Peruvian Pasos: The Best Ride on Earth?

Bloged in Peruvian Pasos by admin Tuesday March 27, 2007

Although spring officially arrived less than a week ago, I
am already planning a summer trip to visit my friends in
Missouri. We were debating what we would do for our week
together, and got one idea from the website for a farm
about ninety minutes southwest of Saint Louis. The farm
offers week long trail riding vacations—I was already
half-hooked–through the Ozarks. They even let you bring
your horse along.

But what made the idea of a summer week on horseback at
this particular farm sound almost heavenly to me is that
their own string of trail horses includes Missouri
Foxtrotters, Tennessee Walking Horses, and Peruvian Paso
Horses.

I have been lucky enough to have already ridden both the
Foxtrotters and Walking Horses, but not a Paso. In fact,
I don’t know any one who has ridden a Paso, but from their
remarkable way of moving I know it must be the ride of a
lifetime.

Even though the ancestors of the modern Peruvian Paso
breed made it to South America with the Spanish
Conquistadors over four hundred years ago, the modern Paso
was inexplicably overlooked in North America until the
1970’s. But Peruvian Pasos are now showing up in both
Canadian and American show rings, and stealing honors from
the better-established gaited breeds.

The truly remarkable thing abut these horses is that they
can’t be anything other than magnificent movers. They are
genetically gaited, and need absolutely no training to
perform their classic “Paso Llano”. Performed on a very
even beat, in a left-hind, left-front, right-hind, and
right-front pattern, the Paso Llano will always have the
horse with one foot on the ground, eliminating the jarring
quality that comes with an ordinary trot.

It’s not only the smooth ride that makes Peruvian Pasos so
appealing; it is their “brio”, or natural flair. They
come into the world with inherited “termino”, a trait
which causes them, when they stride, to swing their front
legs to one side from the shoulder so that their back
hooves will hit the ground either in or beyond the front
hoofmark.

In doing this, they naturally lift their front legs as
high as other gaited breeds which have been trained with
artificial aids. Peruvian Pasos are always shown
barefoot, and still outperform many of their artificially
encouraged competitors.

The brio of the Pasos includes their abundant energy,
curiosity, and showiness, but they also are renowned for
their intelligence and calm demeanor.

Although they are small to medium sized-horses, averaging
between 14 and 15.2 hands, Peruvian Pasos are
exceptionally muscular and were originally bred for
stamina so that they could carry their riders without
tiring over vast distances on the South American pampas.
Their wonderful way of going and their endurance, would, I
think, make them the ultimate trail horse.

Add thick, wavy manes and tails, parade horse
presence–especially from the palominos–and I can’t
think of a better way to spend a few summer afternoons
than enjoying the outdoors atop a beautiful, graceful
Peruvian Paso!

Picture of Peruvia Pasos

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Barbaro’s Baby Brother

Bloged in Barbaro by admin Thursday March 22, 2007

With all the racing sites happily reporting that Barbaro’s
yearling brother now has a name, Nicanor, after another
foxhound in the same painting from which Barbaro’s name
was taken, I thought I would take a look at what has
happens to the younger siblings of other great racehorses.

The truth is that a breeder is about as likely to catch
lightning in a bottle as to produce multiple champions of
the same parentage. Yet the odds against getting any
champion at all are so enormous that breeders have to stay
with formulas that have worked. And when a baby with a
successful older sibling hits the auction ring, its
relationship to a star will often compensate for some
questionable conformation.

Without doing any research, I was able to come up with
five sets of siblings who had done their parents
exceptionally proud on the track.

Nantallah and Rough Shod II’s son and daughter, Ridan and
Moccasin, were both undefeated at two, each winning seven
races. Moccasin was named 1965 Horse of the Year, and
Ridan went on to participate in one of the great races of
the 20th century, the 1962 Travers Stakes, when he and
Jaipur ran a match race for the entire
mile-and-one-quarter, to have a single nose separating
them at the finish.

1962 champion older mare Primonetta, and her full brother,
1963 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner,
and three-year–old champion, Chateaugay, were the
offspring of Swaps and Banquet Bell.

Wheatley Stable campaigned the champion two-year-old colts
of 1964 and 1966, Bold Lad and Successor, who were sons
of their great sire Bold Ruler and Broodmare of the Year,
Misty Morn.

And the breathtaking 1969 Majestic Prince, who won the
1969 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and was America’s
champion three-year-old, had his brother Crowned Prince
named champion two-year–old in England after only two
races.

The final pair of champions I could recall was Canadian
Horse of the Year in filly Glorious Song and her brother,
the undefeated U.S. two-year-old champion of 1983, Devil’s
Bag. A third brother, Saint Ballado, was a Group Two
winner in England, but his importance has been in the
breeding shed, where he sired 64 stakes winners and two
champions, Saint Liam and Ashado, before his premature
death at age 13. Herbager and Ballade were their sire and
dam.

I drew a blank after that, so I went to Google and started
searching on the names of the Thoroughbreds who were
named by Bloodhorse Magazine as the top three performers
of the 20th century. The results were most enlightening.

Man o’ War? His full brother My Play won only nine times
in four years.

Native Dancer? No siblings of note.

And finally, Secretariat. Secretariat’s dam,
Somethingroyal, produced two full siblings to the immortal
chestnut. The first, a filly, Syrian Sea, won two stakes
as a two-year-old, and became a great broodmare in her own
right. Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery said of the
second, a filly named The Bride, “She couldn’t beat a fat
man running downhill.”

Will Nicanor be another Barbaro? No one knows, and there is
only one certainty about his career: if and when he is
saddled for his first race, he will be carrying, along
with his jockey, the hopes and memories of thousands of
racing fans.

Picture of Nicanor (Barbaro’s Baby Brother)

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Pictures of Nicanor and his mother La Ville Rouge

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Picture of La Ville Rouge (Barbaro’s mother)

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Remembering Misty through Mists of Time

Bloged in Chincoteague ponies by admin Tuesday March 13, 2007

When I was in the fourth grade, more years ago than I care
to remember, my teacher, Miss Sears, would read one
chapter of a book to the class each morning. I still
remember how excited I was when she chose Marguerite
Henry’s “Misty of Chincoteague” as one of the books she
would read that year.

And as I was browsing through the horse-related news on
the Internet today, I came across an article suggesting
that the best time to view the Chincoteague ponies, for
which Misty has become an icon, is not during the annual
round-up in July, but when spring comes to the
Maryland/Virginia coast and they can be seen in their
natural habitat.

The article jogged my memory of the tough little ponies,
so I decided to see how they have weathered since I first
learned of them all those years ago.

There are actually two herds of ponies sharing Assateague
Island. In 1943, the U.S. Federal Government bought the
Island and in 1965 made the Maryland end into a national
seashore. The southern end, where the Virginia ponies
were, became the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

The herds are kept separated by a fence which splits the
Island along the Maryland/Virginia State Line, and the
Maryland herd is managed by the U.S National Park Service.
The Virginia herd, on the other hand, has been owned and
managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company since
1947.

Legend has it that the earliest ancestors of today’s
Chincoteague ponies came to Assateague Island when a
Spanish galleon with a cargo of mustangs sank off the
island’s shore in the early 1600s. But logic would
indicate that they are actually descended from draft
animals which the early Virginia settlers turned loose on
the Island to feed. It is known that by 1700, Assateague
was supporting herds of cattle, sheep, and hogs as well as
the ponies.

In the three-plus centuries since the ponies arrived on
the island, they have evolved into hardy, wiry animals
standing between 13 and 14.2 hands, and weighing between
800 and 900 pounds. They were able to subsist only on the
marsh and beach grasses which constitute the island’s
major sources of forage. There were both mustangs and
Arabians introduced into the herds during the 20th
century, in an attempt to diversify their gene pool.

The modern version of the Chincoteague Pony Round-Up and
Swim began in 1927, when the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire
Department needed to raise funds to replace its obsolete
equipment. Every July they round up and pen their herd,
which numbers between 130 and 150 animals, and drive
them across the shallow waters separating Assateague and
Chincoteague Islands. Those ponies which are too weak or
young to make the swim are ferried across.

The majority of the foals are auctioned off to people who
come from all over the United States to participate.

A few foals are allowed to return to Assateague as
breeding stock, but the proceeds for the ones sold not
only supports the Fire Department, it lets the Fire
Department keep the entire herd vaccinated, wormed, and
provided with health checkups twice a year.

The Chincoteague Pony Auction has become so successful
because of the marvelous temperament and adaptability of
the ponies, which are extremely friendly, intelligent, and
tough. They have been used for everything from driving to
jumping, and while they can be any color, a large number
of them are pintos.

The Chincoteague ponies have remarkably durable feet, and
are best left barefoot; they will also thrive on a diet of
high-quality hay with a salt lick and plenty of fresh
water.

Chincoteague ponies are now being bred across the United
States, so it looks as if the story of Misty, such a long
time ago, impressed more people than I ever imagined!

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Airs Above the Ground

Bloged in Spanish riding school by admin Tuesday March 6, 2007

Pluto, Conversano, Favory, Neapolitano, Siglavy, and
Maestoso.

Are they names of characters from one Shakespeare’s more
obscure plays? No.

But they are responsible for some of the elite performers
of their species.

Those six names belong to the six stallions from which
every Lipizzaner, the magnificent white ballet-dancing
stallions of the Spanish Riding School, is descended.

Pluto was a grey horse of Spanish descent foaled in 1765
at the Frederiksborg Royal Stud. Conversano was a black
stallion with Neapolitan ancestry, foaled in 1767. Favory
was a dun foaled in 1769 at the Imperial Stud Kladrun in
Bohemia.

Neapolitano, foaled in 1790, was a brown horse who came
from the Po region of Italy: Siglavy, date of birth
unknown, was a grey Arabian foal from Syria who arrived at
Lipizza in Slovenia in 1810, and Maestoso was a grey 1819
foal sired by Neapolitaner and born in Hungary.

The first and last of these stallions were born over
half-a-century apart; each of the six came from different
parts of the world; and yet the painstaking process of
missing and matching their genes with countless
forgotten mares descended from ancient Iberian horses has
resulted in a bloodline as exalted of that of any of the
world’s remaining Royal Houses.

The Court Stud of Slovenia was founded near the village of
Lipizza in 1580, when Shakespeare was a mere lad of
sixteen. In 1735, Charles VI of Austria established the
Spanish Riding School in Vienna, named for the Iberian
horses in the Lipizzaner’ history. It was Charles VI who
began keeping records of the horse’s pedigrees.

The Lipizzaner breeding operation remained at Piber
remained there for 340 years, and was moved to Piber,
Austria, in 1920. The Piber stud farm was chosen for its
climate and the rich soil of the area, which produced
top-quality forage.

The Lipizzaner breeding stock lived peacefully at Piber
until World War II, when for their safety they, and the
performing horses at the Spanish Riding School, were all
taken to Holstau. Only two hundred and fifty Lipizzaners
survived the war, and conditions in post-war Europe were
so bad that only the intervention of General George Patton
saved the horses from being seized as draft animals.

In 1948 some of the Lipizzaners were moved to the South
Mooi region of South Africa, where Major George Iwanoski
used one of the donated stallions to start the Lipizzaner
of South Africa School, the world’s second accredited
Lipizzaner Center.

The Lipizzaner stallions selected for the Spanish Riding
School performing troupe are all grey or white, and stand
between 15.2 and 16 hands, with a crested neck, back and
neck of equal length, and short legs which they can easily
tuck close to their bodies when they perform the “Airs
Above the Ground”.

There are only about three thousand purebred Lipizzaners,
although the breed is gaining popularity for use in
harness. And Slovenia has honored the horses by having an
engraving of two leaping Lipizzaner on their 20-Euro coin.

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