August 23, 2008 | | Comments 0

Tennessee Walking Horse

Tracing the Steps of the Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse is yet again another celebrated American horse breed. It has become so beloved that it has come to carry the name of an entire state. Like many other breeds, this walker is also a product of its times.

Horse Breed History

Like other American horse breeds, the story of this breed can easily be traced. All modern American horse breeds have histories no farther than the coming of the first European settlers to America and the landing of the conquistadors. That means all American breeds only have a few centuries of breed history as opposed to breeds in Europe, Africa and Asia that may have been around for thousands of years.

The history of the Tennessee Walking Horse in particular has a history that began some time in the 19th century. This was a time when rough roads were the norm. This was also the period in American history when plantations were a major source of income for southern residents. The Tennessee Walking Horse was born as a result of the desire to have horses that could move easily on tough ground and travel long distances across plantations. These were no small trait requirements. It took breed influences from the Narragansett Pacer, Morgan, Canadian Pacer, Standardbred, Thoroughbred and the American Saddlebred before the modern Tennessee Walking Horse breed was born.

The horses that came out of the breeding pairs were used primarily for farm work and riding. Although breeding efforts were already well under way, it was only in 1885 that the foundation sire for the modern breed was born and eventually identified. A Stallion by the name of Black Allen became the foundation horse of the breed. It would take another five decades before an official registry was opened for the breed.

Today, the Tennessee Walking Horse is a breed used for pleasure riding. In a lot of cases though, the horses of this breed also make excellent show horses.

Horse Breed Traits

Most Tennessee Walking Horses Stand at about 15 to 17 hands. They have an elegant conformation with slender necks, long legs and slopping shoulders. They can come in chestnut, bay, black, roan and sorrel. These horses are generally sociable and manageable although they can also be a bit showy.

The most distinct trait of this breed is the four beat gait that gives riders smooth, comfortable rides. They are also especially known for the running walk in which the back hoof strides over the front as speed picks up. An accompanying trait of this type of walk is an embellished front leg movement that is regarded as highly desirable in the horse show ring. Although many horses can perform this movement naturally, some have to be trained well to perform it. This has led many breeders to use artificial means to push the horse to perform. Sometimes hoof pads and chains are permitted as long as they are regulated and do not cause undue pain and discomfort to the horse. Applying chemical is another method but is strictly forbidden due to the pain and damage that chemicals cause.

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