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Puerto Rico's Paso Fino Horse: The Epitome of Elegance in World Horsemanship

Puerto Rico's unique and magnificent Paso Fino ("fine step") horses are among its national treasures. The history of this outstanding species dates back many centuries when, some theorize, Mongols introduced this awesome beast's earliest ancestor into what is now the Arab world. The species developed into what is now known as the Arabian horse, which reached North Africa as part of the many Arab conquests and gave way to yet another breed, the Berberisco (Berber). This specimen arrived in southern Spain during the Muslim expansion of the first millennium A.D. and paved the way for its famed Andalusian descendant.

By the late 15th century, Spaniards came to what they would eventually call Puerto Rico. The first cows and horses were brought in the early 1500s from Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) as part of the colonization process, and Puerto Rico became a sort of strategic bridge from which horses, used in military conquests, were sent to many parts of the Latin American continent in order to claim those territories for the Spanish crown.

Captain Martin de Salazar first brought horses in 1510 under the orders of Puerto Rico's first governor, Don Juan Ponce de Leòn. Through centuries of horse-racing, breeding, and competitions, the modern Paso Fino only emerged in the first part of the 20th century. In 1935, Dulce Sueño (Sweet Dream) was introduced to the world by his owner Don Genaro Cautiño Insua at a fair in his native town of Guayama. Dulce Sueño is considered the undisputed standard by which all other horses are measured, and father of modern Paso Fino horses in Puerto Rico.

Paso Fino horses may come in different colors, but the darker ones are preferred; the body must have a medium volume with well-distributed musculature, fine long hair, and a strong skeleton. Its temperament is ideally docile, but proud and elegant. Its pace is short, rhythmic smooth, and elastically executed.

For decades, a number of competitions and exhibitions have proven the excellent quality of the Paso Fino to the world. One of the biggest concerns of horse owners is protecting the animal's racial purity in its homeland. The Paso Fino is undoubtedly born, not made, for its steps and movements are literally inherited from generation to generation.

Project documentation includes an 11-page report, and a video entitled "Puerto Rico's Paso Fino Horses."

Originally submitted by: Carlos Romero-Barcelo, Delegate (At Large).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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