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Confessions to Don Pepe Musante                              Spanish Version
By Raul Risso

This is 2004, twenty years after I wrote an article entitled “Pisos, Pisos, Pisos, My Priorities in the Breed, 1984”, which years later was published in the USA by the former Caballo Magazine. I was fixated on the one characteristic that does distinguish and identify our breed from any other gaited one. I did say in the same article “no horse has an excellent gait if it is not strong enough, or lacks the temperament or character to sustain the paso llano over a lengthy distance”. Nevertheless the emphasis expressed in the title, I recognize now, was misleading.

Twenty years have gone by and we continue to breed our beloved Peruvian Paso Horses. And it’s been 15 years since we moved with our herd from Peru in 1989 to our ranch here in Louisiana, USA. Throughout these years my life has changed quite a bit and I have had much exposure to the breed in the context of a very competitive, large market for just about every conceivable breed.

There is no question that the breed has improved but we must strive for even better. Having said that, today I stand for a horse that “first of all is a true horse, and secondly, it has to have Pisos”. There are a couple of quotes that as a young man I heard from one of our “founding fathers”, Jorge Juan Pinillos. He cynically said: “the Peruvian is an animal that most reflects the looks of a horse” inferring that our breed had not accomplished a sound basic structure. The second one that he would repeat again and again is that “when standing, the horse has to do it in a decisive manner”, meaning that it should be able to stand plumb under his body mass.

Peru’s National Organization the ANCPCPP updated the Standard for the Breed a couple of years ago. I have the deepest appreciation for their work. To my knowledge the text approved for the “ideal type” in our horse is correct, with the exception of the description of our horse when seen from a “lateral view”. It depicts a horse standing not straight but too far under its body mass in a form that is described as “a trapezoidal figure”. I believe instead that this is the stance of an animal having pain in its lower limbs. Is this the ideal? The authors justify their “model” by claiming that such an animal has the structural ability to propel its front limbs forward and overstep with its rear ones. This is not proven and even if it is so, we can’t condone for a clear physical defect to be the source of an ability simply because this kind of a horse will be more prone to breaking down due to the stress this poor structure causes. The ANCPCPP is hopefully correcting this mistake. After all this is the leading Organization in the PPH industry. They owe it to the breeders around the world.

What I wrote back in 1984 reminds me of another giant in our breed, Don Pepe Musante, the father of the very familiar judge to aficionados, Jose “Pepe” Musante Jr. Don Pepe was, at the time, semi-retired from the breeding activity having passed the management of his remaining herd to his then young nephew Javier La Rosa. I will never forget when Javier, proud of his accomplishments, held an exhibition for fellow breeders. A large group of respectable older fellows were there and so was Don Pepe. Javier had shown us a good number of very attractive offspring in a very professional manner, maintaining a sequence that helped us to identify their different lineage. We were impressed. As Javier was wrapping things up, putting an end to the presentation, Don Pepe interrupted and corrected Javier, telling him that he was to continue and show, as in the famous Clint Eastwood spaghetti movie, “the good, the bad and the ugly”. Don Pepe was an informed and accomplished breeder but above all a self-deprecating one.

Pepe Musante was careful not to offend fellow horsemen’s feelings and would rather keep his mouth shut or, when asked for his opinion, say something nice about almost any horse. I remember once, when confronted by the inexperienced owner of a miserable looking young colt asking for his opinion, he evoked the famous novel “The Count of Montecristo” in which, the tale goes, this nobleman was imprisoned unjustly for so many years. Don Pepe responded to his host, “trust and wait”.

Nevertheless, Don Pepe had the following to say regarding AV Sol de Paijan. While recognizing his great qualities as a breeding animal (and he did carry on to become a cornerstone in the history of the breed) he implied that the massive use of this stallion and the line breeding of his descendants, which was already occurring at the time, was going to affect the breed by downsizing not only the height but also the overall body mass of our horses. And so it did happen. There was no mean spirit in his words but a genuine concern for the future of the breed.

Don Pepe’s herd was an example of proper conformation and beauty. He had sought animals that “looked like a horse in the first place” and had bred them closely for several generations. Even in their chestnut color with very few white markings, they looked alike. Along the way, as he put emphasis on conformation, he realized that he had paid little attention to finesse of gait and his horses showed low lift and little termino. Peruvian people often use razor sharp meanings in their nicknaming. Thus, the “Musante” horses were referred to, in a demeaning way, as having a 4 beat gait that sounded more like “piqui-piqui” instead of “paca-paca”.

Juan Pardo was a devilish young man, as he still is now into his eighties. When I was just a kid, the National Shows took place in the old Club Hipico in downtown Lima. At one of these shows a Mares Conjunto Class was being held and one of the entries belonged to Pepe Musante. There were no bleachers, just a fence line along the arena where spectators would line up and watch the competition. As Don Pepe’s mares passed in front of a group of aficionados, all of them men from the North where the preference is for flashy horses, headed by Juan they all knelt down and began to pray, first by making the sign of the cross on their foreheads and following with a “Hail Mary full of Grace…” The “nuns”, as Juan irreverently called them.

Don Pepe never showed himself to be offended by such demonstrations. After all, he was his own worst critic. I remember visiting him at home in his later years. He took me to a room full of treasures that my classmate and dear friend Pepe Jr. has inherited, preserves and cherishes. With irony he would talk about “the story of my failures” as he would refer to the latter days of his breeding program and show to a few intimate people, pictures of his horses, some of which he regretted having discarded early on from his breeding program, most probably because their color did not match his preference for the chestnut.

It is reassuring for me to go back in time and rescue the value of the Pepe Musante’s of this very small world of the Peruvian Paso Horse. His horses had identity and they were of outstanding bloodlines. Don Pepe also had his eyes open to the exchange of bloodlines. Very few realize that even before Sol de Oro V fell into the hands of Alfredo Elias upon the death of his brother in law Gustavo de la Borda, that Don Pepe had asked Gustavo for the Stallion. Gustavo graciously consented and the horse was sent to the Hacienda Granados where he was bred to several Musante mares.

Don Pepe Musante’s horses were far from perfect, but very strong. The majority of us in my generation, fixated on showy, fine gaited horses, underestimated their value. Although he never sought the limelight, he did have close friends and followers, some of them mere aficionados, who would gather around him at every National Show. None so much as his nephew Javier, and my brother Pepe Risso Sr. who revered him and have continued to breed on to foundation lines coming from Don Pepe’s herd. A few other breeders, amongst them Ramon Aspillaga who took a Musante Stallion, “Solitario” to Cayalti, then Alfredo Elias and most recently Olaf Hein, successfully introduced Musante bloodlines into their herds.

The breed as a whole would be further ahead with the improvement of the structure in our genetic base if we had followed Pepe Musante’s example. Yes, we all breed Peruvian Paso Horses with a passion to produce individuals exhibiting fine pisos, but firstly they must be strong, sound horses, then they are “Peruvians”. Don Pepe was not the only one to understand this, but he was the first that I know of, to put the words Jorge Juan preached, into real deeds.

And this has been my confession to Don Pepe.
Raul Risso, Louisiana, August 2004

Confesiones a Don Pepe Musante
Por Raul Risso

Han pasado 20 anios desde que escribi un articulo titulado “Pisos. Pisos, Pisos, Mis Prioridades en la cria, 1984” publicado en el Anuario de la ANCPCPP. Estaba yo entonces obsesionado en esa caracteristica que nos distingue e identifica respecto a otras razas de paso. Si bien sostuve tambien en el mismo articulo que “ningun caballo tiene gran piso si no es lo suficientemente fuerte o si le falta el temperamento para mantener el paso llano a travez de una larga jornada”. Sin embargo debo admitir que el enfasis espresado en el titulo, lo reconozco ahora, conducia a conclusions erroneas.

20 anios han pasado y continuamos en la brega criando nuestro querido Caballo Peruano. Y van 15 anios desde que deje el Peru para trasladarme con mis caballos aqui a mi criadero de Louisiana en EEUU. A travez del tiempo he experimentado muchos cambios en mi vida y tambien he visto a nuestro caballo expuesto dentro de un mercado muy competitivo donde existe toda raza caballar concebible.

No hay duda de que la raza ha mejorado pero debemos proseguir en mejorarla aun mas. Dicho esto, sostengo hoy que un caballo debe ser “en primer lugar un verdadero caballo y secundariamente debe tener Pisos”. Hay un par de frases que siendo joven, escuche de nuestro socio fundador Jorge Juan Pinillos. El cinicamente decia: “El Caballo Peruano es el animal que mas se parece a un caballo” infiriendo que nuestra raza no habia conseguido aun una solida estructura. La Segunda que repetia toda vez era: el caballo debe tener “decision al pararse” refiriendose a que este debe estar debidamente aplomado bajo la masa corporal.

La ANCPCPP hace mas de dos anios aprobo un Nuevo Patron de la Raza, lo cual es loable. En general estoy de acuerdo con texto aprobado como el “tipo ideal” de nuestro caballo pero tengo profunda discrepancia con la descripcion de un animal visto de perfil. El “modelo” no esta aplomado, sino parado excesivamente debajo de su cuerpo en una forma descrita textualmente como una “figura trapezoidal”. Creo yo que esta es la posicion que asume un caballo adolorido en sus bajos miembros. Es esto el ideal? Sostienen los autores que asi tiene la estructura requerida para estirar los brazos con soltura de hombros y ser capaz de pasar la pisada de sus anteriores con los posteriores. Esto no esta probado. Y si asi fuera, no podemos aceptar que un claro defecto fisico sea la fuente de cualquier habilidad por la sencilla razon de que las cuartillas de tal animal se vencen debido al “Stress” derivado de su pobre estructura. Esperemos que la ANCPCPP corrija este error ya que esta es nuestra organizacion lider en el mundo.

Lo que escribi alla por 1984, me recuerda de otro gigante de la raza, Don Pepe Musante Hurtado. Don Pepe ya estaba entonces semi retirado de la crianza en si, y anios antes se la encomendo a su joven sobrino Javier La Rosa. Entonces Javier, nunca lo olvidare, muy orgulloso de sus logros sostuvo una exhibicion para los amigos criadores. Estaban presentes un grupo respetable de antiguos criadores y asimismo el Tio Pepe. Javier nos habia ensenado un buen numero de crias muy atractivas y en forma muy profesional mostrando los caballos en secuencias de manera tal que podiamos identificarlos con su linaje. Estabamos impresionados. Javier estaba a punto de concluir con la presentacion cuando Don Pepe lo interrumpio y corrigio diciendole que debia continuar la exhibicion, mostrando “lo bueno, lo malo y lo feo” tomando la frase del nombre de la famosa pelicula de Clint Eastwood de aquellos anios. Pepe Musante era un hombre instruido excelente criador, pero sobre todo tenia humor y era profundo critico de su cria.

Pepe Musante era cuidadoso de no ofender a sus colegas criadores y preferia quedarse callado o, cuando de le pedia una opinion, siempre tenia alguna cualidad que rescatar del caballo en mencion. Recuerdo una vez cuando confrontado por un inexperimentado propietario su parecer acerca de un potrillo de facha miserable. Evocando la famosa novella de Dumas “El Conde de Montecristo”, cuento en el cual un noble sufre injusto cautiverio por muchisimos anios, Don Pepe respondio a su anfitrion: “confiar y esperar”.

Sin embargo Don Pepe tuvo lo siguiente que expresar respecto a AV Sol de Paijan el potro que brillaba como reproductor al cual no solo se le estaban sacando muchas crias sino que tambien se le comenzaba a inbridar. Reconociendo su tremendo impacto en la crianza implicaba que aquello traeria consigo una reduccion de la estatura y masa corporal en nuestra raza. Y asi sucedio. No habia malicia en ello sino mas bien verdadera preocupacion por el futuro.

El hato de Don Pepe era un ejemplo de correcta conformacion y belleza. El habia seleccionado animales que “en primer lugar, parecieran un caballo” y luego los cruzo de cerca por varias generaciones. Eran similares aun en el color que selecciono, el alazan, y tolero poco o nada de blanco en sus extremidades. A lo largo del camino, a la vez que ponia enfasis en la conformacion se dio cuenta de que habia prestado poca atencion a la exquisitez en el Piso y sus caballos mostraban poca agudez y/o termino. Los Peruanos son incisivos en poner apelativos. Asi, los caballos de “Musante” eran descritos disminuyendolos, como de “piqui- piqui” en vez del “paca-paca”.

Yo era un muchacho cuando se celebraban los concursos en el Club Hipico de la Av. Salaverry en Lima y brevemente en La Molina. En alguno de aquellos, no recuerdo cual, fue que Don Pepe presento un bello Conjunto de Yeguas. No habian entonces tribunas, solo una baranda que cercaba el campo de exhibicion a lo largo de la cual se alineaban los aficionados naturalmente agrupados por amistad o procedencia como era el caso de los Nortenos. Juan Pardo era joven“carbonero” y jugueton al igual que hoy, cerca de los 80. Al pasar delante de ellos las yeguas de Don Pepe, los nortenos conocidos por su apego a los animales de gran brazo y encabezados por Juan, se arrodillaron, hicieron la senal de la cruz y luego empezaron a rezar un “Ave Maria, llena de eres de gracia….” Las “monjas” como Juan irreverentemente las llamaba.

Don Pepe nunca se mostro ofendido por aquellas demostraciones. Despues de todo, el era el primero que criticaba su crianza. Recuerdo haberlo visitado en su casa en sus ultimos anios. Me llevo a una habitacion donde atesoraba sus recuerdos, una exquisita coleccion de monturas, jatos, y otras piezas invalorables las cuales son hoy conservadas por nuestro buen amigo Pepe Musante Lacoste. Abriendo un album y mostrandome fotos Don Pepe me hablaba con ironia de “la historia de mis fracasos” tal como se referia a los dias postreros de su crianza, fotos de algun animal que lamentaba haber descartado, quien sabe si por su color que no hacia juego con su preferencia por el alazan.

Es reconfortante para mi retrotraer estos recuerdos y rescatar el valor de los Pepe Musantes de este pequeno mundo del Caballo Peruano de Paso. Sus caballos tuvieron identidad y fueron de distinguidas lineas de sangre. Don Pepe tambien abrio los ojos y busco de refrescar sangres. Pocos saben que antes de que Sol de Oro Viejo le fuera legado a Alfredo Elias a la muerte de su cunado Gustavo de la Borda, Don Pepe habia pedido a Gustavo el uso del Caballo. Asi es que Sol de Oro fue enviado a la Hacienda Granados donde sirvio varias yeguas.

Los caballos de Don Pepe Musante no eran perfectos pero si eran muy fuertes La mayoria de mi generacion fijos en el objetivo del Concurso, buscabamos caballos finos de pisos y de gran espectaculo y desestimabamos su valor. Aunque nunca gusto de la notoriedad, si tuvo muy cercanos amigos y seguidores, criadores y/o aficionados puros que todos conocemos. Mas ninguno como Javier, su sobrino y mi hermano Pepe quienes le tenian reverencia y siguieron con alguna/s linea/s de su cria. Don Ramon Aspillaga llevo “Solitario” a Cayalti, un potro de la cria de Don Pepe. Lo mismo hizo mas tarde Alfredo Elias y ultimamente Olaf Hein, todos los cuales introdujeron con acierto, lineas de Musante.

La raza como un todo estaria mucho mas adelante en el mejoramiento de la estructura de nuestra base genetica si todos hubieramos seguido el ejemplo de Pepe Musante. Es cierto que criamos, apasionados en perpetuar los mas finos pisos, una raza propia del Peru y asi debe ser pero, “primero deben ser caballos fuertes y sanos y luego Peruanos de Paso”. Supongo que Don Pepe no fue el unico pero, de los que yo conoci, fue el primero que paso de los dichos (que predicaba Jorge Juan) a los hechos.

Y esta fue mi confesion a Don Pepe.
Louisiana, EEUU Agosto del 2004


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