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Peruvian Horse Show


By Nancy Brannon

The Central States Peruvian Horse Club and the Southwest Peruvian Horse Club teamed up for a double point show at the Expo Center in Tunica, Mississippi on May 11-13, 2018. This was Central States’ 50th anniversary championship show! The Central States Judge was Janic Arllentar and the Southwest Judge was Ernesto Sandigo. So competitors had double the opportunity for championship trophies. There was plenty of hospitality as well, with a Barn Banquet on Friday night and a barn party on Saturday with a DJ and plenty of good music.

In addition to the many Peruvian performance classes, there were specialty classes: Musical Exercise class, Egg Stomp, Bareback Equitation, Costume Class, Trail, and two classes that rewarded the smoothest ride that spilled the least amount of liquid from a glass held by the rider: Amateur Champagne Class and Junior Perrier-soda Class. There was also a ladies sidesaddle class, sponsored by the Choctaw Dream Catchers Drill Team.

On Saturday, the Choctaw Dream Catchers Drill Team from Boswell, Oklahoma performed, as did the West Tennessee Choctaw Social Dancers. The drill team has won several awards at parades, and in 2015 and 2017 they performed at the Peruvian National Horse Show in Texas.

The West Tennessee Choctaw Social Dancers are members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians of Philadelphia, Mississippi. In the late 1940s and early 1950s many Choctaw families moved to west Tennessee in search of jobs in farming. Many relocated to Lauderdale County, Tennessee as sharecroppers. Today there are over 250 Choctaw families throughout west Tennessee.

The Social Dances they perform are passed down from the late Wood Bell, a tribal elder who chanted for the West Tennessee Choctaw Social Dancers for many years prior to his passing in 1999. The traditional Choctaw dances they performed are the war dance, Social dance, and animal dances. In addition to these traditional dances, the group carries on other traditions of Choctaw culture, such as dressmaking and shirt making, basketry, beadwork, the game of stickball, Choctaw language and cooking.

Dr. Alice M. Wolf, President of the Camino Real Peruvian Horse Club of Bryan, Texas and an exhibitor at this show, explained the history of the Peruvian horse and the traditions involved in showing them. “The horse originated in Peru about 300 years ago. They are smooth riding horses – you can ride all day and not get tired – and we call them the ‘no bounce ride’ or the ‘ride with glide.’

“The difference between the Peruvian Paso and the Paso Fino horses are, one, their origins. The Peruvian is from, of course, Peru. The Paso Finos originate from Colombia and Puerto Rico. Two, their gaits. The Paso Finos have a lot of fast up-and-down motion in the front legs. But you may have noticed the ‘paddling’ motion of the front legs on the Peruvians. This is a unique trait called termino,” which is an outward swinging leg action originating from the shoulder, in which the front lower legs roll to the outside during the stride forward, similar to a swimmer’s arms action. “This is an all-natural gait,” she explained. “The Peruvian horses are born with this four-beat lateral gait,” which is called the paso llano.

Show attire at a Peruvian show is mostly white: “white long-sleeved shirt, white pants, and white scarf are essentials,” explained Dr. Wolf. Most riders wear a poncho over the white shirt, but it is also acceptable to wear a jacket. In Peru, the horseman riding the Peruvian horse is traditionally called ‘Chalán’. He wears a wide straw hat or ‘jipijapa’ (a type of Panama hat, woven from the fibers of the Jipijapa palm tree) and a brown poncho made of vicuña fiber.

Dr. Wolf explained that Peruvians can be ridden in any kind of tack, but for shows, most ride in traditional tack. The Peruvian saddle has a moderately high pommel and cantle with leather skirts that can be embossed with a variety of designs. The wooden saddle tree is covered with tight-fitting rawhide, with the cinch, stirrups, crupper, breeching buckles and straps attached to the frame.

The stirrups are usually made of wood in a pyramid shape. Historically there was not much iron in Peru from which to make stirrups, so they were made from wood. In shows they may be decorated with strips of metal and may be decorated. They are attached to the saddle via straps with a buckle.

Dr. Wolf explained the traditional uses for the unique design of the stirrups. “You can remove the stirrups, bury them in the ground, and then tie your horse to the buckle and strap for a ground tie. Because the shape is closed on three sides, you can put a candle in it for light at night and the sides prevent the wind from blowing out the candle. You can use the stirrup as a scoop to get water out of a stream for your or your horse.”

One of the peculiarities of Peruvian tack is the use of breechings called the guarnición. It is most likely derived from a harness first used to prevent the saddle from slipping forward when riding over rough terrain. Dr. Wolf explained that the Peruvian horse do not have a big withers, but a rather flat withers, requiring the use of a crupper to keep the saddle from sliding forward, which is under the guarnición. “Peru is very mountainous,” she said, so preventing the saddle from slipping as the horse moves over varied terrain is very important.

“The head gear is finely braided rawhide,” she explained. It is called jato and consists of the halter with its shank, the headstall and reins, and the eye cover and strap. The eye cover (tapa ojos) serves the same purpose as blinders in training. It can be pulled down to cover the horse’s eyes, permitting one to saddle or mount a nervous horse with ease. Dr. Wolf also explained at “since Peru is also desert area, there are not always trees or places to tie a horse. So the eye covers can be pulled over the horse’s eyes; since the horse can’t see, the horse won’t move and it’s like a ground tie.”

Dr. Wolf talked about the amazing stamina and heart of the Peruvians. “These horses have a lot of stamina and amazing amount of heart,” she said. The horses are used for trail riding and for endurance riding, as well as showing. She told the story of Verne Albright who brought these horses from Peru to the U.S. – over land! He rode them all the way from Peru to the U.S. in the 1960s.

For more general information about the Peruvian horse, visit:

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