Tennessee Walking Horse

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Tennessee Walking Horse Playin' Hooky, ridden by Liz Gassaway. Photo by Jack Green. Courtesy TWHBEA

Breed Name: Tennessee Walking Horse

Origin: America

Physical Description:

Tennessee Walking Horses range from 14.3 to 17 hands and weigh 900 to 1200 pounds. The modern Tennessee Walking Horse possesses a pretty head with small, well-placed ears. He has a long sloping shoulder, a long sloping hip, a fairly short back and short, strong coupling. The bottom line is longer than the top line, allowing for a long stride.

Tennessee Walking Horses come in all colors and a variety of patterns. The diverse color choices are sure to please any horse enthusiast. They perform three distinct gaits: the flatfoot walk, running walk and canter. These three are the gaits for which the horse is famous, with the running walk being an inherited, natural gait unique to this breed. Many Tennessee Walking Horses are able to perform the rack, stepping-pace, fox-trot, single-foot and other variations of the famous running walk. While not desirable in the show ring, the above mentioned gaits are smooth, easy, trail riding gaits.

To explain the Walking Horse's mild manner, the breed descends primarily from the level-headed Standardbred, rather than from the hotter Thoroughbred.

In addition to having sensible natures, Walking Horses seem actually to enjoy their interactions with humans. The modern Walking Horse is prized for its amiable disposition and comfortable gaits: the flat-foot walk, the running walk (signature of the breed), and the rocking-chair canter. The running walk is a remarkably smooth, gliding motion that riders appreciate during long hours on the trail or in the show ring.

History:

The roots of the Tennessee Walking Horse go back to the time of the Civil War, when Narragansett and Canadian Pacers were cross-bred with Standardbred trotters, with additional input from the Morgan, Saddlebred, and Thoroughbred. Founding sire Black Allan, brought to Tennessee in 1903, was by a Standardbred trotter out of a Morgan mare.

Once only shown with thick pads that increased the overall length of the foot and thereby the action of the leg, the Walking Horse is now also ridden and shown "flat-shod," meaning with ordinary shoes and no pads. The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association now offers a Versatility Program as a showcase for flat-shot horses. There are over 20 Versatility events, including English and Western pleasure, jumping, reining, trail, barrel racing, pole bending, and driving. The TWHBEA offers a world championship show for its Versatility enthusiasts each year.

The increasingly popular Academy Program, established in 2003, provides opportunities for beginning learners to take lessons from TWHBEA-certified riding instructors. Students pay reasonable hourly rates to ride well-trained school horses. Special "tournaments" held in the winter months allow Academy participants to compete against each other in locations with the most participating instructors.

Primary Uses:

Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are used for virtually every equine purpose. They excel on the rail and on the trail. They are favorite mounts for handicapped riding programs as well as for mounted patrols. They are also successfully competing against other breeds in disciplines such as reining, team penning, cowboy mounted shooting, barrel racing, pole bending, extreme trail competitions, competitive trail, and endurance. The Tennessee Walking Horse is capable of pursuing any equine endeavor, with the added advantage of a smooth ride.

Famous Horses:

Allan F-1 - The foundation sire for the breed.

Midnight Sun - two time World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse and the first stallion to win the title. He went on to sire over 2000 foals and is probably the breed's most influential sire. He was the sire of 7 world grand champions.

Allen's Gold Zephyr - he portrayed Roy Rogers' Trigger Jr.

Stonewall Allen - one of the horses that portrayed Gene Autry's Champion. He was the Champion that accompanied Gene on personal appearance. As such, he became the first horse make a transcontinental flight when he flew with Gene from California to New York to appear at Madison Square Garden. Throughout his lifetime, Gene Autry owned five Tennessee Walking Horses - Stonewall Allen, Stonewall's Storm, Lady Bird Donald, Jacks Captain, and Red Cloud-V

Skyjacker's Mountain High - the 2010 Craig Cameron's Extreme Cowboy Race Non-Pro World Champion.

Lady C - Sheryl Crow's trick-trained Tennessee Walking Horse. Sheryl and Lady C have appeared at various venues and they have also appeared together on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Pride's Generator - very influential sire. Appeared in a special exhibition at the 1984 Summer Olympics in LA.

Breed Association: Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association

(Information provided by TWHBEA and Jennifer Forsberg Meyer)