“Look, a horse!”, goes my not very precise exclamation, during a recent trip through the Peruvian Andes. “Look a Peruvian Paso Horse!”, would have been more correct. But only after rushing out of the car, in the midst of the green expanses, to go and have a closer look at the little black stallion, did I discover the existence of this particular native breed.
“The Peruvian Paso is a very docile and intelligent, safe and agile saddle horse”, explains Lucio, owner of a small hacienda located between Saqsaywaman and Puka Pukara, two of the most visited Cuzqueni landmarks.
While the Peruvian Paso wasn’t originally native to Peru, it has been a focus of breeding and agriculture there since the 16th Century. Spanish conquistadors brought horses from Europe to South America for transportation and to work the huge ranches they built there. Bloodlines from the Andalusian, the Barb, and the Jennet (now extinct) were combined to form what we now know as the Peruvian Paso.
Because of the harsh terrain in Peru, the Peruvian Paso was bred for endurance and hardiness, able to handle all kinds of land from the desert to the mountains. For riders on the grand ranchos and haciendas in days past, perhaps the most important trait of the breed was its smoothness under saddle, and that has remained the hallmark of the Peruvian Paso today.
The natural gaits of the Peruvian Paso mean that almost all motion is translational, or forward moving, with virtually no vertical movement or bounce for the rider. When I mount on one of Lucio’s beautiful horses, it feels as if we are dancing.
If you want to discover more about this incredible breed, let me suggest a great book. Published by MATE – Museo Mario Testino, Fina Estampa captures the world of Peruvian Paso horses through the lens of Mario Testino. Following on from Alta Moda, this latest publication continues Testino’s exploration of the heritage and culture of his homeland Peru, focusing on the distinctive, delicate movements of the Peruvian Paso horses and the lifestyle of those sustaining their tradition.