The Paso Fino Horse: A Puerto Rican Icon

paso fino

Sourced From Enciclopedia PR – one of my favorite informative websites for all things cultural and historical in Puerto Rico…..
Paso fino horses are a particular breed developed in Puerto Rico and descended from a mix of Spanish horses. They naturally have a particular way of walking in short and rhythmic steps that can be perfected and further stylized through training.

The  horse is the product of a mix of horses and ponies from Andalusia and North Africa. Puerto Rico’s nature as an island, as well as the characteristics of its topography, created the ideal conditions for the development of the Puerto Rican paso fino through selective breeding.

Their smooth and fluid movements lend them a grace and majesty. They walk with their necks arched and their ears alert.

Historically, these horses were used to cover short distances in rough terrain. It is not known for sure when paso fino races first began, but there are accounts from the 1790s that describe the particular gait of Puerto Rican horses. During the 19th century, paso fino competitions took place in various parts of the island. In the Carreras de San Juan, which were held during the San Juan Day festivities, the owners of paso fino horses sent their best examples to be shown.

Governor Juan de la Pezuela y Cevallos (1848-1851) prohibited horse races for moral and safety reasons, but it is speculated that the real reason was because the events drew together the landowners who opposed the regime, giving them the opportunity to conspire. Subsequent governors maintained the ban, so paso fino competitions had to be held clandestinely.

In that era, landowners were not the only ones who owned paso fino horses. Foremen and even laborers also owned them. The sport continued after the change of sovereignty in 1898. By the 1930s, however, the sport had diminished considerably.

To further the sport, a group of enthusiasts formed the Puerto Rico Association of Saddle Horse Owners on March 21, 1943, with the support of the Horse Racing Commission. Later, the association changed its name to the Puerto Rico Paso Fino Horse Sporting Federation. The purposes of the organization included bringing together fans of breeding and riding paso fino horses; supporting and improving breeding; organizing competitions and exhibitions; spreading awareness of the sport; and establishing and maintaining a Genealogical Registry and issuing corresponding certifications.

In the 1940s, various horse owners in the United States exported Puerto Rican paso fino horses to the mainland. They followed the federation’s regulations but they also began to breed their horses with paso Colombian horses from Colombia. Thus they created their own line of horses that they also called paso fino.

According to the Puerto Rico Paso Fino Horse Sporting Federation, it is essential that the horse keep its back and haunches – the rear part of the horse’s back – at a constant level when walking, with no rising and falling, which allows the rider to remain very comfortable. Paso fino horses can be trained to execute three categories or levels of gaits, which are based on the horse’s speed. The paso fino is the shortest gait and is preferred in competitions.

Among the paso fino horses recognized for their talents is Dulce Sueño, from the 1930s, who was considered an example for achieving excellence in the paso fino gait. As a result, he was bred with other lines and produced many stellar examples. Other famous paso fino horses were Guamaní, Copita and Garza.

Currently, the paso fino breed is regulated by the Paso Fino Office of the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture through the Purebred Paso Fino Horse of Puerto Rico Agri-Industry Regulation, the purpose of which is to preserve the purity of the Puerto Rican paso fino breed. Purebred horses are those that have not been mixed with other breeds, particularly those from Colombia.

Exhibitions and competitions are currently held in many municipalities around the island, including the Minín Kuilan Cup in Dorado, the Dulce Sueño Fair in Guayama, the Puerto Rico Paso Fino Festival of Champions in San Juan, and the Puerto Rican Country Fair, which has been held in various towns around the island.


    • Federación del Deporte de Caballos de Paso Fino de Puerto Rico. s. f. Web. 30 mayo 2010.
    • Olazábal, Romualdo. “¿Qué es el paso fino?”. Paso Fino, puro de aquí. Romualdo Olazábal, s.f. Web. 30 mayo 2010.
    • “Puerto Rico’s Paso Fino Horse: The Epitome of Elegance in World Horsemanship”. Puerto Rico Local Legacies. The Library of Congress, s. f. Web. 30 mayo 2010.
    • Paso FIno Magazine

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