Known for their incredible gaits, the Tennessee Walking Horse is a favorite among many equestrians who are looking for a smooth ride. Whether it’s on the trail or in the show ring, this breed makes a statement. But how well do you really know the Tennessee Walker? Check these fun facts below!
#1 – Several breeds were used to create the Tennessee Walking Horse, including an extinct one!
Ever wondered just how this breed came about? According to their Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA), the breed is made of Narragansett Pacer, Canadian Pacer, Standardbred, Thoroughbred, Morgan and American Saddlebred. The Narragansett is believed to be the first horse breed ever developed in the United States, but is now extinct.
#2 – Bred for utility
Though the flashiness of the breed would make you believe it was developed strictly for the show ring, the TWH was originally bred for utility – this included riding as well as pulling and racing. They were an all-purpose ranch horse on many southern plantations!
#3 – Closed Stud Book
The TWH stud book has been closed since 1947, meaning every single horse bred since then must have two registered parents in order to be eligible for registration.
#4 – Three Distinct Gaits
While the TWH is known for the running walk. They also have the flat foot walk, where each foot hits the ground separately at regular intervals, and their canter, which is more relaxed than that of other breeds. Some are also able to naturally perform the rack, stepping pace, fox-trot, single foot and other running walk variations. The below clip shows the running walk.
#5 – Overstriding
If you watch a TWH performing a flat walk, it will look like he is hitting his front feet with his back. This is the desired gait! While in most breeds it would be considered a fault, the TWH should “slide” his back feet directly behind his front feet – in the same track – in what they call overstride. You can see it below in the slow motion clip.
#6 – A couple famous horses were played by Tennessee Walking Horses
Always fancied Silver as a Quarter Horse? This famous equine screen star was played by different horses, including a Tennessee Walker. In addition, one of the horse’s that replaced the original “Trigger” (Roy Roger’s Horse) was by a Tennessee Walker named Allen’s Gold Zephyr aka “Trigger Jr.”
Horse Courses by Elaine Heney
- Listening to the Horse - The Documentary by Elaine Heney & Grey Pony Films
- Shoulder In & Out Training for better balance, bend & topline development with your horse
- Over 110+ Polework Exercises & Challenges to Download
- Dancing at Liberty & Creating Connection with Your Horse (11 lessons) - Grey Pony Films
My 1st and best horse was a tennesse walker..''Goldie,' was truly a Golden Palomino.The vet put her in her 40's when she finally passed....I LOVED HER,,,GOT HER FROM A OLDER gentlemen WHO KNEW HIS HORSES WELL,,IE GEORGE HOWLAND,'' DOWN ON SOUTHERN Wisconsin,,,R.I.P.,,,BUT HE GAVE ME MORE THEN JUST A HORSE,,HE GAVE ME THE FREEDOM,THAT ALL RIDERS WILL DISCOVER,,TO BE 1 WITH YOUR HORSE,,U KNOW HER AND SHE KNOWs U,,SHE WILL NEVER HURT U,QUITE THEE OPPOSITE,,,GOD I LOVED HER,,,,,,,TENNEESSWE WALKERS ARE GREAT HORSES!!maryw
Yes indeed I agree. And I am having the same kind of relationship you had with Goldie. No other horse compares
I owned a Tennessee walker quarter horse mix named Blaze,rode him to work one summer and spent my every waking moment with him they are looking loyal and caring when they go from pets to freinds.!!!
Great article. My TW genetic registered TWBEA is living in South Dakota near Sioux Falls. She is a favorite at the stable. When we ride with other breeds on trails she is taking larger steps so we have been put in front. Last year I started working on gaiting her walk and wow what a smooth ride. Others want me to work their horses quarter horses will not improve much so I have worked with their riders instead. Great activity because of COVid 19.
Thank you so much for the beautiful pics of these magnificent horses!!!
The videos were wonderful & I appreciate the different walks of the TWH.
The info you shared was very helpful to my grandchildren who love horses.
Thank u so much.
They are truly amazing horses! But unfortunately, are also one of the most mistreated breeds of horse iv'e ever seen. And it's sad too. Since they're such amazing horses.
What I mean, is that many shows want them to step higher. So what they'll do is put these incredibly high high-heels, or blocks on their front legs. Which can damage their body structure. And even grotesque, cruel and heavy bits. But the worst thing they will do, is sore the horse. Meaning they will rub chemicals such as mustard oil, diesel fuel, and some cases had said there was lighter fluid and battery acid, on their legs! And then wrap it up in plastic wrap. After it "cooks" in, they will put chains on the open sores.
And the worst part is that many of these people get away with these crimes, pass inspection, and are allowed to show at these shows. Mainly because "trainers" have found ways to hide the scars. Mainly by "stewarding" him, covering it up with beauty products and spray paint, or soring another part of the horses front legs.
These horse are truly one of the most beautiful, amazing creatures to ever walk the earth. And unfortunately, due to them being so sweet and docile, mixed with their beautiful gait, has caused so many horrible people to take advantage of them. And ruin their gait. And I hope it can stop soon. These creatures deserve better.
Terri L W
05/01/23: The information about Black Allan (Allan F-1) sired by Hambletonian is very incorrect. Yes he is in Allan's pedigree but 4 generations back. Allan was sired by Allandorf sired by Onward, sired by George Wilkes sired by Hambletonian; all Standardbreds. Allan's dam-sire line is all Morgan, tracing directly to Justin Morgan five generations back.
The sweet gentle nature of Walkers is WHY people can mistreat them; many other horses would become intractable and unrideable with the heavy shoes, soring, awful bits and such that the Big Lick horses must endure.
As the general public becomes educated and aware of how the Big Lick gait is made, many shows have dropped their Big Lick classes and some Big Lick shows have been cancelled. Things are changing, but there are still many Big Lick diehards who refuse to give it up, no matter what. The flat-shod owners far outnumber the Big Lick people, but for so many years the TWH Breeder's association barely acknowledged us. Guess that's why their membership has dropped so drastically in the last 10 years, as those owners migrate to other organizations that put the flat-shod horse first. Who knows what 2023 will bring for the Tennessee Walker; such a wonderful horse certainly deserves better.