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More articles by Raul Risso:
A Time to Reflect
DSLD, In Perspective
Confessions to Don Pepe Musante
DSLD In Perspective, An Elaboration

Pearls From My Memories in North America
Present and Vital Challenges in Breeding Peruvian Paso Horses

Pearls From My Memories in North America
By: Raul Risso

For those of you young and old, the following are treasured anecdotes that I have retained in my memory, some of them very instructive and others simply entertaining. They will tell you about a few of the wonderful characters involved in our breed over the past years. I have witnessed a lot and would like to share these few stories with you. In some of the following tales you will find that I will be somewhat irreverent, but I see no other way to relate the story.

I remember clearly, the Michael’s family ran Hacienda de la Solana in Guerneville CA and “Principe de la Solana” was just a beautiful colt, when I came to the USA as an aficionado. Little did I know that many years later I would be established as a breeder here in the USA and would seek to outcross our mares to Principe. At the time Fernando Grana had been invited to judge the PPHRNA show in Santa Rosa CA. A lot has been printed about Fernando and his accomplishments as a breeder as well as his influence as a judge and promoter of our breed. He belonged to the highest class amongst the many layers of society in Peru. Truly educated and well traveled, Fernando had the intelligence and personality to relate to people no matter their upbringing and always enjoyed the company of younger people. I remember during that trip, when a group of we, visiting Peruvians walked into a McDonalds for a bite to eat (there were none in Peru in those days), and along came Fernando the elder who went and sat at a table by himself, pretending that a waiter would come to serve him!

In those days my nephew Pepe Risso Jr. was a very young college student of Law in Peru. He must not have been that great of a student as he spent long months at Vivian Lundquist’s Meadows Springs Ranch in Moorpark, California doing the Show Tour during the fall. One time when I happened to be her guest, Vivian was untiring, walking the whole large ranch, climbing one fence after another as she showed us each mare, her current offspring, who she was planning to breed that mare to and asking for our opinions on the subject. This was not a small herd. She must have had at least 80 horses at that time and she knew each and everyone and their background. Vivian, who also had a tremendous personality, had previously been a successful dog breeder and exhibitor. With her background, an inquisitive mind, conviction, through trial and error, she took on to breed horses with strength and gait. She was in my opinion, the most successful American breeder and promoter that this breed has ever had in the USA.

In 1984 when I still lived in Peru, the AAOBPPH invited me to judge their National Show in Denver, Colorado. One episode occurred that showed my lack of understanding when it came to judging the Junior classes here in the USA. In Peru, kids who wanted to participate were then required by the elders in the ANCPCPP to “earn their keep” in a manner of speaking. For example, if you wanted to ride with them, then you had to learn to handle, groom and saddle your horse. Back then we did not have juniors classes at our shows. If a child did go in to ride, he (there were no she’s) had to participate in the regular Breeding Classes, competing with the grown ups. Anyway, here came the Juniors in Denver, a rather large class. Unlike today, children were then given some pretty awful horses to ride that could not gait well, while other children had no idea about collection and did not or could not keep them in gait. So I had the announcer repeatedly advise the children to “keep their horses in gait”, took my time and finally selected just a few good horse and rider combinations and had the rest excused. Little did I know then that here in the US, you simply don’t do that! Parents raised hell, and I found out later through the grapevine that one had even threatened to pull a gun and “kill’ the Show Manager, who happened to be Bill McWhinney, Shawna Valenzuela’s father. Bill did not hesitate and called the police, who came in promptly and took the parent with them. Later, when the situation cooled down the police obviously released this understandably upset parent.

In contrast at that same show, two very talented teenagers had tied for the Hi Point Junior Exhibitor. The officials held a special class for the young ladies, Dianna Whisenant and Kim Jaserie, to break the tie. I asked for further maneuvers and all sorts of tests that I could think of to try to bring out a winner but both girls and their mounts performed exquisitely. I lined them up in the center of the arena, and while I stood there and conveyed my dilemma to the girls, I had the officials and parents consulted on what I thought would be the way to solve this. With their approval, and to the girls delight, Verne Albright announced to the spectators that they were still tied and that the only way that I could think of to break the tie was to put the class on hold and to have them come back later on a pair of two different horses, provided by other exhibitors and have them exchange the ride on each of those horses. And that’s what we did later that afternoon. With their unknown horses they both did great. Kim the gracious one, always in control but Dianna, not as refined a rider, would get her message across to the horse by confidently slapping her strange mount with the stirrups. Her self-reliance impressed me and that made me give her the award. It was a toss up!

Ed Houston is another long timer, still actively involved in the breed both as a breeder and as a judge. There are a couple of lessons I learned from Ed. Unorthodox as he is, he was the first judge in our breed here or anywhere else that I saw make the horses walk during a class (a very valuable tool for a judge) long before this was, rightfully so, made a requirement. Secondly, Ed has what it takes when rules are to be enforced. He was acting as Manager at some show in CA. Vivian who headed the Club, went to Ed with a complaint about some known exhibitor who was misbehaving badly and nobody dared to confront. Ed did. He quietly “talked” to this exhibitor and the individual was gone for the remainder of the show! Nevertheless they have remained best friends. That’s Ed for you!

We now move on to another old-timer, a persevering (we Italians are so) and most successful breeder, Gene Pepe. There I was at his beautiful place in Pawling New York amongst his other guests, the McCormicks from Calistoga, California, Adele, Tom and their daughter Deborah. We were having a good time after a long day, enjoying each other’s company with some bread, cheese and wine in his warm old, old house. The conversation was pleasant until Adele, who had dug through the archives in Seville, Spain announced that she had found, so she said, no evidence that the Friesian Horse had been present in the background of the horses brought earlier by the Conquistadors and later on, by the settlers to Peru. She complained to me that we Peruvians shouldn’t allow such nonsense to be written. I really had no opinion in the matter but defended the thesis of the possibility of our breed having Friesian blood. The conversation was becoming heated and turning into an argument when Gene, in his characteristic manner suddenly jumped in. Turning to Adele he said: Adele. She answered politely: Yes, Gene? To which Gene responded: You are full of S….! Needless to say Adele, a great gal, took it in the spirit intended as all of us burst into laughter.

Raul Del Solar, the owner and breeder of “RDS Me Llamo Peru++” the only Stallion in history to have won two National Laureado Breeding Division Titles, is one amongst the few, still active, original true aficionados, no question about it. Raul is not only a breeder, he also loves to teach children. Many who are now middle- aged people and successful breeders, exhibitors and or trainers in their own right, owe Raul a great deal and they profess their devotion to him. But Raul is also a character and we all know that he’ll be irreverent and sometimes loud and exaggerated in making his positions known on an issue. One day at a National Show in Ft. Worth Texas, Raul and a bunch of Peruvians, myself included, were hanging out together, boys alone, kidding each other or anybody else, plainly having a good time. We all know how close a couple he and his wife Jo Ann are so I feel free to tell you this short story. We were walking along the alleyway in the inside area of the arena where the service stands and vendors are located. At a distance he spotted Jo Ann amongst a group of lady friends coming from the other direction. As the groups ran into each other, pretending that he had not noticed her, Raul said, with his potent voice raised, clearly meaning to be heard: “I’m missing my wife. I hope I don’t find her” and kept on walking. We all, of course, cracked up.

We old timers remember Louise and Ray Amsden, presently retired from the horses and still living in Santa Inez, CA. They were the proud owners of *Lancero one of the first imported Stallions from the old Hacienda Casagrande in Peru, a horse that lived well into his thirties. I was judging a show around 1980 in Ventura California and Louise and Ray had been appointed to be my escorts. By this time, rules had been placed on the conduct of the exhibitors and officials here in the USA. Coming from Peru, where there were no such written restrictions, I felt that I knew how to handle myself in an appropriate manner and was not very comfortable with the situation of having an escort everywhere that I went. But the Amsdens and I thoroughly enjoyed each others company, plus they were aware of our two countries cultural differences and knew how to take care of me and interpret the rules. The Ventura fairgrounds arena was out in the open with the sun shining high above. A short time before lunch break between classes on that hot summer day, I was leaning on the fence that surrounded the arena, away from the bleachers and crowds, when Louise approached me holding a glass. She had thought I might be thirsty and passed the full glass saying: Raul, here’s your lemonade! It was so thoughtful. I thanked her and took a sip. It was lemonade all right…..a Tom Collins!

The following is a true story and even though it didn’t happen in this country I can’t help myself in telling it. Years ago there was a horse from the North of Peru who ended up being not memorable and I will not offend anyone if I call him by his name, Rey Castanio. This stallion had caught the attention of a couple of aficionados. They had seen this horse at a small show and felt certain that they had discovered a hidden jewel and were determined to promote him! He was extravagant in his lift and termino and not a bad looking horse but the timing in his footfall was not good and he was very rough to ride. The stallion was brought to the Lima area with much anticipation, build-up and fanfare to compete among the better of the breed and for a while had some followers passionately defending him. As time went by, however, the attention fizzled as he proved to be “no big deal”. Years later we heard that the horse was back in the North and had been taken to a local show held in Cajamarca, a beautiful deep valley in between the Andes Mountains. The installations there were not great and in an unfortunate situation, the horse had died after being electrocuted from chewing, I assume, some loose wiring. Somebody carried the news on to others claiming that the horse had, “committed suicide”.

Not too long ago, a nephew of mine was managing a very important breeding unit here in the USA. We would talk often on the phone and had lively discussions about the high hopes we had for our young, upcoming show horses. As often happened, we were competing against each other in the first show of the year with a couple of promising Bozal colts. At the first show his colt beat mine. My nephew, with the help of some devilish friends went to the trouble of taking photographs during the class and selected some in which I appeared angry, hot and/or disgusted, or pleased while I was riding my colt. They went on to prepare a booklet of photos telling a tale that they entitled, “M……….., a sad story” and delivered it to me upon a visit to our ranch to great hilarity and my chagrin. But the story doesn’t stop there! At the following show, the reverse happened and my colt beat his, with very high compliments paid to both horses by the Peruvian judge. I was on cloud nine! The ending to this story is that all of us, my nephew, his friends, the two judges and I, all ended up being the butt of the joke, as both colts turned out to be…. nice geldings!

Once, while visiting a ranch I was curious to find out what “real inexpensive” horses they had for sale. A very attractive looking, almost three y/old, already gelded chestnut caught my attention. The youngster had good disposition and had been taught manners. I also noticed that he “could trot”. In my mind I thought this was fixable with proper training. I could not go wrong on this fellow! Having brought my horse trailer along for this trip I decided to go ahead and bought him “cheap”, took him back home and proudly showed my wife my acquisition. The horse turned out to be exactly what I thought! Beautiful and energetic he sure was the easiest to handle. But, after several months ridden, he would not gait and would only “pasitrot”. Given my geldings background, (his sire was the same) and that I am not a patient one, the young horse ended up at a local horse auction sold for a very reasonable price, no papers added, just a nice, great looking young horse. Later that day I sat at our porch talking with my wife Lauren as we usually do, about the events of the day. I asked her what she thought these people at that ranch did with horses like “my gelding” to which she replied: “they sell them to people like you”.

These were just a few of my memories……..

Louisiana, February of 2005

Visitors Welcome!
We are located just 90 minutes north of New Orleans Airport in Southeastern Louisiana. 
Please call or email us for your questions, additional information or to book breedings
to our stallions, or make an appointment to view our stock.

Raul Risso M & Lauren Carter-Risso
64486 Bracy Ln
Amite, LA  70422
Telephone: 985-748-4811


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