Breed evolution: The Tennuvian is a cross between a Tennessee Walking Horse and a Peruvian Horse. (For more information, see "Smooth-Gaited Breeds" on page 54.)
Certainly, owners of Walking Horses and Peruvians had crossed them before the early 1990s, but it was then that Colorado resident Paula Bonser fell in love with what she officially christened the Tennuvian Horse.
"I'd just purchased a Walking Horse mare, when I visited a friend's mother who'd crossed her Walker with a Peruvian," she recalls. "The result was remarkable! I loved the way her horse moved and looked." Bonser immediately sold her Quarter Horses, purchased a Peruvian stallion, and started breeding.
In 1991, Bonser founded the Tennuvian Horse Registry, which she now runs from Spring Hill, Florida. The Tennessee Walking Horse-Peruvian Horse cross is accepted for registration, as are Tennuvian to Tennuvian, and Tennuvian to either Tennessee Walker or to Peruvian.
According to Bonser, the Tennuvian is smooth gaited with great endurance - perfect for long days on the trail. It typically inherits the good feet of the Walking Horse, with the smaller stature and more refined head of the Peruvian. It comes in all colors, and normally stands between 14 and 15 hands high at the withers.
Owners tell us: "The Tennuvian gaits are the best of both worlds," Bonser notes. "Generally, they're smoother than the Tennessee Walker's, and they exhibit longer strides than the Peruvian. I call their unique gait a 'soft prance.' "
Ramona Quesenberry owns two 5-year-old Tennuvian mares, both homebred. The Illinois horsewoman likes both the Walking Horse and the Peruvian, but favors the result of their cross.
"I find that their conformation is better than either parent," she says. "They're beautiful and have a nice energy. When it was time to train them, they were cooperative and eager to please - much more so than their Walking Horse mothers were! They're mellow and intelligent, just what I like in a trail horse."
On the trail: Julian and Bette McKinney own and operate the Bar Fifty Ranch in south-central Arkansas. The Bar Fifty features a horse campground, recreational-vehicle facilities, barns, a bed & breakfast, and log cabins, all with direct access to 20,000 acres of trails. The McKinneys own 70 head of horses, many used by their guests. Bette raves about her Tennuvians.
"We're very pleased with their temperament and their abilities," she says. "They're fast learners and great family horses. When guests need a horse for their kids, we often put them on guided rides aboard a Tennuvian."
The ranch's trails traverse mixed terrain in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. There are valleys and hills, creeks to cross, and wooded paths amongst pine and hardwood trees. "The Tennuvians tackle every trail with calm confidence and their super-smooth gait," says Bette.