Paso Fino Horse

Characteristics and History

Famous for its uniquely comfortable four-beat, lateral gait, the Paso Fino horse breed is a perfect pleasure riding horse – indeed, the name Paso Fino means “fine step.” Readily identifiable by its spirited demeanour, proud carriage, and attractive appearance, the Paso Fino is a small to medium-sized horse with a delicate head, wide-set eyes, slender yet muscular build, and long, flowing mane and tail.

In addition to possessing excellent strength and stamina for their size, Paso Finos are known for their willing yet docile temperaments. This combination of athleticism, friendliness, and ease of handling makes the Paso Fino horse breed ideally suited to a wide range of equestrian pursuits, such as showing, trail and pleasure riding, driving, dressage, barrel racing, and endurance competitions. Paso Fino horses also make wonderfully gentle, loyal family companions.

Origin of the Paso Fino Horse Breed

The Paso Fino horse breed dates back roughly 500 years, with the breed’s earliest ancestors arriving in Puerto Rico alongside Christopher Columbus. As the Spanish conquistadors continued to import horses to the New World – including the Barb, Andalusian, and the now-extinct Spanish Jennet – a new type of horse gradually emerged as a result of interbreeding. Now known as the Paso Fino, it represented the best traits of its forebears, having the stamina and hardiness of the Barb, the elegance and beauty of the Andalusian, and the four-beat lateral gait of the Jennet.

With its perfectly smooth gait, the Paso Fino quickly became popular with Spanish landowners seeking a comfortable mount for ranch work. Over time, they continued to refine and enhance the Paso Fino’s traits, and the breed spread throughout Latin America. However, it was not until the 1950s that the Paso Fino gained recognition in the United States after American soldiers stationed in Central America began bringing their beloved horses home with them.

Today, there are two main types of Paso Fino: The Puerto Rican Paso Fino and the Colombian Paso. The Puerto Rican Paso Fino is known for its delicate, fine step, while the Colombian Paso has a more rapid, powerful gait that attests to its “brio” (that is, the horse’s spirit, vigour, and fire). Both varieties of Paso Fino are equally comfortable to ride, along with being good-natured and responsive.

Registry and Breed Standards

In addition to the Canadian Paso Fino Horse Society registry, a global Paso Fino registry can be found at The Paso Fino Horse Association (

The accepted standards for the Paso Fino horse breed are as follows:

Size: Paso Finos must range from 13 to 15.2 hands in size, and weigh between 700-1000 pounds.

Colour: All colours are considered acceptable, with or without white markings.

Disposition: The ideal Paso Fino is very eager to please its rider, showing excellent Brio (spirit) while still being responsive and easy to handle. Paso Finos should also be friendly, sensible, and gentle.

Mane, Tail, and Forelock: The mane and tail should be naturally long and full, indicating the breed’s Spanish heritage. No artificial extensions or additions are permitted in the show ring.

Head: The head of the Paso Fino is small, with large wide-set eyes and an alert, intelligent expression.

Neck: The neck should be of medium length and strong, with a natural arch and proud carriage.

Shoulders and chest: The Paso Fino’s shoulders slope towards the withers, while the chest is deep and muscular.

Midsection: The Paso Fino has a strong, muscular back with a top line that’s shorter than the underline.

Hindquarters: The croup should slope gently and the hips should be broad and rounded without being bulky. The tail should naturally be carried high while the horse is in motion.

Legs: The legs of the Paso Fino should be of medium length, straight, and strong with refined bones and well-defined tendons. The thighs should be muscular but not overly accentuated.

Types of Paso Fino Gaits

The Paso Fino horse is born with a naturally smooth, ambling four-beat gait that lacks the “bounce” of a trot, creating an extremely smooth riding experience. Paso Finos can be ridden over long distances without discomfort, and these horses are ideal for riders with back pain.

There are three main types of Paso Fino gait, all of which feature the horse’s hooves moving in an even, rhythmic sequence:

Classic Fino – The Classic Fino (also known as the Paso Fino) is a slow gait characterized by rapid, collected footfalls that cover as little ground as possible. This gait is generally used during shows and competitions to demonstrate the Paso Fino horse’s unique gait at its most refined.

Paso Corto – The Paso Corto is a slightly faster, more extended gait that serves as an alternative to the trot, allowing the horse to cover ground efficiently while keeping the rider almost motionless in the saddle. The Paso Corto gait is typically used for trail and pleasure riding.

Paso Largo – The Paso Largo is the fastest four-beat gait of the Paso Fino horse, executed with longer strides and less collected movements while still preserving the Paso Fino’s naturally flowing forward motion.

In addition to performing these gaits, the Paso Fino can walk and canter like other horse breeds.

Health and Care

The Paso Fino horse breed is generally hardy and athletic, with few health problems. However, degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis (DSLD) can occur in Paso Finos. This progressive illness damages the horse’s fetlocks and currently has no cure, though there are management strategies (such as pain relief and therapeutic shoeing) that can keep the horse comfortable for as long as possible.

In terms of diet and care, the Paso Fino is relatively easy to keep. This breed doesn’t have any special dietary needs, and most Paso Finos thrive on a diet consisting of hay and pasture forage. The exception to this rule is horses participating in endurance competitions, trail riding, and other high-energy disciplines; they may need additional calories from concentrated feed to maintain a healthy weight.

Because Paso Finos have long, luxurious manes and tails, they often benefit from regular grooming. Generally, we recommend conditioning and braiding the mane and tail to prevent tangles and breakage.