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Tennessee Walking Horse

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Title: Tennessee Walking Horse  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: List of U.S. state horses, Racking Horse, Horse Protection Act of 1970, Horse gait, Tennessee
Collection: Horse Breeds, Horse Breeds Originating in the United States, Tennessee Culture, Tennessee Walking Horses
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Tennessee Walking Horse

Tennessee Walking Horse
A flat shod Tennessee Walking Horse
Distinguishing features Unique "Running Walk," Tall, long neck; calm disposition; long, straight head
Alternative names Tennessee Walking Horse
Walking horse
Country of origin Tennessee, USA
Common nicknames Tennessee Walker, 'Walker, TWH
Breed standards
Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association Breed standards
National Walking Horse Association Breed standards
Equus ferus caballus

The Tennessee Walking Horse or Tennessee Walker is a breed of gaited horse known for its unique four-beat "running walk" and flashy movement. It was originally developed in the southern United States for use on farms and plantations. It is a popular riding horse due to its calm disposition, smooth gaits and sure-footedness. The Tennessee Walking Horse is often seen in the show ring, but also popular as a pleasure and trail riding horse using both English and Western equipment. Tennessee Walkers are also seen in movies, television shows and other performances.

The breed first developed in the late 18th century when Narragansett Pacers and Canadian Pacers from the eastern United States crossed with gaited Spanish Mustangs from Texas. Other breeds were later added, and in 1886 a foal named Black Allen, now considered the foundation sire of the breed, was born. In 1935 the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' Association was formed, and the studbook closed in 1947. In 1939, the first Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was held, an annual event that in recent years has attracted considerable attention and controversy.

The two basic categories of Tennessee Walking Horse show competition are called "flat shod" and "performance", differentiated by desired leg action. Flat shod horses, wearing regular Horse Protection Act of 1970, which prohibits the practice of soring, abusive practices used to enhance the Big Lick movement prized in the show ring, which still occur today despite the law. The controversy over continuing soring practices has led to a split within the breed community, criminal charges against a number of individuals, and the creation of several separate breed organizations.


  • Breed characteristics 1
  • History 2
  • Uses 3
  • Horse shows 4
    • Horse Protection Act 4.1
    • Show rules and organizations 4.2
  • Footnotes 5
  • External links 6

Breed characteristics

Tennessee Walking Horse exhibiting the typical long neck, sloping shoulder, and correct head

The modern Tennessee Walking Horse is described as "refined and elegant, yet solidly built."[1] It is a tall horse with a long neck. The head is well-defined, with small, well-placed ears. The breed averages 14.3 to 17 hands (59 to 68 inches, 150 to 173 cm) high and 900 to 1,200 pounds (410 to 540 kg). The shoulders and hip are long and sloping, with a short back and strong coupling.[2] The hindquarters are of "moderate thickness and depth," well-muscled, and it is acceptable for the hind legs to be slightly over-angulated, cow-hocked or sickle-hocked.[3]

They are found in all solid colors, and several pinto patterns.[4] Common colors such as bay, black and chestnut are found, as are colors caused by dilution genes such as the dun, champagne, cream and silver dapple genes. Pinto patterns include overo, sabino and tobiano.[5] The Tennessee Walking Horse has a reputation for having a calm disposition and a naturally smooth riding gait.[2] While the horses are famous for flashy movement, they are popular for trail and pleasure riding as well as show.[6]

The Tennessee Walking Horse is best known for its "running walk". This is a four-beat gait with the same footfall pattern as a regular, or flat, walk, but significantly faster. While a horse performing a flat walk moves at 4 to 8 miles per hour (6.4 to 12.9 km/h), the running walk allows the same horse to travel at 10 to 20 miles per hour (16 to 32 km/h). In the running walk, the horse's rear feet overstep the prints of its front feet by 6 to 18 inches (15 to 46 cm), with a longer overstep being more prized in the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. While performing the running walk, the horse nods its head in rhythm with its gait.[7] Besides the flat and running walks, the third main gait performed by Tennessee Walking Horses is the canter. Some members of the breed perform other variations of lateral ambling gaits, including the rack, stepping pace, fox trot and single-foot, which are allowable for pleasure riding but penalized in the show ring.[4] A few Tennessee Walking Horses can trot, and have a long, reaching stride.[8]


Hambletonian 10, the foundation stallion of the family that produced Black Allen

The Tennessee Walker originated from Standardbred, Thoroughbred and American Saddlebred blood was also added to the breed.[4]

In 1886, Black Allen (later known as Allan F-1) was born. By the foundation sire of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed.[4] A failure as a trotting horse, due to his insistence on pacing, he was instead used for breeding. From his line, a foal named Roan Allen was born in 1904. Able to perform several ambling gaits, Roan Allen became a successful show horse, and in turn sired several famous Tennessee Walking Horses.[1]

The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' Association was formed in 1935, with the name changed to the current Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association (TWHBEA) in 1974. The stud book was closed in 1947, meaning that since that date every Tennessee Walker must have both parents registered to be eligible for registration. In 1950, the United States Department of Agriculture recognized the Tennessee Walking Horse as a distinct breed.[4] In 2000, the Tennessee Walking Horse was named the official state horse of the US state of Tennessee.[9] It is the third most common breed in Kentucky, behind the Thoroughbred and the American Quarter Horse.[10] As of 2005, 450,000 horses have been registered over the life of the TWHBEA, with annual registrations of 13,000–15,000 new foals. While the Tennessee Walking Horse is most common in the southern and southeastern US, it is found throughout the country.[1]


Flat-shod horse performing the Running Walk

The Tennessee Walker is noted for its appearance in horse show events, particularly performances in saddle seat-style English riding equipment,[11] but is also a very popular trail riding horse.[4] Some are used for endurance riding, and to promote this use the TWHBEA maintains an awards program in conjunction with the American Endurance Ride Conference.[12][13] The breed has also been seen in television, movies and other performing events. The Lone Ranger's horse "Silver" was at times played by a Tennessee Walker, and "Trigger, Jr.", the successor to the original "Trigger" made famous by Roy Rogers, was played by a Tennessee Walker named Allen's Gold Zephyr.[11] The position of mascot of the University of Southern California Trojans, Traveler, was held at various times by a purebred Tennessee Walking Horse, and by a Tennessee Walker/Arabian cross.[14] In the 20th century, the Tennessee Walking Horse was crossed with Welsh ponies to create the American Walking Pony, a gaited pony breed.[15]

Horse shows

The two basic categories of Tennessee Walking Horse show competition are called "flat shod" and "performance." Flat-shod horses compete in many different disciplines under both western and English tack.[16] At shows where both divisions are offered, the flat-shod "plantation pleasure" division is judged on brilliance and show presence of the horses while still being well mannered, balanced, and manageable. "Park pleasure" is the most animated of the flat-shod divisions.[17] Flat-shod horses are shown in ordinary horseshoes, and are not allowed to use pads or action devices, though their hooves are sometimes trimmed to a slightly lower angle with more natural toe than seen on stock horse breeds. Performance horses, sometimes called "padded" or "built up," exhibit a very flashy and animated gaits, lifting their forelegs high off the ground with each step.[18] This exaggerated action is sometimes called the "Big Lick."[19] Horses and riders show in saddle seat attire and tack. Horses are shod in double and triple-nailed pads,[18] which are sometimes called "stacks."[20] This form of shoeing is prohibited at shows governed by the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA),[16] and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF).[21]

Western equipment

Horses in western classes wear equipment similar to that used by other breeds in western pleasure classes, and exhibitors may not mix English and Western-style equipment. Riders must wear a hat or helmet in western classes. Tennessee Walkers are also shown in both pleasure and fine harness driving classes, with grooming similar to the saddle seat horses.[17] Tennessee Walking horses are typically shown with a long mane and tail. Artificially set tails are seen in "performance" classes, on full-grown horses in halter classes, and in some harness classes, but generally are not allowed in pleasure or flat shod competition.[22]

In classes where horses are turned out in saddle seat equipment, it is typical for the horse to be shown in a single curb bit with a bit shank under 9.5 inches (24 cm), rather than the double bridle more common to other saddle seat breeds. Riders wear typical saddle seat attire. Hats are not mandatory, but use of safety helmets is allowed and ranges from strongly encouraged[17] to required in children's classes.[22]

Horse Protection Act

A horse's hoof, held onto a thick stack of pads with a band running over the top of the hoof.
An X-ray of a horse's hoof, attached to a thick set of pads filled with nails

The showing, exhibition and sale of Tennessee Walking Horses and some other gaited breeds is governed by the

  • USDA Horse Protection Program
  • Natural Walking Horses
  • TWHAWC – Tennessee Walking Horse Association of Western Canada
  • Tennessee Walking Horse Heritage Society

External links

  1. ^ a b c d Dutson, Judith (2005). Storey's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America. Storey Publishing. pp. 246–249.  
  2. ^ a b "Conformation". Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  3. ^ Meadows, Doyle; Dave Whitaker; Randall Baker; Sis Osborne. "Evaluation conformation" (PDF). Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Tennessee Walking Horse". International Museum of the Horse. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  5. ^ "Colors". Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  6. ^ "History and Description". Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  7. ^ "The Breed". TWHBEA. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  8. ^ Jahiel, Jessica. "Go Gaited! Tennessee Walking Horse FAQs". Trail Rider Magazine. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  9. ^ "Tennessee Symbols and Honors" (PDF).  
  10. ^ Patton, Janet (2013-01-25). "Sale of Tennessee walking horses at Kentucky Horse Park proceeds quietly | Horses". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  11. ^ a b c Harris, Moira C. and Langrish, Bob (2006). America's Horses: A Celebration of the Horse Breeds Born in the U.S.A. Globe Pequot. p. 195.  
  12. ^ "TWHBEA Endurance Program". Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association. Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
  13. ^ "Breed Awards Offered for Endurance Riding". American Endurance Ride Conference. Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
  14. ^ "Traveler". University of Southern California. Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
  15. ^ Dutson, Judith (2005). Storey's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America. Storey Publishing. p. 284.  
  16. ^ a b c "Rule Book" (PDF). National Walking Horse Association. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  17. ^ a b c "Rule Book" (PDF). SHOW. January 2011. Retrieved 2013-05-05. 
  18. ^ a b "Tennessee Walking Horses: The Basics" (PDF). Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitor's Association. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  19. ^ "Tennessee Walking Horses". The Humane Society of the United States. 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  20. ^ a b "Use of Action Devices and Performance Packages for Tennessee Walking Horses". American Veterinary Medical Association. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  21. ^ a b "2013 United States Equestrian Federation Rule Book" (PDF). United States Equestrian Federation. 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  22. ^ a b "2012 Official Rule Book" (PDF). Walking Horse Owners Association. Retrieved 2013-05-05. 
  23. ^ a b c "Horse Protection Factsheet" (PDF). APHIS. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  24. ^ a b c "History of the Horse Protection Act" (PDF). APHIS. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  25. ^ 15 U.S.C. § 1821
  26. ^ 9 C.F.R. §1.11
  27. ^ Purohit, Ram C. "Thermography in Diagnosis of Inflammatory Processes in Horses in Response to Various Chemical and Physical Factors" (PDF). Auburn University. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  28. ^ a b Meszoly, Joanne (November 2005). "EQUUS Special Report: Why Soring Persists". EQUUS. Retrieved 2013-03-17. 
  29. ^ a b Sohn, Pam (September 2, 2012). "74th Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration ends, not controversy". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 2013-03-02. 
  30. ^ a b Patton, Janet (2009-09-08). "Injured walking horses will not be eligible for breeders incentive fund". Stop Soring. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  31. ^ Patton, Janet (2009-11-11). "Walking horse rules supported". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  32. ^ Raia, Pat (2013-05-30). "TWHBEA President Backs Anti-Soring Bill". Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  33. ^ Raia, Pat (2013-11-13). 2013-11-13 "Hearing: Legislative Hearing on "H.R. 1518, a bill to amend the Horse Protection Act.". Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  34. ^ "About the TWHBEA". Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitor's Association. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  35. ^ "Introduction". Tennessee Walking Horse Heritage Society. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  36. ^ "The National Walking Horse Association". National Walking Horse Association. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  37. ^ Patton, Janet (2010-08-05). "USEF links with walking horse group | Business". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  38. ^ "Tracking Registry: Gait and Conformation". National Walking Horse Association. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  39. ^ a b "Welcome to Friends Of Sound Horses". Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  40. ^ "IJA Dressage Manual" (PDF). Friends of Sound Horses. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  41. ^ "Home: What is FOSH Gaited Sport Horses?". Friends of Sound Horses. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  42. ^ "WHOA: Walking Horse Owners Association". Walking Horse Owners Association. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  43. ^ "Dear Friend of the Tennessee Walking Horse". S.H.O.W., Inc. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  44. ^ "74th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration" (PDF). Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Retrieved 2013-03-08. 


Two organizations promulgate rules for horse shows where action devices are allowed: the Walking Horse Owners Association (WHOA)[42] and "S.H.O.W." ("Sound horses, Honest judging, Objective inspections, Winning fairly")[43] which now regulates the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.[44] The Celebration, in Shelbyville, Tennessee, has been held each August since 1939, and is considered the showcase competition for the breed.[11] However, in recent years the Celebration has attracted large amounts of attention and controversy due to the concerns about violations of the Horse Protection Act.[29]

Two organizations have formed to promote the exhibition of flat shod horses. The NWHA promotes only naturally-gaited horses in its sanctioned horse shows, has its own rule book, and is the official USEF affiliate organization for the breed.[36][37] The NWHA is in the process of building its own "tracking registry" to document both pedigree and performance achievements of horses recorded there.[38] These include the barefoot horses,[39] licenses judges for both pleasure classes and gaited dressage,[40] promotes use of gaited horses in distance riding and sport horse activities,[41] and is an authorized HIO.[39]

Another organization, the Tennessee Walking Horse Heritage Society, is a group dedicated to the preservation of the original Tennessee Walker bloodlines, mainly for use as trail and pleasure horses, rather than for showing. Horses listed by the organization descend from the foundation bloodstock registered by the TWHBEA, and pedigrees may not include horses shown with stacks post-1976.[35]

Controversies over shoeing rules, concerns about breed registry is kept by the TWHBEA which promotes all riding disciplines within the breed, but does not sanction horse shows.[34] The USEF does not currently recognize or sanction any Tennessee Walking Horse shows. In 2013 it also banned the use of action devices and stacks at any time in any class.[21]

Showing with single curb show bridle and braided ribbons added to mane and forelock, typical of English classes

Show rules and organizations

In 2013, legislation to amend and strengthen the HPA was introduced in Congress. The President and executive committee of the TWHBEA voted to support this legislation, but the full board of directors chose not to.[32] The bill, H.R. 1518, was sponsored by Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN), with 216 co-sponsors. On November 13, 2013 a hearing was held. Supporters included the American Horse Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association, members of the TWHBEA, the International Walking Horse Association, and Friends of Sound Horses. Opponents included members of the Performance Horse Show Association, and the Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture.[33]

[31][30] Soring can be detected by observing the horse for

Soring is defined by the HPA with four meanings: "(3)(A) an irritating or blistering agent has been applied, internally or externally, by a person to any limb of a horse, (B) any burn, cut, or laceration has been inflicted by a person on any limb of a horse, (C) any tack, nail, screw, or chemical agent has been injected by a person into or used by a person on any limb of a horse, or (D) any other substance or device has been used by a person on any limb of a horse or a person has engaged in a practice involving a horse, and, as a result of such application, infliction, injection, use, or practice, such horse suffers, or can reasonably be expected to suffer, physical pain or distress, inflammation, or lameness when walking, "[25] Action devices, which remain legal but are often used in conjunction with illegal soring practices,[20] are defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as "any boot, collar, chain, roller, or other device which encircles or is placed upon the lower extremity of the leg of a horse in such a manner that it can either rotate around the leg, or slide up and down the leg so as to cause friction, or which can strike the hoof, coronet band or fetlock joint."[26] Between 1978 and 1982, research was undertaken by Auburn University as to the effect of applications of chemical and physical irritants to the legs of Tennessee Walking Horses. The study found that chains of any weight used in combination with chemical soring produced lesions and pain in horses. However, chains of 6 ounces or lighter, used on their own, produced no pain, tissue damage or thermographic changes.[27]


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