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Choosing a Tennessee Walking Horse

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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The Tennessee Walking Horse, also called the Southern Plantation Walking Horse, is a horse with a characteristic gait that results in a very smooth ride. Originally used by farmers, the Tennessee Walking Horse is now an excellent pleasure horse and trail riding horse.

History and Origin

As with most American breeds, the Tennessee Walking Horse is based on Spanish stock brought to the United States by Spanish conquistadors. The ancestry of the Tennessee Walking Horse can be traced back to the Narragansett Pacer horse and the forerunners of the modern day horse were bred in the early 1900s.

The foundation sire of today's Tennessee Walking Horse was a black foal born after a union of a Hambletonian trotter and a Morgan. This black foal was then bred with a Tennessee pacer and the first Tennessee Walking Horse was born.

These horses were commonly used by farmers and gained popularity for their smooth and easy gait over the rocky hills and rough terrain of the Tennessee Valley. When the automobile became popular, the future of this breed was not in danger. The roads of Tennessee were often impassable by cars but were not much of a problem for the horses.

In 1935, the Tennessee Walking Horse breeders' association was founded and the horse was recognized as a breed in 1947.

Appearance

The Tennessee Walking Horse stands about 15 hands tall and is available in a variety of colors. The breed has an elegant appearance with an arched neck, broad chest and well-sloped shoulders. The most distinctive aspect of the horse is the gait, called a running walk.

Gaits

There are three distinctive gaits of the Tennessee Walking Horse – the flat foot walk, running walk and canter.

The flat foot walk is loose, bold and square with lots of high stepping and shoulder motion.

The running walk is the most often seen gait. The front feet are lifted high off the ground. The hind feet overstride the tracks that were left by the front feet. Each foot hits the ground separately at regular intervals. The head nods in rhythm with the rise and fall of the hooves.

The canter, also called the rocking horse canter, has high rolling motion with distinct head motion. The chin is tucked and the overall movement of the horse is smooth.

The distinctive gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse is inherited but is improved with the use of various artificial aides.

Aptitude and Ability

The Tennessee Walking Horse is not just a pretty show horse and is one of the most versatile of all breeds. The smooth gait makes this horse an excellent pleasure horse and trail riding horse. This horse has a calm, kind nature and is a great choice for novice riders.


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