If you look southwest from the Wildhorse Creek Peruvian Horse Ranch, across gently rolling hills and a deep valley, the lights of Pendleton begin to flicker softly in the distance as the sun fades. The picturesque ranch, outside of Adams on Highway 11, is owned by Juliet Markham and her husband, Cesareo Texidor, and specializes in Peruvian paso llano horses. The horses get their name from their unique four-beat, lateral gait which makes them the smoothest riding horses available, Texidor said.
These are top of the line horses, he said, with a New?York?City accent still easily recognizeable. We want to be the guys (with Peruvians) in Pendleton. Everyone has quarter horses.
Why the Peruvian paso?
When Texidor and Markham moved to Pendleton with their two young girls five years ago, Markham wanted to start riding horses again.
They were thinking of going with paso finos, a cousin of the paso llano that Texidor was familiar with from his youth, which he first experienced when he traveled from his native Harlem to Puerto Rico for summer vacations.
We tried riding them and didnt really care for how they worked, Markham said. We tried Martino (a paso llano) and another gelding and ended up buying them.?Were real pleased. Theyre very gentle and mannerly on the ground.
And when you get on a paso llano?
Theyre real spirited, she said. It feels like youre on a fire-breathing dragon.
That spirit called brio is one of the defining characteristics of a paso llano and one of the qualities that led Markham and Texidor to eventually grow their stable to 11 horses.
Weve done a lot of showing with them, Markham said. Our girls are now showing with them.?Weve had a wonderful time.
Texidor and Markham have Lynn Omohundro to thank for their introduction into the world of Peruvian paso llanos.
Omohundro is the owner of Rafter Z Peruvians, a ranch in Sommerville that sprawls across 400 acres. Although he only started working with paso llanos in 2000, Omohundro has been around horses his entire life.
Before I started riding them Id been beaten up by a variety of things, Omohundro said. (On paso llanos) I could start riding again.
Omohundro said that because the paso llanos are so smooth, they make good horses for children and older riders. And, he said, the joy they can deliver is palpable.
Its call the Peruvian grin, when you ride these horses, he said with a chuckle. Ive never seen anyone be on one for five minutes that didnt get it.
Its that same grin that Texidor and Markham got five years ago. Now, their daughter, Noelle, is a junior reserve champion in Canada, while Texidors reign as the Canadian High?Point novice just ended.
Canadians have wonderful horses in British?Columbia and Alberta,?Texidor said. Its easy for us to go up there for competitions.
Building a brand
Things are busy up at Wildhorse Creek Ranch these days.?Texidor has planted 1,500 malbec grapevines on the property and has plans to plant a grove of marcona almond trees soon.
Another big change will be an indoor arena that should help when 4-H kids come out to the ranch to ride the paso llanos.
The ranch has three horses that it could sell, and just bred two of its mares to Canadian laureado breeding stallions.?The term laureado is used when a stallion wins three major competions, after which it is retired.
One of the stallions is the 2008 Canadian national laureado breeding stallion Coqueton, who Texidor calls the Brad Pitt of paso llanos. When those babies are born sometime next summer,?Texidor said they will not be for sale. Instead, theyll be the foundation for the ranchs future.
I grew up in the slums of New York City, so this is great,?Texidor said, taking in the stunning view. We dont plan on leaving.