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Paso Fino Grand Nationals


September 25-October 1
Agricenter Show Place Arena, Memphis, TN
Article and photos by Pam Gamble

It’s been almost 30 years since the Paso Fino Grand Nationals came to Memphis, TN. The Grand Nationals is the premier show for all Paso Finos. According to Catherine King, Editor of Paso Fino Horse World magazine, “The Memphis location is centrally located.  Also, it’s great to be able to have some side trips.  I hear that people are going to Graceland and Downtown and having a blast!”

The Paso Fino Grand Nationals offered free horse riding lessons on Friday and Saturday during the show week. Paso Fino fans are sure that once you ride one, you will be hooked. Gaited horses are becoming more and more popular in part due to people who have had back problems and prefer a smoother rider than on a trotting horse.  The Paso Fino’s beautiful, Latin influenced conformation with arched necks and alert expressions are sure to win over any horse lover.
The Paso Fino horse is a gaited horse considered to be like no other.  Many gaited horse enthusiasts claim that the gait of the Paso Fino has superior quality and smoothness to other gaited breeds. The breed originated in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Columbia and Venezuela, and for many years the Paso Fino was only found in these Latin countries. In the 1940’s, the breed was discovered by US servicemen, and though the Latin tradition hung on, the time of the American Paso Fino began.  The breed is generally a small breed with individuals as short as 13 hands, but larger horses can be found, especially in the United States where people have bred them to carry taller people.

Paso Fino horses walk, gait and canter, but they are known for their four beat gaits. The gait is natural and is displayed even from birth.  Yearling Paso Finos at the Grand Nationals are exhibited on a long lead line which allows their natural gait to be exhibited even though they are not yet strong enough for a rider. The gait is a perfect four beat movement which is neither pacing nor trotting but in-between.  The horse’s rhythm is showcased by the use of “sounding boards”.  Music is silenced and the crowd and judges listen as the horse gaits over the boards. They are listening for the regularity of a perfect step. Paso Fino means “fine walk” in Spanish. 

Horses are shown at three speeds, Classic Fino, Paso Corto, and Paso Largo, with Paso Largo being the fastest of the three.  Paso Finos are shown in many disciplines, including driving, versatility, and trail, but they are primarily shown in three styles or abilities.  The styles are Classic Fino, Performance and Pleasure. 

Classic Fino is considered the most difficult of the styles.  The horses are shown with extreme collection, extreme rapid footfalls and very slow forward speed.  Only a small percentage of the horses are able to perform in the Classic Fino division.

Vendors at the show include many leather goods including saddles, belts, purses, halters and PFHA t-shirts.  There is no entrance fee for spectators. Like many horse shows this year, attendance is about half of what it has been. The classes still seem pretty full and the smallest class that this reporter witnessed was around seven horses.  
The Paso Fino Horse Association invites Memphis to experience their breed. Catherine states, “You won’t find a better horse show.”  If you aren’t able to attend the show this year, you can watch the entire show online at www.pfhalive.comor visit www.pfha.orgfor more information.

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