*PILOTO: The Legend
Originally appearing in the Jan./ Feb.1993 issue of:
|In the world of Peruvian Paso horses, wherever breeders or aficionados gather
to discuss famous stallions/ there is always agreement on one special horse
- *Piloto. He is truly a legend in the recent history of the breed. For
over thirty years *Piloto and his line have been an important part of modern
foundation stock for successful breeders here in the United States and in
Piloto was born in Ica, Peru in 1957.
Piloto's future as a prepotent sire was no accident of nature. He was royally bred. His sire, Sol de Oro (V) is the most important stallion in the modern history of the Peruvian Paso horse. Every National Champion of Champions Stallion in Peru since 1961 has carried his blood and his name is prominent in the bloodlines of almost every US National Champion horse since 1973.
Centella, the dam of Piloto also has a record of having produced top prize winners. Her famous son Laurel was the 1969 Champion of Champions stallion in Peru. Other Champion offspring from Centella include Sol y Luna and *Destello to name a few.
Until he was one year old, *Piloto was owned by the pilot Javier Elias, thus his name. He was given to Javier's brother Alfredo Elias who kept the horse for the next five years. Sr. Elias eventually sold *Piloto to Sr. Jose Antonio Onrubia who took him to Piura in the extreme north of Peru. During his years with Sr. Elias, *Piloto had accumulated a very respectable show record. He had won a first place in the National halter competition in 1959 and the first place in bozal at the National Show in 1960. He was the Southern Regional Champion Stallion in 1960 and the National Reserve Champion Stallion in 1961.
When Sr. Onrubia purchased the horse, *Piloto had gained the reputation of being very difficult to handle. The difficult task of re-training the stallion was given to Eusebio Rodriguez, then Maestro Trainer at Sr. Onrubia's ranch. Eusebio's patient efforts and persistence were rewarded in 1965 with *Piloto winning the Champion of Champions title at the Northern Regional Show and in 1967 when he was crowned the Best Gaited Horse at the National Show in Lima. That same year, *Piloto's get won the much coveted Get of Sire award, an early manifestation of things yet to come.
It is *Piloto's impressive record as a sire of Champion horses that has made him a true legend. It all began in Peru in 1965 when his first son, *Mantequilla, was crowned National Champion of Champions .Stallion and his daughter Pirigalla became the National Reserve Champion Mare. In 1968 one of his son's, JOR Don Juan, was honored as the horse of the year.
For twenty seven years his sons and daughters and their offspring have been and still are continuing their winning ways in the show ring. This year his son Co-Piloto TB won the coveted Harry Bennet Award of the American Association of Owners and Breeders of Peruvian Paso Horses, honoring the horse that accumulates the most points during the whole, show season. The prizes won by *Piloto's progeny are far too many to list. Therefore, we will devote this writing to his story.
In 1969, while *Piloto's reputation was spreading throughout Peru, the breed was becoming very popular in the United States. At Thunderbird ranch, after five years of breeding Peruvian horses, we realized that it was imperative to obtain a superior breeding stallion. The search began. With the advice and help of two good
friends, Eusebio Rodriguez and Verne Albright, we decided to start at the top with the best known stallions in Peru. Our first choice was Sol de Oro I (V), and second on the list was his best known son, *Piloto. Our offer to purchase Sol de Oro (V) was graciously refused by his owner, Alfredo Elias who was concerned that the old
horse could not take the strain of export and that,at the age of 25, he might no longer be a sound breeder.
The offer was then made for *Piloto. Due to the serious political situation in Peru at the time, along with the Agrarian Reform in progress, the offer was accepted by his owner, Sr. Jose Antonio Onrubia.
The negotiations to get *Piloto out of Peru continued for two long years. The Peruvian Horse breeders had heard rumors that the great stallion might be leaving for the United States. Understandably, they considered this bad news for their beloved National Horse and attempts were made to try to prevent the exportation. I was told many years later by my good friend Ernesto "Tito" Carozzi that Mr. Onrubia was under tremendous pressure from his peers to cancel the sale. But Sr. Onrubia, being a man of utmost integrity, told them "I gave my word," and he honored the agreement. Frustrated, the Peruvian Breeders Association tried another avenue to prevent *Piloto from leaving Peru. They determined that the export of any Champion Horse must have prior approval since they considered their horses to be "National Treasures".
Knowing that it would be impossible for *Piloto to leave Peru via the conventional route through the airport in Lima, it was necessary to make other arrangements to get him out of the country. In April of 1972, while most of the Peruvian breeders were enjoying the competition at their National Show in Lima, *Piloto was loaded into a truck heading North from Piura towards Ecuador. It was a long overland trek and at one particular border check point it appeared that the plan was doomed. Would the horse have to be returned to Peru? A military guard at the checkpoint had recognized that *Piloto was, in the guards own words, "a very good Peruvian Paso horse" and thought he might have been stolen. After some anxious moments the guard was convinced otherwise and he allowed the truck to pass through.
Finally, three weeks after leaving Peru, *Piloto was loaded onto an airplane in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and was on his way to his new home in the United States. He was now 15 years old. Many years later my Peruvian friends told me about the considerable ill feelings towards us and the manner in which *Piloto had been taken out of Peru. However, many of them later agreed that the decision to sell and ship *Piloto to the United States had been the right one as it would certainly help establish the Peruvian horse in the United States, creating a market that presented the future of the breed.
Six years after his arrival in the United States, *Piloto established a show record that many believe will never be duplicated. In October 1978 I was in Lima, Peru, attending the XXXIII National Show. The competition had lasted four full days and more than 3000 people attended the official presentation of the trophies and a special showing of all the winning horses. A very prestigious award was presented to the stallion who had sired the horses that together had accumulated the most prize winning points. One of these horses was the *Piloto son, and National Champion stallion, JOR Maximiliano. I will never forget my excitement and feeling of great pride when the trophy was awarded to *Piloto and presented to me.
Back in the United States *Piloto was building up an unbelievable record of success. During that show season, he won every Get of Sire class in all the American Association approved shows. At the U.S. National Show his sons and daughters, riding as four entries of three horses each, won the first, second, third and fifth places in the Get of Sire Class. All these awards in one year. He was now 21 years old and his progeny had won over thirty Champion and Reserve Championships. He also was the sire of eleven horses out of the top thirty Hall of Fame Award winners. Among them were the great mares Andina, Perfidia, Esterlina de Oro, Victoriosa MSR and Cleopatra III. He was considered by most to be the leading Peruvian Paso sire in the world.
*Piloto's reputation as a breeding stallion is a matter of record but his personality was often misjudged and not understood well. He was extremely aloof even after many years of close association with people round him. He was easy to handle and would not pull, shy or show any vices. He never seemed to enjoy human contact and did not like to be touched although he accepted to be groomed. He was a gentle breeder and very calm with his mares. Standing carriage gave the impression that he was much taller. His conformation was outstanding and met all the criteria of the breed standard. But his most famous, and I might add, most misunderstood characteristic, was his tremendous brio. Even today, people who never saw him talk of this trait with admiration. Brio has become the trademark of horses with *Piloto blood. Verne Albright best describes *Piloto's brio in his article which was published in the Peruvian Horse World Review in 1973. During the photo session *Piloto was saddled and Verne was holding him by the lead line, while our trainer at the time, Nicanor "Nicky" Juarez swung himself into the saddle. "I will never for get it as long as I live", Verne said. "When Nicky hit that saddle, his smile disappeared and a look of concern came over him. *Piloto began to tremble in anticipation - he had not been Ridden for over four years - and Nicky looked at me and said: "Don't let go of him!" The horse had not done anything except tremble, and I have seen Nicky ride horses that did much worse than that. But when he felt that great, powerful body beneath him and when he felt the pure energy in the horse, his confidence left him for a moment. *Piloto, incidentally, minded his manners perfectly and after Nicky had ridden him for a while nobody could talk him off the horse". "I have never ridden a horse like him," Nicky said. "He really deserves to be called a Great Horse".
In 1983, at the age of 26, *Piloto serviced his last mare. The final chapter in a long career came to a close. The following year his last son was born. I named him appropriately "Legado de *Piloto" - the legacy of *Piloto. *Piloto died in Texas in 1985 at the age of 28 but he surely continues to roam among the best.
In the living room of our retirement home in Idaho, prominently displayed, we have a large painting of *Piloto. Every day it reminds me of the universal dream of every horse enthusiast to own a truly Great Horse. For me that dream has been fulfilled.
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Mrs. Angie Schmidt has owned and bred Peruvian Paso horses since 1965, a time when there were less than fifty Peruvian Paso horse in the United States. Angie is an internationally accredited judge of Peruvian Paso horses. She has served as the President of the American Association of Owners and Breeders of Peruvian Paso Horses and was the editor of the Peruvian Horse World Magazine. As the owner of *Piloto, she is intimately familiar with this now legendary stallion.