "Castillian Pace" or running walk, a Paso Llano.
However, many of our own Peruvian breeders prefer to ignore these facts. Instead, many still steadfastly maintain that the Peruvian horse is a mixed breed, meaning Spanish/Andalusian and Fresian. In other words they are advocating that our horse is a "warmblood" which means a cross of hot blood with that of a cold blood. To Spanish Andalusian and Portuguese Lusitano Breeders and historians this idea of Fresian being in the background of the Peruvian horse is preposterous. In fact, Spanish Breeders maintain if this were even remotely true it was done after the horse landed in Peru because the horses that left from Spain were of pure Spanish Blood and Sorraias, a predecessor of the Andalusian.
These are two very different points of view. In Spain, knowledgeable horseman have historical records available to them particularly in the Archives of the Indios which substantiate their contention. For this reason they staunchly maintain the Peruvian horse is Pura Raza Espanola. So to them as well, the idea that Fresian is behind the Peruvian is an impossibility. So let us begin with the controversy.
On page 33, of Ascasubi's book, there is a picture of a Peruvian mare that has beautiful lift in the front legs. This he compares with a picture of a Fresian horse with the same front action pulling a rider in a cart. From this picture he makes a big leap and "assumes" the visual resemblance confirms the fact that there is Fresian in the background of the Peruvian Horse.
To reconstruct the history of a breed by merely looking at pictures is an inadequate method to say the least. First of all, one cannot compare a horse pulling with one under saddle, because it is like comparing apples and bananas. Secondly, observational methods are well known to be highly influenced by the personal bias of the investigator (subject) and therefore data must always be gathered in other ways as well. In an observational approach the investigation must always find supporting evidence or documents, even under the most objective circumstances, to build his or her case. Unfortunately this was not done. Therefore, the end conclusion made by Sr. Ascasubi was more conjecture than anything else. Hence, it is only logical that until such a time that more evidence is cited by Sr. Ascasubi's followers, his ideas remain inconclusive.
On page 38, he shows us another picture of an Andalusian horse and he says that this horse shows evidence of Barb and Fresian. On page 39, there is a picture of Dictador the sire of Huerfano whom he titles, "Caballo Peruano, tipo antiquo." What he omits about this horse is that his type of large crested neck goes back to the old blood of the Andalusians called the "Cartujana." He keeps making leaps but often he fails to know in what direction. For example, he ignores the fact that the pictorial similarities between the Andalusian and Fresian may be because, the Fresian has Andalusian behind it, not the reverse. In world history it is a fact that many Andalusians went to Holland with the Spanish Cavalry when Spain occupied Holland (Fresia also known as the lowlands) during the reign of Carlos Vth. It was during this time, the Dutch, awed by the characteristics of the Andalusian Horse, bred it to some of their "cold-bloods" and developed the Fresian breed, a Dutch warmblood.
In Ascasubi's account he also claims that Charles V-th being German by birthright brought Fresians to the Spanish Throne. However, this doesn't fit because in those days Fresians were not known as such, and, the Dutch horses were known to be predominantly used as carriage horses. Where this argument also looses ground is that Charles the V-th or Carlos the V-th as he is called in Spain was known as a "light cavalry rider" so this informs us that he preferred to ride horses that were light, agile, and trained in the a la ginete style of riding so popular in his day in Spain. His son, Phillipe II, also was an excellent horseman and preferred the Spanish horse above all others. Sadly enough, Ascasubi put the cart before the horse.
Of course, many Fresian horses pictorially resemble Peruvians and Andalusians because they have Spanish blood behind them, as do innumerable breeds of horses. However, when Ascasubi saw the similarity he enthusiastically jumped to the conclusion that the Andalusian and Peruvian have Fresian behind them. It is the reverse.
To quote Ascasubi on page 34, "En el cuardo se ve el parecido entre caballos peruanos de Paso que hen revertido parcialment hacia el tipo nordico, y que presentan mucha semeajanze este representador un caballo frizon."
"In the description/picture you see the Peravian horse which as reverted toward the Nordic type and they resemble the Fresian Horse represented."
To make matters worse, Carlos villa Fuentes and Verne Albright, in their more recent books repeat what Ascasubi said about Fresians, rather than investigating further. Again a literature search, or directly inquiring with International Equine historians would have clarified many of those small but significant gray areas. Some authorities in this field are Jean-Phillipe Giacomini, Sylvia Loch, and our own Peruvian horseman Juan Pardo.
To further the confusion, Ascasubi, on page 35, mentions the vandals bringing with them Nordic ponies and then goes on to describe others like the Carthagians. It would be well for everyone interested in the documented history of our Peruvian horse and Spanish horses in general to read the book "The Royal Horse of Europe" by Sylvia Loch, (well known and respected as a great historian and dressage rider of Spanish Horses) to research the validity of Ascasubi's buckshot approach to the historical puzzle for themselves.
In a private conversation with J.P. Giacomini, the internationally known Classical Dressage master and historian, he said, "if you breed any of your Peruvian Paso horses to an Andalusian you will still get a pure Andalusian horse without the Paso llano perhaps."
It is also interesting to consider that the greatly respected horseman and authority of Peruvian horses, Sr. Fernando Grana imported an Andalusian of old Cartujana blood to his farm in Peru. This is recorded in the book entitled, "EI Caballo Espanol de Estripe Cartujana" by Jose Sanz Parejo, Caterdaticode Patologia Qurugid y Cerugia, University of Cordoba, 1992. The name of this horse was "Garron III" and he took him to Peru in 1961. In the movie that he narrates entitled "The Peruvian Horse," he says the Peruvian breed emerged from one breed of horse and the Peruvian breeders selectively breed for the lateral, smooth gait. The significance of this statement is important because he was well versed in the lineage of the Pure Bred Iberian Horse. All who are aficionados of Pura Raza Expanola know that Cartujana blood is the oldest and most coveted as it was not contaminated by any other bloodlines and were carefully line bred. One can even speculate at this point that since the Peruvian Paso arrived on the shores of America, when there was a predominance of this old line, we may still have a great reservoir of the old Cartujana blood.
One evening in Madrid we had a fascinating conversation with Dona Lily Salas de Salama while visiting in Spain. She graciously relayed many anecdotes about her visits with Don Fernando Grana. She and her family were very old friends of Fernando Grana and his family. Fernando Grana spent many evenings talking horses, particularly emphasizing the nobility of the Iberian breed and how they adapted to their "new home" in Peru. He wanted the horses he bred to be as elegant and as noble as they were on the Iberian Peninsula, the only difference being the gait. Even to this day after many years of trying to breed it out many Andalusians have terming, rolling from the shoulder. Although terming is not wanted, they still want high lift which is a very desirable trait.
Throughout Spain there are many old statues of the Spanish horse in a paso llano gait. A giant tapestry also hangs in the Alcazar Palace, in Sevilla, of horsemen on their beautiful Spanish mounts all in Paso llano gait. These depict the horse that came to the Americas. This is not surprising because it is common knowledge that the first group of horses brought from Spain by Columbus were Sorraias. The Sorraia, a strong and rustic horse, one of the wild predecessors of modern Iberian breeds, proved to be very tough for this kind of uncharted territory. Later, however there were many shipments of prized Andalusian horses and soon, breeding farms were being established in the new world and began thriving. Columbus set out from the Puerta de Santa Maria on his second trip to the West Indies (Caribbean Islands) with horses, mares and stallions to set up Criadores (Breeding Farms). These breeding farms were to be found on what is now the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and as far South as Panama. It was in Panama that Pizarro charted his voyage to Peru taking many of these horses with him.
Spanish breeders settled in these islands and Panama, to sell horses, especially to Spanish Conquerors, both in Mexico and Peru. So important were the noble horses of the Conquistadores that Bernal Diaz gives a description with their colors, merits, and faults before he wrote about any of his inimitable stories of conquerors. (Please refer to the Diaz's list below.) Nor was his estimate exaggerated. Most of those records by Diaz, Garcilaso Inca and de Zarate, etc., reside in the Archives de Indios in Seville, Spain. We have visited these Archives frequently with a friend who is a Professor and who could translate 'old' Spanish languages. We had the opportunity in May of 1996 to explore old records and drawings extensively, although taking photos was not allowed. This was one of our many trips to Spain since the 60's. We have seen many changes.
Vargas Macchuca, writing in 1600, has information on the color of the horses at the time. "The bay is the natural and perfect color of the horse. This description seems to agree with most writers of this century that Bay was a most popular and desired color. We see a revival of this color, as many Bays can be seen at the Breeding Farms In Spain today.
We now quote the famous "Don Roberto," "Certainly he has lost in size, as may be seen from horse shoes of the time of the conquest that have been preserved, and perhaps in appearance he is just as enduring and as game." They stumble less and often have artificial gaits (see La Guienerre), when taught or natural. These pacers, as they are called, have many different gaits.
"Besides the natural pacer, with his tied camel gait, known by the various names of the paso nadado, marcha, andadura and many other terms, there are many different gaits horses acquire throughout America. These artificial gaits, once prevalent throughout Europe, still to be found in Spain and Portugal, and other countries, and known as el sobre paso, paso de Andadura and many other names are never natural." (The author believes Don Roberto meant genetic.)
"There are various forms of the overpace (sobre paso). Some horses gallop with their front legs and trot with the hind. Others again, seem to run in a sort of rhythm, so that on the hard ground, their feet seem to play a tune, as one, two, three, four.
"This is not uncommon in most countries in which long journeys are performed on horseback." At all these paces and in all of these countries sixty miles is a good day's journey, eighty, a long day and a hundred not beyond the possibility of a good horse!
"All artificial gaits are easy on the rider, but more fatiguing to the horse, except of course the natural tied pace. Horses who are born with that peculiar pace do not get cramp on a long days march, nor do they often throw out splints, as is so often the case with those who have learned artificial gaits. Of course they are usually of no use for working cattle or the war, nor can they cover the same distance as a horse in his natural job.
"These colors, paces and conditions must have been the inheritance of the horses of the Americas, derived from his progenitors in Spain.
"Without a doubt, most of the horses of the Conquistadors came from the plains of Cordoba, it is but a short way to Cadiz, Seville, San Lucar and Puerta de Santa Maria, the chief ports of embarkation for the Indies. Thus, throughout all the Republics of South America, the general characteristics of the native (criollo) horse are very similar. In certain places the type assimilates more to the barb, so in the province of Araqua in Venezuela and the country around Lima and in La Sabana De Bogata, where care has been exercised to preserve the type."
In a quote from Pedro Garcia Conde, "The generation and Production, and the noble properties of the warlike horse, most noble amongst all the animals, and useful in many ways for the service of mankind; defense and bulwark of kings and princes. This most noble beast is the most beautiful, the swiftest and the highest courage of domesticated animals. His long mane and tail adorn and beautify him, he is of a fiery temperament, but good tempered, obedient, docile and well mannered. The Latins call him "Equus" and in Spanish he is named "Caballo."
The horse, innocent instruments of the times, had, and deserved their chroniclers, in Bernal Diaz, the Inca Garcilasico de la Vega, and Cortez himself (in five letters to Kind Carlos Vth of Spain). All these preserved in the Archives. Inca Garcilasco has preserved the best accounts of what the horses of the Conquest actually performed, giving distances they traveled and feats performed. Diaz writes of the horses as friends and comrades. When a horse was wounded or killed he writes, "The conquest was victorious because of the horses, after God."
Cortez rode (and I quote) a "good dark brown horse called "El Romo" (for its roman nose).
Montilla was a horse faithfully drawn and described by Diaz. "Montilla" belonged to Captain Gonzalo de Sandoval. "He was the best and the fastest, he turned well on either side." Men say that they have never seen better either in the Indies or in Spain. His color was Blood bay, with a white star on his forehead and his near forefoot white."
It was often said by the horsemen of the New World that they should send "Montilla" to Emperor Charles Vth. If they had done so, no doubt Charles, in his character of a Prince of Light Horsemen, would have prized the gift. Light horseman means that Charles rode La Ginete and never rode carriage horses astride with their broad chests.
In 1562 Hernando de Soto set out with reinforcements (more horses) for Pizarro and the conquest of Peru from Extremadura, the Province that was left without inhabitants in those days, as so many Extremadurians flocked to the Conquest of the New World. In 1532 Soto met up with the Pizarros at Lumbez and with the Bishop Don Fray Vicente de Valverde. Gonzalo Pizarro was said to be one of the finest horsemen "who passed to the Indies." According to the records, he rode only the most highly trained of the Ginetas (another word for Andalusians). To understand styles of riding also illuminates the type of horse that has been used during a specific era and in a particular country. A la Gineta is the trademark of Spanish Horsemanship. It has been used for centuries by Spanish Equestrians when riding Spanish horses. A la Gineta stamp is when the position of the rider has a bent knee.
This is the position the Moors developed and the Conquistadors used, shorter stirrups, and legs bent slightly backwards. This enabled the ride for faster movement in contrast to La Bridal La Gineta is always used in bullfights.
Pizarro sent Soto on an expedition to the Sierra de Vilcaza. At the head of his troops in his high moorish saddle (which can be seen at the Royal Palace Military Museum in Madrid) he leaped his horse over ditches in the road. The Indians marveled and wondered if he and his horse formed but one whole.
Garciloso also mentions that one horse was named "Aceituno", Soto's favorite horse. Another belonged to Gonzalo de Silvestre, a dark chestnut, extremely excellent in training and gait.
Unfortunately prior to 1945 many names and dates relating to horses in Peru are virtually non-existent. Most records were lost during the Chilean War. The Chileans not only won the War of Pacific, 100 years ago but they also occupied Peru after the victory. This situation proved to be devastating to both the people and the horses of Peru, most particularly those in the South since it borders Chile. During the war and occupation Chile not only killed horses and trainers but they also burned most of their records. Peruvians, fearing for the lives of their most prized animals, set many of them free in the Andes. They hoped to retain these lines for the future and save them. Sol de Oro Viejo is presumed to be one of the offspring of these horses and for this reason finding him in the mountains must have been cause for great elation. Many who saw him reported they recognized him as old Spanish blood and interestingly enough he gaited and trotted.
In approximately 1935 once Peru began to regain its independence and restore its equilibrium, agriculture began to flourish once again. This restoration ushered in a new agricultural era of grandeur and with this the advent of Breeding Farms (Haciendas) such as Casa Grande and Cayalti.
The following is an account which describes the state of horsemanship is Peru in 1891. It is a poignant account gives us a flavor for the times.
|THE YEAR 1891 NOTES ON THE TRAINING OF THE PERUVIAN PASO,
MADE BY DON PEDRO PEREZ PALACIO.
Translated by Andy Giovannini, M.D.
In the year 1891, I was taught by Don Pedro Rivas, trainer of Don Jose Unanue, at the Hacienda Unanue, in Canete. He was 70 years old, thin and of light complexion; not strong physically, but tireless on horseback. He was a true horseman and of great skill at not becoming bored or boring the animal. He used to tell me, "I always do what my teacher did or what he would have done." He himself started the horses, as in those days there were no really good animals, as few were left after the occupation of the Chileans.
The first animal that he had me ride was a mare that the cowboys rode in bozal. She was thin, over-ridden, unnamed, moving in a half trot, with little terming. But, through all that, one could tell that she was a fine blood: alert and with energy. I cared for her, fattened her and named her. I use to pet her, giving her lumps of sugar everyday.
Once ready, he showed me how to saddle her:
1. Put on eye cover. Be sure that it is loose enough to
allow it to slide down easily, to cover the eyes.
He had me walk her very slowly, step by step, for two months: marking her steps with my body. As he said, moving my body first to one side, then to the other, as if looking the hoofs, stopping her and gentling her.
Finally, after two months, I rode out with him. For the first time he had me hurry her, that is to say, asked me to move her in gait. And I heard a "paca paca" that was so clear, so smooth, so happy was the animal to go at her normal speed, that it seemed impossible. Of the joys that I have had in my whole life, this, my first stab at training, has been one of the most real: seeing a mare that was almost trotting change to one of the smoothest that I have ever ridden. She became giving, without ever need of punishment, other than an occasional blow with the stirrups. Her gait once locked in, freed her front end to demonstrate terming she had now shown.
It was the best horse I trained, because afterwards, I thought I knew more than my teacher. At times I lacked the patience, and at other times, I couldn't wait for the horse to clasp the bit, thinking that with time under saddle, that would come about. I cannot forget what I could do when the first mare was finished in the bit. I could move her with treads. I would braid three threads, and with this bridle she should obey as with leather..,everything is in being sure that the animal has accepted the bit.
Pedro Jose Rivas was a good trainer. I have seen good Chalanes. Some that can make a horse turn rapidly, full of energy, obedient to body movement and to the strong pull of the bit. But how much nicer it is to see the animal move out calmly. And thus, calm, turn the head and follow the hind quarters with elegance, obedient to a small cue from the legs. And quietly, if the bit asks, to continue to turn, otherwise, to proceed forward in gait. The animal must skid to a stop, and yielding the hind quarters, stand quietly, continue forward; without unnecessary motions of either horse or rider.
Pedro Juan Rivas used to tell me "I don't like to ride horses I don't know. It's dangerous. Though I am not a Chalan, my greatest joy is to ride, even in bozal. But I only ride an animal that I can see is well trained." He would go on, "Before mounting a horse that I am asked to ride, first I pull on the bridle, to see if the animal yields. If it does not, I don't get on, unless I know that it is a well worn horse that knows only how to go forward. To ride a poorly trained stallion, healthy and energetic, is more dangerous then riding one of the ones I train and mount for the first time."
There are some fine and well bred horses that take the bit after being ridden with equal pressure on the four reins. They seem to have their mouths prepared to obey the bit, used either lightly or with force. But generally this is not so, especially when stopping the horse. But with time, delicate pressure slowly molds the bars.
There are some trainers who use a direct rein to train, but without rules that lend consistency. In this way, some animals are well trained, while others are not. They succeed, not with consistent repetitions, but by the grace of both a well tempered animal and their own desire to train. Without rules, it is not possible, either to gentle or train a horse. It is not just a matter of being a horseman. There has to be reason for every movement of the hand or of the body of the horse or of the trainer. A well trained animal can win anything. But an untrained stallion is worse than a bull, that allows himself to be ridden only because of his good nature. But he won't be ridden, if he does not wish.
When you go to buy a horse, never ride it first. Let the owner ride and ask him to go out slowly, very slowly. It will be obvious if she has a tendency to trot. If the horse is able to gait, it will only be a rapid gait or after it is getting tired. Or if the rider is moving his body like an acrobat, it will mean the horse is not trained. And if he denies it, let him turn slowly, in gait, first to one side, and then to the other. Let him stop the horse slowly and let him go out slowly. Let him turn with a direct or indirect rein.
It is difficult to truly understand what to do or what to do next without a theoretical background. But theory is only theory, without doing. When one is angry, it is difficult to bring out the paso llano. When I say, "the small jerks have to be continuous," it's necessary to see how it is actually done at least a few times. To sit in the saddle, with elegance, and without unnecessary movement, it is best to see the example. It is impossible to truly explain how one holds the bozal naturally, properly placing the hands and using the whole arm. (But it is very important to make the movements with the contrary rein, to avoid annoying the animal, along with the movement with the direct rein.) Seeing it done a few times, one understands: how one has to sit and use his seat as a cue, without moving; without that twisting of the waist, without moving the body. How can one explain why not to hurry the animal, no matter what the temperament of the horse, when, for example, the horse begins to crow hop or to wring the tail, not from boredom, but at not getting it's way."
As part of their recovery in 1945, Peru made an all out effort to preserve their treasure, almost lost. Peruvians made a serious attempt to record the horses' fabulous history and guard their legacy. It was at this time they decided to have shows, form an association and start a stud book. However, in terms of historical continuity because of political problems, their isolation and the war, Peru has been at a disadvantage.
In summary, the Peruvian horse has all the characteristics of his Iberian ancestors: conformation, temperament, natural collection and grand movement, albeit it lateral or diagonal. Therefore, if we continue not to recognize these facts and uphold the Fresian Myth we are missing out on the Peruvians illustrious pure blooded background, the ambling Andalusian horse from Spain. The Peruvian breeders' genius lay in their maintaining the purity of their Spanish horses.
A list of horses brought to the new world as chronicled by Diaz.
Pedro garcia Conde, "Verdadera Albeiteria" Maestro Harrador, y Albeytor mas Antiquo, De La Real Cavallerja.
"The Horse of the Conquest," R.B. Cunninghame Traham (Don Roberto) Wm Heineman, Ltd. 1930. (see note below)
Garcilasco de la Vega, el Ivea. Madrid - Archueve Le Vidios 1723.
'd Andrade, Antonio, Arte Cavallania de quenta e estradiota Lisbon, 1678.
Zarate, Augustin de: Historia de decubrirmento y Conquestor de la provincia del Peru, Madrid 1826 - Archives.
Muchuca, Bernado de Vargas, Libro de Excicious de la Gineta. Madrid 1500.
Loch, Lady Sylvia, The Royal Horse of Europe, J. A. Allen, London 1986.
de la Gueriniere, School of Horsemanship, Translated by Doucher, Allen, London 1994.
Daniels, Rick, Controversy, Oh, Controversy, Caballo Magazine, Vol. 9 Number 59, 1996.
Note: Robert B. Cunninghame Graham known in Spain and South America as "Don Robert" was the son of a high born Spanish mother and a Scottish father of nobility. He was raised in Spain by his Spanish grandmother and became a true Renaissance man of the 1800s, he died in 1936. He was well known in Spain, Mexico and South America spending years there.