The Paso Fino Horse

During the last years, gaited horses of various breeds have become increasingly popular. Exotic breeds with unique gaits from all over the world, including the Paso Fino, have found their way into Europe. “Paso Fino” literally means “fine walk” and this is what these horses are named after: “los caballos con el paso fino” – the horses with the fine walk.

Thanks to his smooth gait and noble character the Paso Fino has conquered Europe by storm. The interest in the fiery horses from South America has been constantly increasing. The population has been steadily growing due to imports mostly from the USA and the great efforts of Paso Fino breeders in Europe. Currently, there are more than 1.000 pure-bred and registered Paso Finos in Europe.

The Paso Fino horse reflects its Spanish heritage through its proud carriage, grace and elegance. Modern care and selective breeding have enhanced its beauty, refinement and well-proportioned conformation that convey strength and power without extreme muscling. With its lively but controlled spirit, natural gait and presence, and responsive attitude, the Paso Fino is indeed, a rare and desirable equine partner in the show ring, on the competitive trail rides and on that Sunday afternoon pleasure ride.

Although, the Paso Fino has been bred in Latin America since the days of the conquistadors, this breed was completely unknown in the USA until the 1940s. As a cross of three European breeds – Andalusian, Spanish Barb and the now extinct Spanish Jennet – the ancestors of the modern Paso Fino originally served as breeding stock for the remount stations of the Spanish conquistadors. For days, these horses relentlessly carried their riders over mountains, across plains, through dense jungles. Without them the Spanish soldiers would not have conquered South America so easily.

Bred for their stamina, sturdiness, gentleness, and above all for their smooth gait the Paso Finos were the ideal horses back in those times when horses were an indispensable means of transport. Thanks to their sure-footedness these horse were essential to travel long distances across rough terrain.

Due to their “cow sense” the Paso Fino was also very popular for working with cattle on the huge estates and haziendas. In addition, horses had to be beautiful, outstanding, with enough fire and a gentle character, for, the owners of these vast estates wanted to have horses radiating their high ranking position.

Over the centuries Paso Finos were cross-bred with horses from Spain or North America. Since local preferences and “trends” varied from region to region the Paso Fino developed into the different modalities. The different climate and geographical conditions also called for horses who adapted to well to the respective environment.

Today, the USA is the biggest Paso Fino breeding country outside South America. Although it is still necessary to import horses from the USA, European-bred horses offer excellent quality, therefore, the need for good horses can be met by breeders in Europe. Nevertheless, it is still important and interesting to bring some new bloodlines into Europe to keep the quality at a high level.

The Paso Fino is born with a gait unique to the breed, and its attitude seems to transmit to the observer that this horse knows its gait is a very special gift that must be executed with style and pride! The gait is smooth, rhythmic, purposeful, straight, balanced in flexion and synchronous front to rear, resulting in unequalled comfort and smoothness for the rider.

The Paso Fino is a graceful, agile and supple equine athlete that uses all four legs with precision and harmony. The gait of the Paso Fino horse is totally natural and normally exhibited from birth. It is an evenly-spaced four-beat lateral gait with each foot contacting the ground independently in a regular sequence at precise intervals creating a rapid, unbroken rhythm. Executed perfectly, the four hoof beats are absolutely even in both cadence and impact, resulting in unequaled smoothness and comfort for the rider.

The Paso Fino gait is performed at three forward speeds and with varying degrees of collection. In all speeds of the gait, the rider should appear virtually motionless in the saddle, and there should be no perceptible up and down motion of the horse’s croup.

  • Classic Fino – Full collection, with very slow forward speed. The footfall is extremely rapid while the steps and extension are exceedingly short.
  • Paso Corto – Forward speed is moderate, with full to moderate collection. Steps are ground-covering but unhurried, executed with medium extension and stride.
  • Paso Largo – The fastest speed of the gait, executed with a longer extension and stride, and moderate to minimal collection. Forward speed varies with the individual horse, since each horse should attain its top speed in harmony with its own natural stride and cadence.
    The Paso Fino is capable of executing other gaits that are natural to horses, including the relaxed walk, the canter and the gallop.

The Paso Fino varies in size from 140cm to 155 cm. The Paso Fino horse reflects its Spanish heritage through its proud carriage, grace and elegance. The ideal Paso Fino is noble, gentle, impulsive with a breathtaking presence – a combination of energy and temperament best described by the Spanish word „brio“. Brio comes natural and cannot be achieved by training.

Brio is one of the most unique characteristics of Paso horses, it is important for breeding and makes these horses outstanding compared to other breeds. In addition, the Paso Fino horse is very affectionate towards humans and always strives to please his owner and rider. Despite their willingness to perform and their fiery temperament, Paso Finos are generally easy to handle.

Ideally the Paso Fino has a near-to-perfect conformation with refined but strong bones, small and hard hooves as well as sound and short pasterns. The very harmonious conformation and the high bone density turn the Paso Fino into a very strong and robust horse.

The Paso Fino radiates pride, grace and style. He has a refined head with the preferred profile being straight, large, expressive eyes and a gracefully arched neck set on at an angle to allow high carriage. The top line is characterized by defined withers, a rounded croup with a low tail. In contrast to other breeds e.g. the Arabian horse, the tail is ideally carried like a flag adding to the striking appearance of the Paso Fino. Every equine color can be found, with or without white markings. There are Pintos or other “special colors” so that anyone can find his or her “dream color”.

The Paso Fino is divided into three different types based on the show divisions used by the PFHA, Inc. (USA) and the horse’s individual talent and movements, making the horse suitable for different usages. When choosing the right type a rider should be aware of his or her personal preferences and riding skills and have a clear idea of what he or she would like to do with the horse.

The Pleasure Horse

The gaits performed are mildly collected Corto, mildly-collected Largo, and flat-footed Walk. Pleasure gaits are executed with mild collection, moderate extension, style, and willingness. The horse’s head carriage is natural and relaxed. The gaits should be fluid showing no tendency to labor or become “strung out” Manners and obedience of the horse are particularly important. The horse should be controlled with minimal restraint and the rider should appear to be enjoying themselves. Thanks to their friendly and gentle disposition Pleasure horses are uncomplicated and easy equine partners under saddle and in daily handling.

The Performance Horse

The gaits performed are collected Corto, collected Largo, and collected Walk. Performance gaits are executed with brilliant style, and collection. The horse is collected, fully balanced and exhibiting symmetry in flexion and extension. The extension is longer and the footfall not as rapid as shown in the Classic Fino gait. The horse should demonstrate pride, style, elegance and enthusiasm, along with good manners and ready response. The Performance type is highly suitable for the experienced rider who loves spirited horses with lots of power.

The Classic Fino Horse

The only gait performed is the Classic Fino gait. Gait is fully collected, with very slow forward speed, very rapid footfall and stride is exceedingly short. The Classic Fino gait is an evenly spaced, four-beat lateral gait that is smooth, animated, exciting and executed with brilliance and style. Flexion and extension should be harmonious in all four legs. The horse must present a picture of symmetry and fluidness of motion. The horse must perform this highly collected form of the gait naturally and willingly.

Paso Finos of this type are very popular as show horses in the USA and Latin-America. Nothings holds the crowd on their seats when these horses perform the shortest reverses and tap-dance across the Fino Strip or sounding board (a long wooden strip to hear if the horses are in gait or not). The rapid footfall reminding of the sound of Spanish snappers and the sheer beauty of these horses are so fascinating that it can hardly be described by words. Since only a very small percentage of Paso Fino offspring has the natural abilities to compete successfully in Classic Fino divisions these horses are quite expensive.

Usage and riding a Paso Fino The Paso Fino is a very versatile breed; their easiness, sure-footedness and smooth gaits make the Paso Fino into ideal trail horses. Small jumps over e.g. logs are also no problem. Their handy size and gentle character turn them into ideal family horses and reliable leisure time companions.

Well trained horses can even manage mid-range endurance rides without difficulties. Also Western riders will love them: Thanks to their suppleness and agility they can be used for reining and barrel race disciplines. Since Paso Finos are still frequently used as working horses on cattle farms in Latin America, they are also talented cow horses.

Due to their natural ability to collect themselves, Paso Finos can also be taught classic dressage movements by experienced riders. Their extremely smooth gaits make Paso Finos increasingly popular among people who suffer from back problems, even outside the USA. Paso Finos are often used for therapeutic riding, too. They also look very elegant in front of a light sulky or under a side saddle.

And of course the Paso Fino ist he perfect horse to shine at gaited horse shows. No matter if performing at classic fino or flying in a fast Paso Largo a Paso Fino will excite riders and spectators alike. In all classes the primary focus lies on the smooth, clear, rhythmic, cadenced, even-spaced 4-beat lateral gait – the trademark of the Paso Fino.

His unique gait and characteristics turn the Paso Fino into an ideal equine partner who will please the ambitious show rider as well as the trail rider looking for a comfortable and easy-to-ride horse. Paso Finos are suitable for all disciplines. During the basic training the focus should be on suppleness, flexibility and a rhythmic, clear, cadenced four-beat lateral gait. The traditional way of riding a Paso Fino is similar to Western riding. Light rein contact is required but no pressure. Otherwise minimal aids, primarily body aids suffice.

In training – be it basic or advanced training – the focus primarily lies on the horse’s balance, suppleness and conditioning. Most horses begin their under saddle training at the age of 3 or 4 years and are started in a bosal without using a bit. Bits are generally introduced only if the horse responds well to all rider’s aids when ridden with a bosal. The desirable collection is achieved by balance, suppleness and conditioning during the horse’s basic training years. The horse is taught to carry himself at light rein contact. The Paso Fino should gait naturally and rhythmically without any form of manipulation (such as shoes, side reins, weights etc.).

Paso Finos can be kept in open stalls without problems. Even if they originally come from warmer climates they quickly adjust to their European environment and can be kept in open stalls even in winter time. As for most southern breeds they need a protected, dry and draught-free shelter and must be fed accordingly. Generally Paso Finos are easy keepers.


We describe the Trocha as a resting movement that the horse executes to travel from one place to another. The word “Trocha,” according to the dictionary, means, “A great stretch of wilderness that can be used as a chute. An open path in the brush.” This definition from the dictionary helps us understand the name “Trocha” we ascribe to the gait that many of our horses execute. The dictionary also says the word “Trochar” is” to trot.” In our case, we define Trocha as a very short and quick trot, without cadence and of great smoothness that gives the rider a good ride in flat or rolling terrain, and an even better ride in rough terrain.

Trocha is the most comfortable gait for those trails or natural paths (trochas) that are found throughout all of the land, especially broken terrain, that riders can encounter during their outings. Trocha is a very ancient movement, a diagonally executed, four-beat rhythm that differs from the Paso Fino which is executed laterally and diagonally. In Trocha, we hear a sound like “trah, trah, trah, trah, a rhythm that is peculiar to this movement and very noticeable to the ear.

At the end of the last century and the beginning of this century, many people utilizing their horses for transportation and work, enjoyed this trocha gait. It allowed them to traverse their ranches and mobilize their livestock. We do not have many records about when Trocha was “born.” It is a fact that many of the Conquistadors used these horses and others that executed the “Paso Castellano” to get them through all of the rough terrain they had to cover to colonize the Colombian countryside, in such states as Antioquia, Caldas, Santander, and some areas of Cundinamarca.

When we speak of Trocha, we have to remember those times when our horse was our mode of transportation, our companion, our right hand throughout all of the difficult tasks that we encountered together. They had that very smooth and silent Trocha. During long journeys, they would get mixed with the Paso Fino in order to rest a little; and today we are looking and analyzing it as its own masterpiece and entertainment in our shows, to demonstrate the variety of gaits or modalities that our “Colombian Criollo Horse” can execute.

This modality has been the subject for a number of important men of Colombian literature like Tomas Rueda Vargas, who salutes the modality that provided so much enjoyment and pride as we rode our horses through the countryside. In Sr. Jose Manuel Marroquin’s work, “El Moro” (The Grey One), he refers to the Trocha gait when he says: “My natural gait is the gateado (crawling), that looks like only one leg is moving at a time, in order to rest or allow the rider to rest when he deserves attention. I’d rather have the Trocha. Trocha is a movement where the opposite hind leg and foreleg move simultaneously, without releasing in a rough way the weight of the body, like in the trot. In this way I am able to maintain, in a light way, the body weight over one foreleg and back leg at a given time”. Sr. Jose Maria Vergara y Vergara, the great critic, poet and custumbrista (someone who writes about customs), when he advises his colt he says graciously and graphically: “If you get a soft Pasitrote (horse of travel), you should be; and if you Trot with a voluntary Pasi Trochado and a soft mouth, secure feet and beautiful figure, I could not do more for you than I did for my heart, which I gave to my wife.”

To explain what was mentioned above, we must look back at the country shows that preceded the small town shows, which were numerous and well attended. This is where all the farmers got together to sell their cattle and buy their working horses and the mules that were so essential as well; and the herds of colts that would satisfy those who really appreciated the use of this horse. In the past, the shows, better called exhibitions, no stalls or arenas were available. Everything took place at the main plaza (square), attended by everyone in town without any promotion or cost to the public. The judges were chosen by the mayor of the town and the show management. They were chosen from all of the known farmers in the vicinity that were very horse-oriented. The criteria that was followed came more from the taste, experience and common knowledge of a good horse. The horses were picked as the “Best Stallion” and the “Best Mare”, without specifying whether it was Paso Castellano, as it was called then, or Trocha.

In the big cities, the shows were organized in a bigger fashion, like the Centennial Show of Bogota, where horses like “El Rey”, owned by Aureliano Marino and ridden by that great horseman Elias Paez; and “Sarraceno”, owned by Eduardo Garnizo, came to fame. At other shows it is important to mention the horse “Mahoma”, owned by Roberto Bermudez; “Marino”, owned by Jose Jaramillo from the Dept. of Quindio; and “Cometa”, owned by Dr. Fidel Ochoa in Antioquia. These were horses that had strong abilities in the Paso Castellano and the Trocha.

I have made this statement about our shows and exhibitions in the past to simply point out that “Trocha” has always been part of our Paso breed since the ancient days of this horse. No great distinction was made about it. Since our horse was used strictly for work and the plain enjoyment of the farmers and any other individual that had the privilege of owning a horse with brio, good gait and that was well trained, whether it was Paso Castellano, Trochador o Galpero (Gallop).

ASDEPASO was created in 1946, the first equine association in Colombia. Rules and regulations were established, and criteria and the division of the classes by age groups were formed. In the first few years of ASDEPASO, a judging system was formed, separating the horses by regions: Calentanos and Sabaneros. The criteria was that the horses from Bogota, Ubate, and the valley of Chinquinquira were more fino than the horses from the Calentanos. The Sabaneros were horses from a more flat terrain, and the Calentanos were horses from a more mountainous terrain, making them different in their styles. This was maintained until 1953, when the criteria changed from a regional view to a strictly technical form.

This is a good time to clarify why I make note of the horse Paso Castellano. It was not until the middle of the century (1952) that our horses were invited to the United States to put on an exhibition in the city of Dallas, Texas. ASDEPASO changed the name from Paso Castellano to “Horse of Paso Colombiano” to honor our breed as they represented Colombia in such an event. It was not until some time later that ASDEPASO separated modalities at, i.e., Paso Colombiano, Trocha, Trote, etc., at the shows. Once the modality of Trocha was established, its importance in the shows gradually grew. As time went by, the classes and age divisions got larger. Due to the growth of the breed in the country and the crossings of so many bloodlines, Trocha has suffered many variations, as described by a dear friend, Raul Estrada, in his book, “Colombian Chalaneria (Horsemanship).”

In my opinion, Trocha has been around since the beginning of the breed. The good horses were able to effortlessly execute both modalities in great form, depending only on the cues of the rider. Trocha is a low, soft and relaxed movement, a product of pure bloodline crosses. Trocha was called the movement that “came from the Finos.” Today, we have a quicker movement with more action of the front legs, but it makes it a less smooth trocha and less relaxing for the horse that executes it. It is more exciting in show form than the working form.

Undoubtedly, since the 1960s, the breeders have made a great effort to separate and strengthen the bloodlines to produce a more Fino and/or more Trocha horse. Due to this effort, we have today the great quality of Paso Fino Horses around us. Trocha today in Colombia has separated itself tremendously from the Paso Fino, but I credit a lot of it to the training and handling of the riders. I say this, because we can see in our young colts and fillies that as they start their training, some will trocha or trot and as they get further and are asked more of, then they settle into the Paso Fino. The trocha movement is an authentic complement of the Paso Fino, when it is executed in the fields during labor to make their job more comfortable, especially in broken terrain.

Article written by Jaime Mejia Escobar

Trote y Galope or Troton

When we discuss in depth the Paso Fino Horse we must talk as well about the Trocha horse and the Trote y Galope horse, simply because they are brothers. Brothers of origin and breeding. In Colombia they are treated as equals and there is much similarity in their training. The same types of saddles, Zamarros, bits, tack and even the same riders are utilized for the 3 types of horses. In fact, 90% of the competition rules are the same.

When observed with admiration, many attribute the characteristic Trote y Galope gait to the complicated topography of our Colombian soil. Its smoothness and elegant carriage have inspired painters and sculptors, poems and songs. The prominent characteristic of its air or gait is that at all times at least one foot is touching the ground. That means that the horse is always supported to the ground by two of its feet; in the Galope, by one. That is why we say that it is a march, just like the Trochador and the Paso Fino.

Its Origin

The Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century introduced (or reintroduced) the horse to America, for horses were the most important tool in their task of conquering and colonizing. The horses they brought came from Spain and the North of Africa. The Spanish horses were Andalusian, horses that derive from the cross breeding of the Sorraia (also called Peninsular), Arabian and Barb horses. The North African horses (today’s Morocco and Libya) were Barb. Looking at this, the Colombian horse has more than 65% Barb. We cannot forget that the Barb breed is the second founding breed after the Arabian, and many researchers even say that there is no evidence that verifies the origins of the Barb and that it is as old as the Arabian. Today’s Barb horse is found in Algeria, Morocco, Spain, and south of France. The World Organization of the Barb Horse (WOBH) was founded in Algeria in 1987 and in 1990 it almost disappeared for lack of members and quality of their horses. Our Colombian or “criollo” breed comes from the Andalusian and the Barb. In the Paso Fino there is more influence from the Barb, in the Trote y Galope more inluence from the Andalusian, and in the Trocha the inluence is half and half.


  • The Trote y Galope horse must be a little higher than the Paso Fino, standing between 14 and 15 hands.
  • Elasticity in its strong quarters and limbs, specially in the legs.
  • Thick, short, muscular neck.
  • Athletic build.
  • The Trote y Galope horse is very intelligent, has much energy and brio, and still is very docile and personable.


Brio and energy come together. Brio is the spirit, energy is the power, the capability that the body has to produce work. Brio comes with birth, energy is made through life. A malnourished horse has no energy, so it cannot show the brio at its maximum power; a horse with much brio and malnourished gets tired easily, turns off quickly. The speed of execution of the Trote gait must be slow, not so slow as to look like Passage, nor so fast that looks like Trocha. In the same manner, the Galope must be collected.

Dr. Raul Estrada cleverly defines the characteristic sound of every single one of our airs and gaits like this:

Trote: tas…tas…tas…tas…tas…tas…tas…tas…tas *

Galope: Ca…tor…ce…ca…tor…ce…ca…tor…ce…ca…tor…ce…ca…to

Trocha: tras…tras…tras…tras…tras…tras…tras…tras…tras..

Paso Fino:…ta…ca…ta…ca…ta…ca…ta…ca…ta…ca…ta…ca…

(* If you confuse Trote with Trocha, use for Trote: tac…tac…tac…tac…tac…tac…)

When faced with the opportunity to ride a Trote y Galope horse or a Trocha horse, go ahead, try it. You will find much similarity in its handling and a great difference in the riding sensation. When a Trote y Galope horse gallops, you find out why it is said that the horse is the son of the wind. You will discover that just like with the Paso Finos, the wind take away your problems and a feeling of freedom invades you and invites you to live forever.