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6 Things You Didn’t Know About The Tennessee Walking Horse

Image source: unknown (Republic Pictures) - Doctor Macro, Public Domain,

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.

Image source: DanDee Shots - Milton Horse Show wikimedia
Image source: DanDee Shots – Milton Horse Show wikimedia

#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!

Depiction of Hambeltonian 10,  who sired Black Allan, the foundation stallion for the TWH. Image source: Eno, Henry C. - National Museum of Natural History wikimedia
Depiction of Hambeltonian 10,  who sired Black Allan, the foundation stallion for the TWH. Image source: Eno, Henry C. – National Museum of Natural History wikimedia

 

#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.

Image source:  Just chaos - wikimedia https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7128467
Image source:  Just chaos – wikimedia

#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.”

Image source: unknown (Republic Pictures) - Doctor Macro, Public Domain,
Image source: unknown (Republic Pictures) – wikimedia

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