Dances horses come to town: Paso Fino competition at Suhl’s Rodeo

Competitors ride Paso Fino horses at Suhl’s Rodeo.

 Move over, Fred Astaire! Step aside, Gene Kelly! You’ve got some competition!

The Paso Finos are in town. Are they here to carry on the tap-dancing tradition? Well, sort of. At least they are in the equestrian world. Paso Finos (fine step) are colloquially known as the “dancing horse”’ because the rhythmic sound pattern produced by their four-beat lateral gait across the sound board in competition is comparable to tap-dancing. In addition to their “dancing” abilities, Paso Finos are known for their endurance and are prized trail-riding horses that provide a smooth comfortable ride.

The two main group of horses in the U.S. known as Paso Fino, according to Wikipedia, have been bred in Puerto Rico and Colombia. “All Pasos share their heritage with the Peruvian Paso, the American Mustangs, and other descendants of Colonial Spanish horses,” stated the website.

On July 20 to celebrate these horses in conjunction with Columbia’s Independence Day, The Caballo Bravo (Brave Horse) Association and Club teamed up with Osceola County Commissioner Peggy Choudhry to bring the Paso Fino competition and educational event to Kissimmee at Suhl’s Rodeo. Jed Suhl, a fourth-generation Kissimmee native, is hoping that by hosting another style of equestrian event that is very popular in Osceola County, his place will be a portal through which both horse-loving communities can come to experience and appreciate each other’s equestrian skills and traditions.

The competition was delayed slightly by an afternoon thunderstorm. Thankfully, the storm cooled things off a bit and left behind a welcome blanket of clouds. The competition featured several children’s class divisions, beginning with the “Youth Mini,” the youngest riders, who received a lead assist throughout the course from a parent or trainer through the course. Older children competed in the Youth Pleasure Class, Youth Performance Class, and the Youth Fino Class. The top four finishers in each class went on to compete for the trophy in the Championship Class. The focus of this event went beyond winning ribbons and trophies. It encompassed education, family, and community outreach.

Jayson De Leon, Caballo Bravo’s founder, who is a local real estate broker and former firefighter and paramedic, explained the history and goals of his association.

“We started with a tightknit group of about six or seven folks. Now there are more than 500 of us, so we started doing events here,” he said. “I want to ensure that we do events for the community, and that they’re also educational.”

To make sure these events available to all who would like to attend, he never charges admission - all these events are free to the public. He added that it was his goal to educate the whole family about equine safety, whether one is out pleasure riding or at a competition. For, example, CPR is taught in association with the Sheriff’s Office. This emphasis on community and the opportunity to educate the whole family - to teach future generations about the Paso Fino, and to teach both the adults and the children about equine safety, is what drew Choudhry, to team up with Caballo Bravo.

“I said that would be something I would love to bring to the families that come to these events,” said Choudhry.

The Sheriff’s Office also has two equestrian courses available to the community. Representatives from the Sheriff’s Office were on hand to share information about these programs. Deputy George Cardoso talked about the Mounted Posse program and the Trail-Safe Self-Defense program.

“The Mounted Posse program is a program through the Sheriff’s office civilian volunteer program, or the volunteer services unit, in which civilians who own horses can come out and train with us and work specific events with us,” Cardoso said.

He added that after having trained with them, the civilian riders are able to work events on horseback such as rodeos, parades, and fairs with the deputies and are considered civilian members of the mounted patrol unit.

The Trail-Safe Self-Defense program is designed for horse riding groups and organizations in the community. “The deputy sheriffs teach the riders how to effectively use their horse to defend themselves from an aggressor while they are on horseback,” said Cardoso.

Dr. Jose Sanchez Garcia, of the Sheriff’s Office, hopes that when the public sees deputies on horseback at various events, it will help broaden people’s perception of the role of the Sheriff’s Office in the community.

“They get to see that the sheriff is not only the person who drives the police car, but he is the person who gets on the horse and shows his skills (on horseback) and shows how available they are for the community,” said Garcia.

As the event came to a close, and the children proudly displayed their winning ribbons to their families and friends, the Paso Finos danced right in - doing their part to further the equestrian heritage of this community.