Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WTF Wed; Generalizations Don't Do Any One Any Good

This one is always a hot topic. Those of us involved with horses, inevitably always end up with a favorite breed or two, and we will stoutly and stubbornly defend 'our breed' to anyone else that cares to be a critic. When a sweeping generalization is made we just can't help standing up (either literally or figuratively) and saying, "Hey, NO, thats NOT correct!"

Well I am no different. I found an ad that had one of those sweeping statements about one of 'my' breeds, and I'm going to expand on that a little. I literally said out loud "WTF!?" when I read this, which really doesn't happen that often anymore. 

The breed in question is the Paso Fino. The breed became one of 'my' breeds as a teenage girl, when I responded to a local newspaper ad that wanted help feeding and cleaning stalls in exchange for riding lessons. I was a few weeks away from turning 16, I had to sell my last horse at the age of 12, and was basically "lessonless" and "horseless". The barn that placed the ad was a paso fino barn. I had never heard of the breed before, and totally fell in love with the horses. I worked there for nearly 4 years, then came back to work for the same barn 3 years ago for a period of a year. The barn was a very competitive show barn, and her horses through the years have won multiple local, state, national, and world titles.  

Part of the barn's business of course was riding lessons. As a teenager, and as part of my 'pay', I learned to ride the pasos, plus assisted in many riding lessons given to other children and adults. Its that experience that made me really stop short on this ad, because the ad could NOT be farther from the truth. 

So, the Ad Text reads: PASO FINO FOR SALE - $1200Amigo is an 8 yo Paso Fino gelding. Bay with black points and small white bands on his front feet. Very smooth ride. Pasture friendly and the easiest to catch. Stands about 14.2 hh. Paso Finos are generally not suited for beginners or timid riders because they have alot of energy and are very responsive. For someone with a little more confidence they are the smoothest ride and look good doing it. For sale for $1200 or best offer. Video available upon request. Respond through this add or contact us at Thanks 

Ok, see that big bold text? Paso Finos are generally not suited for beginners or timid riders because they have alot of energy and are very responsive. This is the statement I said "WTF" to. 

Arabian fans - don't you just all hate it when someone says, "all arabs are stupid, brainless, flightly, dumb airheads". Thoroughbreds get the "they are all flighty, highstrung, hard to control, and all they want to do every is run away with you". Quarter Horse lovers get sick of hearing that all qh's are "lazy, slow, bumbling deadheads that all do that weird lame western pleasure canter thing". All Appaloosas hate white people. Paint horses are all crazy. All Shetland Ponies are mean, spiteful, and hate children.

Ok, you know I could go on and on. 

We all have them. We all know them. Do we try to stop them? Some of us do. 

<< This is the gelding for sale. He's a decent pleasure type trail paso, and the $1200 asking price is a very accurate amount for this horse. 

As we all know, there are extremes of behavior in every breed. Its most often the extremes that people remember and then classify all of the horses of that particular breed together as behaving the same. They see the Arabian Halter Classes (with the animals loosing their minds) in the show ring and assume that ALL Arabians act that same way. The hard truth of the matter is that an older Arabian mare, especially one that has had a few foals, is often the one of the best types of horses for children to learn on and around. They were bred to live with their families, in the desert tents. They were bred to be 'watchdogs' of sorts for the families. They were bred to take care of their humans. Send a child into an older Arabian Mare's stall with a brush, they are gonna come out with their hair all licked and ruffled, and wet marks from where she snuffled the kid to death. Truth be told, I would further trust that Arab Mare than a Quarter Horse Mare with a kid in the stall. Quarter Horse mares are tough, catty, and can flatten a kid up against a wall without thinking twice. Its the way they were bred. QH mares are bred to be thrown out into a pasture, carry the foal, deliver the foal in the pasture with no help, and make sure that foal stays alive - without any human help. We bred them that way. These aren't generalizations, they are part of the history of the respective breeds. Are there Arab mares of ANY age that I would never send a child into the stall with? ABSOLUTELY. Same with the QH's. I owned one such qh mare who just LOVED kids. It all goes back to knowing your horse, as well as knowing how the breed came into existence, how they were handled over generations, and what humans did with them to gain understanding into an individual horses' behavior. 

The Paso Fino stereotype spouted above irked the hell out of me for those very same reasons. I seriously doubt the owners really and truly know the Paso Fino breed as a whole. Going back to the barn I worked for as an example - one of the lesson horses that we used for BEGINNER CHILDREN was a mare, around 15 years old, who when put into a show ring, was as Hot as Hades on a summer day. Mercedes (she's the very top horse on the page) is classified as a solid Performance type Paso, she knew how to turn 'it on' and as a result had a list of awards, ribbons, and titles as long as a mile. You'd think a horse like that would be nearly impossible for a child to handle, right? Reality was you put a child up on her, and she'd become the slowest, most careful, conscientious horse. 

(And, while I'm thinking about it, under News & Events, page 4, under the Southwest Classic heading, in the large picture on the left... thats your's truly in the middle wearing the green shirt. That was during 'happier' times during my employment with the barn. I'm also in some of the pictures for the Fiesta Show as well.)

We sold Paso after Paso to families with younger children simply because paso finos are very people oriented horses. Even the hot, hot, hot show stallions - put a child on their backs, and they just KNOW. I've seen and ridden with children that haven't been riding more than a month be able to ride a paso fino out on the trails, with their families, and have the best time. Once mature and fully trained, they become excellent, sane, levelheaded mounts that literally anyone can ride. That is why the breed is one of the very very few that are increasing their registry numbers yearly - in both horses and members.

We sold Petroleo (second to last from bottom) and Preludio (small black gelding) both to families with children under the age of 10, as childrens mounts. Exitoso (the steel gray gelding) went to a 60 year old lady who had recently retired from riding Cutting horses her entire life, and wanted a horse that wouldn't jar her back any more. Tentacion was being used as a lesson horse for children until her owner decided she was going to sell her privately. 

The whole point to my ad today was simply that stereotypes exist in every breed. We can choose to allow them to propagate and spread, or we can make a stand and say something, loudly. 

I know most of you don't know much about the breed, and what they can/can't do. 

Here are some links for further reading. - Article covers basically what we'd say for any horse, make sure the individual horse is well trained, easy to handle, and has the right personality for kids. - The main breed registry site, some background and information on the horses themselves.


  1. AAAAAH!!! I am a Paso Fino person too!! My Paso is a coming-4-year-old bay gelding. This post really strikes home with me because last summer my mother and I were shopping for our first horses for trail riding. We agreed that we wanted gaited horses (I hate posting, but that is another story) but we didn't know what breed would be best for us.

    My mom loves Tennessee Walkers but for some reason I can never get along with them. We tried out SEVERAL TWHs, but I hated them all. Then one day I saw an ad for a farm that had a variety of pleasure Pasos for sale that were advertised as excellent trail horses. I had never ridden a Paso before, and knew that they were a lot hotter than TWHs. I was tentitive, but we went to the farm to test-drive some of the Pasos for sale.

    The lady there was super nice and put me on a babysitter Paso broodmare to let me try out the gait for the first time. This particular mare was very patient, willing, and forgiving of my newbie-ness. I think most Pasos are, although you have to be careful not to confuse them. Anyway, I was easily able to get her in gait and I had a total blast doing it. I never, ever felt unsafe or that she would take off with me, even though I am a rider who tends to lack confidence.

    Then I rode Zorro and it was true love. I couldn't stop thinking about him, and 3 months later I finally bought him. Mom bought his sister. The four of us have been pretty happy ever since :-)

    Here is a picture of the 4 of us: (My very first bareback ride!)

    I would maybe say that a beginner should take a lesson on a well-trained Paso before buying one, just to try out the breed and the gait. But I would say that for any horse you were thinking of buying!

    If you at least know how to walk, trot, whoa, turn left, turn right, and back up while on a horse, I think you can ride a trained Paso safely.

    I better stop! This comment is getting long! Can you tell I could talk about Paso Finos ALL DAY!?

  2. I'm an appy lover and I ALWAYS get the crappy appy/crazy appy stereotypes..

    my barrel horse kicked a girl once.. because AFTER I told her (several times) that my mare was in heat, she was leading her gelding and let him stick his nose under my mare's tail.. needless to say my mare was NOT happy and fired out with both back legs

    I've found appys to be extremely intelligent and willing and my mare was a one-person horse - I'd trust her to do anything.. she trusted me and would go anywhere I pointed her nose. the one exception? a creek that ended up having a little quicksand footing that as a 2 yr old she refused to walk in.. she ended up jumping down about a 4 ft high bank to avoid the quicksand (very bad for a 2 yr old but I was proud of her to be smart enough to refuse to do something that she sensed was dangerous)

  3. I feel that way when people stereotype Appaloosa horses.... (I like the "Fuglyhorse" blog, but do get irritated at the constant derogatory use of Appaloosas when they talk about "byb's") My first "big time" show horse was an Appaloosa, and I've bred, raised, trained and showed Appaloosa horses for the better part of 25 years. Are there "knotheads" in the breed? Of course, just like any other breed. Are there conformational and asthetic problems in the breed... of course, JUST LIKE ANY OTHER BREED.... Do I find them to be honest, hardworking, fearless and phenominal.. you BET I do! :) ps: I love the Paso's, too!!

  4. Thank you for this! While I like a lot of different breeds, I am a die hard TB fan with a specific fondness for OTTBs. I agree they are not for every rider, the stereotypes really piss me off. They are not crazy or spooky. In fact, given the lifestyle of the track TB I find that very little really spooks them. They are just misunderstood in a lot of ways. I'm sure a lot of folks feel that way about "their" breeds too. Perhaps that is why we are attracted to the breeds we are. Good for everyone to remember when they are tempted to put a breed down.


    OMFG. lol does this prove your point!?

  6. yes I watched that video and debated whether to include it in the post! lol. I didn't only because there's no one else in the ring with her, and there are a few small moments near the end where the gelding wants to go to the out gate, and she kinda jerks his head around a little.

    Plus the way she was careening around the arena... he was obviously taking good care of her, but still! It rather made my heart go aflutter. :) She has a very good start though on her riding career I'd say for sure!

  7. suzyh - lol. I hear you on the fugly blog comment. I love her blog, love her style, and have even had this blog been featured on her blog - but she does get a tad bit overzealous at times.

    I however, am an "equal opportunity outer" - I don't give 2 shakes as to what breed it is in the ad, unless the breed itself has to do with the reason the ad is being featured, such as the stallion that was marketed as the "Spotted Draft". Then any breed is fair game :)

  8. Your blog has been quite entertaining...just ran across it today so I am doing some catch up. I do need to comment on your "generalization" of Arabian halter horses. Some of them, if trained right (just like with any other discipline) enjoy showing halter, flipping their tails over their backs, snorting, prancing, etc. etc. and can still go back to the barn and be quiet, child loving, personable, friendly horses. BUT of course there are some that it is not fun for and if you have an eye for horses you can pick those ones out from the ones that enjoy showing off to the crowd.
    That is my two cents worth.....GREAT BLOG!

  9. I agree wholeheartedly with you regarding arabians.

    I will mention though that I was mentored by a woman who had spent years working with some of what used to be the nations best arabians. She'd be required to halterbreak nearly 200 mares in a span of 2-3 weeks, while they were in the barns delivering foals.

    I 'stole' her assessment of a typical arabian mare for this post, because its one of the truest descriptions of a arabian I'd ever heard. Truthfully, nearly every children's lesson horse i've ever know worth their salt was an older full arab or half arab mare. they just have that mentality bred into them as long as they haven't been ruined by bad training. and trust me, I LOVE my stock horses - but omg can those mare's be a terror to be around sometimes.

    I'm simply going on my own experiences here. :D

  10. We have an old Arabian mare who had a foal a couple months ago. She has always been fond of my son who is two years old now. When we walk out in the pasture to see her and the other mares and foals old Sally follows him around literally with her nose right on top his head. She even pushes her colt and the other mares and babies away from him. Guess she doesn't like sharing her "little person". She is just so gentle with him and protective, it pulls at your heart strings to watch them together.

  11. Those are the arabians I just LOVE. The ones you can send a kid in with a brush, and they come out all snuffled to death, hair licked all into a hundred different directions, etc.

    Like I said in the blog post, arabian mares were BRED to take care of the family. They LIVED in the tents with their families. THEY were the babysitters for the kids. That fortunately hasn't been completely wiped out of them - but the whole 'halter' industry is turning our otherwise wonderful tempermented horses into monsters.

    Even the arabian mares I knew that for an adult to ride were HOT HOT HOT, you put a kid on their back, and they walk like they are on eggshells. Softly, carefully, slowly. Even at higher gaits like trotting and cantering. One ear always on the kid.

    Sounds like your boy has his horsey friend for life already :D. She's the one he should start riding on lead line, cause you know she would do anything to protect him.

  12. I had to comment on this because one of my favorite horses is a Paso Fino. His name is Camino, and he's a puppy. When I came to my stable for the first time, his owner had never met me and thought I'd never even handled horses before. But she let me take Camino out of the pasture (she helped me put the halter on but that was it), feed him, and groom him. Later in the week (I was there for a summer camp) I got to paint Camino for a camp activity. He hardly moved. On the ground Camino is a sweet little puppy, and I love him for it :)
    He's totally different the instant you put a saddle on him, though. He's not... bad... exactly. Just very, very energetic. I've been hoping and praying I'll get to ride him someday, even though I know it will be a disaster. He is -not- a child's riding horse. On the ground, sure. But riding? No way.