Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Versatile Tennessee Walking Horse- The Basics

Gaited horses outnumbered trotting horses almost 4 to 1 in the 17th century.  Gaited horses have been around for much longer than most folks realize.

The Tennessee Walking Horse breed's beginning started in 1885 when a Morgan Mare named Maggie Marshall was crossed with a Standardbred out of the Hambletonian Standardbred Family.  The offspring of this pair was Allandorf, who would later be known as Allan F-1.

But what is this way of going "gaited".  Being gaited is a birth defect. When we realized that this defect was a pleasure to ride, we began to selectively breed for it many many years before the Tennessee Walking Horse became known as a breed.

Once perfected and over time, we came to know and love the way of going of these horses and for the purpose of simple identification, the Tennessee Walking Horse became a breed of its own.

Dangerous Intruder - AKA- Trudy

The Tennessee Walking Horse or Tennessee Walker  (Tenn Walker) is considered a light horse breed. Their beginnings were founded in middle Tennessee whose bloodlines consisted of the Narragansett and Canadian Pacer, the Standardbred and later Thoroughbred, Morgan and American Saddlebred bloodlines were added to refine and mixed into the breed.

These horses were originally bred as a utility horse and agriculturists used them as plow horses.  On their "off days" from the field, because these horses where a pleasure to ride, they would use them as "Crop checkers" and thus the term "Plantation Horse" was born  Vast amounts of land had to be checked upon daily, so a sure footed smooth riding horse was needed to check fence, crops and also be the family cart horse.  The Tenn Walker did it all, with style, a relative amount of speed and with class! 

The Tennessee Walking Horse performs three distinct gaits: the flat foot walk, running walk and canter. These three are the gaits for which the Tennessee Walking 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.

These gaits have a variety of speed...much much faster than the quarter horse who travel at a rate of 1 mile per every three hours.  Tenn Walkers can travel up to twice as fast at the walk but usually at about 4 miles per hour.  Their running walk can be as fast at 15 miles per hour. Some Tenn Walkers who rack can "Speed rack" up to 23 miles per hour without breaking into a gallop!

Running Walk - Molley, TWH - age 27 here
In fact, I plan on dedicating an entire blog entry on the natural rate  of the Tenn Walker as many misinterpret their speed for misbehaviour.

Having had Tennessee Walking horses all my life and some other gaited breeds, I can say if they were human, they would be the engineer get 'er done personality - they are all business, friendly, willing and possess a 'professional' work ethic at all times.  They are fun to be around and endear themselves to their riders for their intelligence, versatility and overall steady disposition.

The thoroughbred and Morgan blood in them give them incredible stamina.  They burn fuel differently than a quarter horse would which makes them incredible mounts for long days on the saddle and endurance riding.

It was common for farmers to hold match races with their Tennessee Walkers, which they also used for plowing fields. Even after the coming of the automobile, many Tennessee communities kept their Tennessee Walkers to manage the poor roads of the area.

And lastly, our own Captain Kirk, William Shatner owns a successful Tennessee Walking Horse breeding farm in Kentucky....  Perhaps he will be a stop along the way...

Next up - The Mind of a Tennessee Walking Horse... their not just your regular ole' quarter horses: no way, no how..

For Gaited Horse Training Call - 630-589-2721

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