Paso Fino Training Tips

Paso Fino horses are as easy to train with practical horsemanship based on natural horse behavior instincts.

Are Paso Finos easy to train?

Paso Finos are as easy to train as most breeds. Training, as with any breed, should be built in steps or grades. It's best not to skip any grades to get a solid basic foundation for a long positive relationship with your horse. If a horse wasn't handled much when young, developing trust in people is a first requirement for a safe training experience. A lot of preliminary groundwork is important, such as lounging, sacking out, hobbling, flexing and suppling, long-reining, mounting and dismounting, and round pen work, all preceding the actual riding lessons. This ground training can be done before riding age lending to a smooth transition for mounted work.

The first riding lessons should concentrate on turning, stopping, walking, and backing before asking the horse to move out faster. When the horse is accepting of all commands, let the horse move out doing what feels natural even if it means he is trotting or mixing gaits. Sometimes, Paso Fino horses may not be in gait due to their lack of balance with the rider's weight and lack of muscle conditioning and coordination. This will usually change with time as the lessons progress as well as a steadier four beat lateral gait.

The training techniques of John Lyons and traditional dressage methods also work well with Paso Finos. There are many videos and clinics which discuss these methods in detail. Also understanding horse behavior helps the person to comprehend why the horse reacts negatively or positively when being trained. Furthermore patience is a virtue and a must for a trainer of horses. Attending Paso Fino and horse training clinics especially demonstrating different methods can help you decide what will be best for you and your horse.

How can I get my green Paso Fino started in training?

Basically to start you need to earn this horse's trust and get her to relax around you. Start with a lot of repetitive round pen “reasoning" or training to help. Really until you have the horse's trust and it will relax with and without the saddle on and headgear, it would be best not to try to do much riding training. Sacking out can include a bath towel, nylon horse feed bag, plastic garbage bag, bag with aluminum cans inside to rattle, an attached short rope, and then a little longer rope (but not as long as a lounge line which could wrap around the horse’s legs). That should get you started for awhile!

How do I start my young Paso Fino to train for halter classes?

For halter, you should practice with your horse to stand square on all four feet, with its neck at its natural carriage. The Paso Fino should exhibit its natural 4-beat gait (eventually more collected if able to with more practice) when asked to move out from a standing position. Work on the horse to stand still and square for short periods of time ... 5 minutes, then ten minutes. This should help teach the horse to stand well in the show ring, where it will no doubt be distracted. Also, trailer your green halter horse to local shows to get it familiar with a horseshow environment. You don’t want to travel a long distance to a Paso Fino show and pay all the fees, and then have your horse overwhelmed with the whole scene and misbehave.

What are some pointers on flexing my Paso Fino from the ground or the saddle?

Flexing your Paso Fino makes him supple or soft. Flex laterally only to the point of comfort to the horse; the higher the placement of the neck towards the saddle is preferred over the lower reach to the girth area. To stretch the poll, top of neck and back, flex vertically with head moving inward towards the ground and chest.

What are some other groundwork cues I can teach my Paso Fino?

Helpful groundwork cues include (1) touching with a crop where leg pressure would go, (2) teaching to back up and then to move forward afterwards, (3) getting horse to lower head to ground by teaching horse to yield to hand pressure over poll area; this teaches submission and relaxes the horse.

How does lounging help my Paso Fino?

Lounging teaches the horse to round its back getting its hind legs reaching under its body, with a lower neck carriage. Rounding the back strengthens the back muscles which will help the horse to carry a rider. Lounging teaches forward movement which helps the horse to confront any fears it may have (otherwise which would result in balking or running away). Lounging with a saddle on prepares a young 2-3 year old horse for under saddle training.

How can I get my Paso Fino to improve its natural gait to be an even 4-beat evenly timed gait?

The Paso Fino is a gaited breed; it drives from the rear and propels itself forward from the hindquarters working under itself. Since most Paso Finos do trot in the pasture, the trot is also a natural gait to them; more familiar and comfortable to them as they move relax moving on the forehand with their neck at a lower set than when ridden in gait. For this reason, when a Paso Fino is started in saddle training, the horse lacks the balance and hindquarters conditioning to carry a rider's weight, and usually leans towards the diagonal gait, a trot or a trocha. As the horse gets its balance by working the horse, first at a walk then a slightly faster (probably diagonal) speed; it will eventually start working off its hindquarters.

Achieve this by riding the horse in circles, serpentines, figure-eights, and reverses. The horse that may resist this will take more effort until that horse is more conditioned. Try short 10-20 minute lessons to start. You can also ride the horse at a speed faster than a walk down a hill to help the horse gets its hindquarters under itself when being ridden, but WALK the horse up the hill otherwise it will be counterproductive to your gaiting effort. You can also use a head lifter which attaches to the bosal and headstall. The headlifter goes under the chin and you will attach a set of reins just to it with another set to the bosal. The headlifter causes the horse to shift its balance towards the rear, while the bosal encourages the horse to tuck its nose. Take it slow and practice until you get the practice of using 2 sets of reins and are able to use each set independently of the other. The above exercises and routines should help to bring the horse into balance where it can achieve its natural Paso 4-beat gait. The horse may go from a walk to a slow corto easily if you do not push for more speed initially...just a little faster than an extended walk. From there when steady, ask for a bit more extension and speed.

My Paso Fino went off-gait when she had horseshoes put on for the first time, any suggestions to help her get back into her gait?

As with a change such as shoes to the Paso Fino's natural balance and way of going, it would be natural for the horse to be off stride to start with. For example, like a prima ballerina who is use to wearing dance slippers than having to wear shoes with heels, and do the same moves...not so easy! It could take the horse a little time to adjust to wearing extra weight on its feet. Some folks may want to change the hoof angles, but then any changes from the natural pastern and hoof angles which should correspond, could over time affect and stress the horse’s joints. The same exercises would apply as previously mentioned to help to regain balance and conditioning ... circles, figure-eights, and serpentines.

What are some exercises to help my Paso Fino relax under saddle?

Rollbacks and circles are useful exercises to teach your Paso Fino to relax. A rollback stretches the muscles through the top of the neck down the back, hindquarters and hind legs. It can be executed by riding the fence line, then pulling into the rail. With the rein pulled wide, turn into the fence raising weight out of the saddle. The rollback exercise works off the hindquarters lifting the horse's front end. Circles help the horse to bend and flex it's entire body working out any stiffness. Be light in any leg pressure used. Note: a pacey horse is usually a stiff horse, so you need to get that horse to relax.

How can I improve my Paso Fino's training to stop?

Training to stop uses lateral flexion to slow the horse down and then stop. Use the right rein, then left rein, not both at same time when stopping. When the horse stops, the horse comes with the hind leg under its body and rounds its body. The rider can rise off the back; head comes forward and down when stopping. Teach a verbal command with "whoa" for future riders.

How can I get my trail Paso Fino to flat walk?

Sometimes a problem is that the horse refuses to flat walk and always wants to go faster than I would like. This happens leaving the barn and is more acute on the way back. The result is a pulling contest that is unpleasant and leaves the rider's hands and arms sore. For this problem, I would alternate a pull and release with the reins while maintaining a walking speed.

If this doesn't help, walk the horse into continual circles alternating to the right and to the left, although not real tight circles. Do this for several minutes or longer to 10-15 minutes until the horse tires and settles to a more relaxed walk. Walk calmly for about 15 to 20 feet. If the horse is relaxed, walk farther. If it returns to wanting to go faster; repeat the circling procedure.

Do not lose your patience; you can stroke the horse on the neck while circling to reassure it and keep it calm. This procedure will tire the horse, and it will eventually decide it is easier to walk calmly then walk in circles where it gets nowhere. Always walk your horse on the home stretch.

Also, you can vary your way home, backtrack on the trail, and go on side paths, serpentine a path, any direction so it is not a direct path home that the horse is used too. This is a habit that is more in the horse's mind, so you must break the routine he issued to. I don't believe switching to a bit versus the bosal would make much difference. Additionally, if possible ride behind a calmer horse that will be the lead horse to set the pace for your horse. Try these training techniques individually or mixed to see what may work in your situation.

How should you get your horse to flex down to stretch the neck and poll without her thinking I'm asking her to back?

The rider has already tried a suggestion to put their hand on the top of the horse's neck while doing the flex, but she still backs up. The rider wants to use her for trail riding, even though she is a nervous type. Flexing a horse equals softness in the horse's body. If your horse is resisting flexing, the horse is not relaxed. If you think about a horse in the pasture, it is relaxed and can flex and twist its neck and body in a number of ways without being asked or forced. The idea is to get the horse to be relaxed and comfortable being handled and ridden. Too often, horses are rushed through training resulting in stiffness and even nervousness as they are not sure what is expected of them. From the ground, try stretching exercises with the horse's legs and massaging the back, neck and poll area to get the horse to relax its whole body. If the body is relaxed, the neck should be more flexible too. Since your horse is backing readily with a bit, her mouth is obviously very soft and responsive; try a soft leather bosal as the bit may be a distraction for her when you are asking for a vertical flex. Otherwise ask for this from the ground until she is comfortable with it, and she cannot get confused thinking she is supposed to back.

My Paso Fino had been trained for fino, but now that I am showing him in pleasure, he will not walk. What's the prognosis for him?

A young horse that is trained to be fino when he is not naturally fino may have mental problems due to being forced to do a fino type gait when it is not natural for him. Fino horses are discouraged from walking and to be "hotter" when performing. The young horse will be confused and mentally conflicted, causing it to become nervous when asked to walk for pleasure training. It had been previously taught not to relax when being ridden and now the rider wants it to be relaxed, and to walk. A big contradiction to the horse in his mind of which he may have been punished for before, for doing exactly what you want him to do now. Wouldn't it make you nervous if you were that horse?! With time, patience, and knowledge, the horse's true nature and talent should come forth, and it should become a pleasing, enjoyable pleasure horse.

Therapeutic for your body, relaxing on your mind and rejuvenating for your spirit ...

Experience the smoothest ride with Gracewood's Paso Fino horses. Schedule a visit for a test ride, plan for a horsemanship riding lesson or simply come meet the horses. We are located in central North Carolina near Raleigh. Email us.

paso fino bridle
paso fino rider in western pleasure
Paso Fino rope training bridle
Paso Fino double reins
paso fino bellas formas class
Paso Fino gelding flexing
Paso Fino gelding in ground training being lunged
Paso Fino rider to ride a figure-eight pattern
paso fino gaiting view from rear
paso fino western pleasure halt standing still
paso fino pole bedning
paso fino mare standing still on trail ride
Paso Fino walking over tree on ground in woods
Paso Fino riding through woods
Paso Fino stretchng neck investigating a whirligig.
Pasofino young foal investigating large plastic ball
Paso Fino saddled ready for more training
Paso Fino rider working in gait
paso fino training
pas fino training with western saddle teaching flexing the neck
paso fino training
horse training aids