The smooth ride and unusual four-beat gait are valued characteristics of the Peruvian Paso horse from northern Peru. This special breed, protected by the government of Peru, has a lateral gait called “paso llano.” The Paso traces its origin to the Spanish jennet, a small, muscular horse with an ambling gait used by the Spanish light cavalry, and to the North African Berber horse bred to survive in desert conditions. For more than 400 years, Peruvian Pasos have been bred for their distinctive gait, good temperament and endurance.
The Peruvian Paso is featured each year during the national horse tournament at Mamacona stables near the ancient temple complex of Pachacamac, about 25 miles from Lima. The week-long festival includes competitions that demonstrate the exceptional beauty and elegant gait of these horses as well as the skills of the riders. The tournament is part of a grand Peruvian festival that includes music, folk dancing and feasts featuring local cuisine.
The event ends with the Marinera dance, a traditional courting dance with the man riding a dancing horse and the woman dancing barefoot on the ground. The woman, dressed in colorful skirts, flirtatiously waves her handkerchief at the rider and repeats the dancing steps of the horse.
Visitors can enjoy traditional cuisine from the Lima area, particularly fresh seafood. Escabeche, an appetizer of fish marinated in a sweet and sour sauce embellished with onion and pepper, is a favorite. Sea bass, shrimp and shellfish are prepared in a number of ways that enhance the delicate textures and traditional Peruvian flavors. Local restaurants, street carts and booths set up for the event feature specialties such as carapulcra, a slow-cooked pork stew with dehydrated potatoes known as papa seca.
Those who would like to savor Peruvian cuisine can do so without travelling to Pachamac. La Costanera Restaurant near San Francisco serves an array of dishes that highlight the regional foods of Peru. Visitors can enjoy authentic Peruvian flavors presented in fresh seafood, drinks and desserts at this Peruvian restaurant.