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Tennessee Walking Horses

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The Tennessee Walking Horse Breed

From Wikipedia,

The Tennessee Walker, otherwise known as the Tennessee Walking Horse, Plantation Horse, and other variations upon these themes, is a singularly tractable and comfortable riding horse. The breed was originally bred to carry the owners of plantations around their lands. Their unique four-beat "running walk" is a gait unique to the breed and is incredibly comfortable to ride, making the breed a well-suited trail companion. The breed is rarely seen in any of the sport horse disciplines, however, they are good for long-distance riding because of their stamina and easy temper, and are also seen in Western pleasure and under harness.

Tennessee Walking Horse Breed Characteristics

The Walker is also exemplary in its disposition. It is a remarkably calm and easy-going breed, and is typically easy to train. The Tennessee Walking Horse is usually black or bay, although roans, sorrels, champagnes and pintos do occur. They are generally 15-16 hh.

In conformation, the Walker has a straight profile, with a long neck and straight shoulders. In the show arena, they are known for their gliding running walk and are usually shown with long manes and tails. The breed, despite being a flashy mover, are quite hardy horses.

Showing Tennessee Walking Horses

Tennessee Walking Horses are known for their gaits: the running walk, the flat walk, and their "rocking horse" canter. Although some members of the breed can perform other gaits, including the fox trot, rack, stepping pace, and single foot, these gaits are not desirable in the show ring as they are not as smooth. The running walk is the most famous gait, with speeds from 6-12 mph. As the speed increases, the horse's rear foot overstrides the front print 6-18 inches. The greater the overstride, the better a "walker" the horse is said to be. The horse nods its head in both the running and the flat walk, the ears swinging with the gait. Some Walkers even snap their teeth with the gait.

There are two main classes of Tennessee Walking Horses:

performance horses and flat shod.

The flat shod horses are further divided into trail/pleasure, light shod, and plantation, and are judged on way of going and animation. The trail/pleasure classes have the least animation, the plantation horses the most, with the plantation horses often wearing a heavier shoe. They are not allowed to use pads, action devices, or tail braces.

Performance horses exhibit a very flashy and animated running walk, often referred to as "big lick." They appear to sit on their hind ends, lifting their front end high off the ground. Riders wear saddleseat attire, and tack. Horses are shod in double and triple-nailed pads. These pads, along with lightweight chains (not over six ounces), accentuate the gaits, making them more showy.

The dark side of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry is the abuse that is done by some trainers to produce a "big lick" Walker. Chemical agents such as mustard oil, diesel fuel, kerosene and others, usually put on the pasterns, bulbs of heel, or coronary band of the horses, irritate the horse's legs so that it will accentuate its gait. Other methods include pressure shoes and abusing the use of chains (such as using them with chemical soring agents), and "road foundering" (where the horse's feet are trimmed down too much, the horse is ridden on a hard surface, then topical anesthetics are used to get the horse past the DQPs). Although 'soring' is prohibited at sales and shows, there are still trainers who do it. Currently, soring is detected by observing the horse for lameness and assessing his stance and palpating the lower legs. There are ways to get around these tests. Some trainers teach their horses not to react to the pain that palpation may cause, others time the use of the agents so that it will not be detected when the horse is examined, but will be in effect when the rider goes into the ring.

Although there are measures being taken to stop the practice, and many supporters of the TWH have banned against such cruelty, soring is still an issue at large. The Horse Protection Act, created specifically to stop such practices, prohibits the use of soring agents. The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Spervie (APHIS) is working to enforce the law, sending DPQ's (Designated Qualified Persons) to shows to inspect the horses. According to the APHIS, 525 soring violations were issued in 2003. Penalties ranged from a two-week suspension to a lifetime ban.

History of the Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walker originated from the Narragansett Pacer and the Canadian Pacer. In the early 1800s, these two breeds were blended by Tennessee breeders who were looking for a horse that could handle the mountainous terrain of the area. Confederate Pacer and Union Trotter blood was added during the Civil War, creating the sturdy Southern Plantation Horse (aka the Tennessee Pacer). Breeders later added Thoroughbred, Standardbred, Morgan, and American Saddlebred blood to refine and add stamina to their gaited horse.

In 1885, Black Allen was born. By the stallion Allendorf (from the Hambletonian family of trotters) and out of a Morgan mare named Maggie Marshall, he became the foundation sire of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed.

The breed became popular due to their smooth gaits and incredible stamina. It was common for farmers to hold match races with their Walkers, who they also used for plowing fields. Even after the coming of the automobile, Tennessee communities kept their Walkers to manage the poor roads of the area. The Walkers began to gain a reputation as a showy animal, and breeders sought bloodlines to produce refined, intelligent, flashy horses.

The registry was formed in 1935. The stud book was closed in 1947, so every Walker after that date has to have both parents registered to be registered themselves.

The town of Shelbyville, Tennessee considers itself to be the "Walking Horse Capital of the World"

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