Tuesday, June 23, 2015

So, What Happens at a Paso Fino Show?

So, since I've been dating Ethan, I've now been to three Paso shows, which basically makes me an expert.  Hahaha.  Except whenever I watch the classes I pick out the ones I like and then watch them get pinned in reverse order.  I have a lot to learn.  But, I can at least tell you what goes down.  

First off, drinking starts at 10 a.m. (or at least, it does if your only responsibilities for the day are to hold the dog and take photos).  So, you know, I'm in.  There was also a legit salsa band playing at night right outside the stalls, which was kind of surreal and kind of awesome.

Red Berry Cider is clearly a breakfast food.
Stop judging me.
Second, they go all out with their stall decorations. And I do mean all out.  No silly little stall drapes around these parts.

What you can't see is that behind these larger than life banners is an AIR CONDITIONED dressing room that they made by enclosing a stall entirely in plastic (they just strung rope across the top to hold the plastic up for the "ceiling." Genius).  Yeah. That happened. And it was AWESOME. The rest of us have no idea what we're doing, clearly.

Classes run all day, into the evening.  The divisions are divided up based upon the gender, age, and type of paso you're showing, as well as the rider's age and status (pro/amateur).  There are three types of horses, generally:  Fino, Performance, and Pleasure.  There are lots of other classes as well, like youth classes where they complete a pattern, Bella Forma where they show babies in hand, and even costume classes. 
So much better than white breeches.
I'll give you my very uneducated, hunter-princess, dressage-queen-in-training understanding of the three types of show horses.

The Pleasure horses show at the paso corto (equivalent of the trot, but it's a four beat lateral gait), paso largo (same foot falls, but covers more ground, and can get as fast as a canter), and a flat walk,. They are usually asked to do the sounding board at the end of the class individually, but not always. These horses are expected to show in light collection, with a light rein. Their gaits are a little more extended than Performance horses, but they still have to look smooth. They are supposed to look easy and fun to ride, with good manners and a nice disposition (not too far off from other pleasure classes). Here, obviously, is the nicest Amateur Pleasure Gelding pair on the face of the earth.

So handsome.
Took me all weekend to finally line up this shot right.
A Performance horse is supposed to show more "brio," which from what I understand is basically more energy and more power.  They have a little more action in their knees and hocks than the Pleasure horses, and their gaits are a little more collected (less forward motion, but with more energy). They show at the Paso Corto, Paso Largo, and collected walk, and they do the sounding board individually at the end. For this class, manners and disposition are a little less important, as these guys are judged on their energy, excitement, movement and the quality of their gait.

I didn't take a photo of a Performance horse.
So here's Mooch doing what he does best. Being adorable.
The Fino horses are, in laypersons' terms, the fancy ones. They show at the Classic Fino (the forward speed is slow, but their feet move unbelievably rapidly, and it's extremely collected).  These horses are judged on their conformation, their "brio," and the rhythm of their gait, which should be rapid and consistent (it's also a four beat lateral gait). They are asked to show at the classic fino and halt in both directions, and at the end each exhibitor does the sounding board.  These guys make piaffe and passage look like child's play.

And speaking of child's play, this little peanut rides at Ethan's barn.
This is a Fino gelding.  She rides better than we do.  NBD.
There are two judges for each class, and they can pin the class differently from each other.  At the end of each class, the horses are asked to line up, the judge checks each one's bit and tack, and they are asked to rein back individually (I think this is at the judge's discretion, but it's usually done).

If you're interested, I filmed Ethan's last class, so you can see exactly how it goes down.  It's pretty fun to watch, and the crowds get into the sounding boards (which explains why Ethan cheers at the end of my tests. I have no intention of stopping him, by the way. It's good to rile up the DQ's occasionally).


  1. That is so neat! They look like little wind up toys! So crazy how different it is. What is a sound board? Is that like audience participation judging? I love the pic of the costumes you posted. So beautiful. Horses, man, they're so neat!

    1. No the sounding board is the wooden board in the middle of the ring, it's like a wooden sidewalk. You can see them do it at the end of the video. They do that because their feet move so fast that it's easier to hear the rhythm than see it, and they are judged on how consistent it is.

    2. I didn't catch that they were riding on a board - just that they were going down centerline and then people were cheering. I thought it was like voting for your favorite one, like American Idol - LOL!

    3. Ha! Love it. I should probably suggest that they incorporate this into their next show. They do love cheering!!

  2. I love seeing the little Paso Fino legs go!! Breed shows are a whole crazy world, which is both amazing and insane.

  3. that's it, from now on i'm riding my dressage tests in one of those skirts. we will be invincible lol. (plus the judge won't be able to see my perma half seat!!!)

    seriously tho - this is so cool, thanks for breaking it all down. Ethan and Mooch look sharp as always!


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