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Saddle a Spoiler

(This article originally appeared in Horse and Rider magazine in 1968. As you read, try to imagine the impression it must have made on people who had never heard of Paso Fino Horses. Reprinted with permission of Horse and Rider magazine.)

(The Author - Admittedly Prejudiced - Predicts) Columbian Paso can ruin other types of riding for you!)

Saddle a Spoiler
by Dave Jones

A little bay mare walked slowly into the roper's box, turned around and backed into the corner, as her rider looked to make certain that the calf was straight in the chute.

He nodded and the chute man pulled a rope, releasing the calf.  The mare crouched, then leaped after the calf, gaining ground rapidly.  In a second she was rating the calf.  The roper swung the rope a few times and shot a loop at the calves head.  The catch was made!  Stepping off, the rider ran at the calf.  The little mare had slammed to a stop and was running a few steps backwards.  She stared down the rope at the action, as her rider legged the calf down and secured it with the two wraps and a hooey. 

When the rider re-mounted the mare, she offered a peculiar gait, smooth as silk and fast; a form of running walk.  Spectators watched her, wide-eyed, as she left the arena.  "Never saw anything like that before" was the general comment. 











A little bay gelding entered the show ring, dwarfed by the other horses.  But his size wasn't what amazed the riders sitting on their huge hunters.  The little horse appeared to be doing some sort of single-foot, as he started his circle to approach the first jump.  

His rider signaled for a canter.  Running flawlessly, the little horse completed the course without a knockdown and retired from the ring with that peculiar floating running walk that left the huge audience speechless. A terrific burst of applause ended the silence, a tribute to the spunky little horse with the peculiar gait.



A chunky brown filly confidently approached a small herd of cattle.    Her rider reined her behind the stock, selected a black heifer, brought it through the milling bovines and drove it down the arena. 

The filly stopped, ears pointing ahead and flicking back and forth.  A turn back rider headed the heifer and she came back at the filly.  A quick sideways leap by the filly headed the heifer and the horse settle in, ducking and dodging, to work until the rider signaled enough, turned and made another cut.  

When the cutting was finished, the filly did a running walk to the other end of the arena.  Her gait had the cutting people staring in amazement, for she walked at least ten miles per hour.  Moving so smoothly it looked as though a jigger of redeye could be carried by her rider without spillage.





These horses have something in common. They're all walking horses, though an entirely different sort of walker from those to which North Americans are accustomed.  These horses are Colombian Paso Finos.

I'm associated with Meridian Meadows  Incorporated, down in Tallahassee, Florida, and I had the chore of investigating the potential of the Colombian Paso and buying several for our horse ranch, if they impressed me enough.

Once in this Latin American country, I found that the ranches in the Colombian mountains were most hospitable and days at these ranches always will remain fond memories.  Even though the language barrier made problems, we all were horsemen and seemed to fit well together,  We had numerous rough trips, getting to the ranches in our search for the Paso horses we wanted, but that's another story.

My search culminated in acquisition of nine planeloads of nine Colombian Pasos each.  I also obtained four fine stallions that are serving their purpose until we add some to our herd that have been bred and raised here.


Our luck with the stallions, incidentally, seems fantastic, as our colts seem to be better animals than those I saw in Colombia; this applies both to gait and to conformation.  We've been breeding Colombian Pasos for two years and now have 135 head, including our original herd.  And during this, I've learned a good deal about the breed; enough to say I'm fascinated with his type of horse. 

One of the stallions we managed to acquire for Meridian Meadows was Mahoma, now our senior sire, although he is almost thirty years of age.  He also is the sire of some of the most famous horses in his native country.  One offspring, Oro Negro, is an unbeatable trochador and has been declared out of competition.  Although shown, he no longer is judged. 

Then there is the famous stallion I couldn't buy, Resorte III.  Owned by Senor Fabio Ochoa, he has been described as the most famous stallion in Colombia.  However, I was able to obtain his mother and one of his best sons for our operation in Florida. 

Colombian Pasos are the horse of Colombia.  Since much of this Latin country is mountainous, the Paso evolved to fit the environment and the need.  Andalusians that the conquistadors brought to the Americas in the 1500s provided the basis for the breed.  Infusion of such blood as that from the  Spanish jennet, plus selective breeding produced the modern Paso. 

There are two types of gait.  First is the Paso Corto.  Short, sure rapid steps make this the true mountain horse's gait.  The short steps aid the horse's security when traveling dangerous mountain trails, while the quick gait makes for rapid traveling. 

The other type of gait is the Paso Largo.  A largo horse has a long rapid stride; can travel fifteen miles per hour and can keep it up.  Both gaits are extremely smooth. 

Since Colombia is cattle country, the horses must be able to stop and turn.  Pasos work cattle and seem ideal for this, as the rider finishes the day much less tired than he would be had he been riding a trotting horse. 

There are many shows for Pasos in Colombia.  The horse must be gentle, but an added requirement is brios, best translated as fire.  Head up, neck arched, mouth working the bit and tail flying, the Pasos seem to compete not only for gait but for attractiveness.  The more the crowd cheers, the  more the Pasos prance, showing as proud as the proverbial peacock. 

After the parada or parade, the horses work individually for the judges.  Weaving, twisting, turning this way and that, the Paso maintains absolute purity, evenness of gait.  They must walk on a cement sidewalk built into the arena, while the judges listen to the gait.  Finally the horse circles and figure eights around and between two judges, as these men gradually draw closer and closer together. A run and a slide complete the test. 

The Colombian jinete or horseman is quite a rider.  They have two types of saddles.  One is a deep-seated English style; the other resembles the old A-fork Western type used about 1880. Saddle quality is not too good.

Ropes are of twisted rawhide, generally about 120 feet long but an occasional reata of two hundred feet is used by top ropers.  The loop and about half the coils are held in one hand and this business end is thrown like a baseball, always with extreme accuracy.  I've never seen longer throws anywhere.  They dally only to hold the end of the rope, for the drag from all that length would pull down a bull. 

I'd take an old piece of reata and show them how gringos rope.  This fascinated them and they generally mastered the calf loop and hoolihan or dead-loop in about fifteen minutes. 

Colombia seems to be a nation of horsemen and not all of them are cowboys.  For example, in the cities, it is not at all unusual to see a businessman spending his lunch hour riding through the parks or on nearby farms and ranches.  They may be dressed in business suits, but they invariably wear zamarros, the Colombian version of our own brush buster's chaps.  This keeps their office clothing clean and protects them from wear against saddle leather or the sweat from the horse. 

Randy Steffen, the noted Western historian and artist, is another staunch booster of the Colombian Paso.  He owns Sin Verguenza and Maria Christina, two well known Pasos. 

Steffen is now on a long trip through our Western states on a mission of love.  He is searching for Western artifacts that will help in completing a book he is writing with the idea that it will help to separate truth from legend in so far as the Old West is concerned. 

One might expect him to conduct this research on the back of a Western cow pony, but this isn't the case.  Instead he is taking along a unique trailer that combines living quarters, darkroom and stalls for two horses. 

The horse will be his own Colombian Pasos, since he is aware of their surefootedness on difficult trails and the bottom they display, when the going is rough. 

This, in itself, is a tribute to the Colombian Paso Fino Horse.



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