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Tennessee Walking Horse

Breed Description:

From a smooth-riding trail mount to a high-powered show horse, the Tennessee Walking Horse wears many hats. This gentle breed is becoming the mount of choice for ranchers, endurance riders, field trial enthusiasts, mounted patrol units, handicapped riding programs and outfitting operations.

It began as a hardy utility horse and later became famous under the bright lights of the show ring. The natural, inherited gaits of the Tennessee Walking Horse are the flat foot walk, the running walk, and the easy rolling canter, often called the rocking chair canter. These gaits can be easily recognized from the time that a young foal starts to amble along side its mother. The flat foot walk is a smooth and easy, four-beat diagonal gait that reaches a speed of 5 to 7 miles per hour. During a properly executed flat walk, three feet remain on the ground at all times. Unlike the trot, at no time are all four legs suspended off the ground. The running walk is a more accelerated, gliding version of the flat walk, and reaches a speed of 8 to 10 miles per hour. The added speed of the running walk produces a bolder, more animated look, and is the gait for which the Tennessee Walking Horse is best known.

Breed History:

In the mid- to late 1800s, farmers in the central basin of Tennessee developed, through selective breeding, a superior strain of saddle horse that was both an effective utility horse and a smooth-gaited mount. They crossbred horses that were readily available throughout the region—Standardbreds, Morgans, American and English Thoroughbreds, American Saddle Horses, and Canadian and Narragansett Pacers. It was a standard bred stallion named Allan that laid the foundation for what became the first breed of horse to bear a state name—the Tennessee Walking Horse.

Though he possessed quality racing trotter bloodlines, Allan's natural tendency was to pace. Regardless of the type of mare mated to him, the resulting offspring almost always performed an easy gliding gait capable of carrying a rider effortlessly across the farms and rural roads of middle Tennessee.

When the first breeders' association was formed in 1935 in Lewisburg, Tenn., its founders were faced with the difficult task of selecting the foundation stock on which to underpin the breed. Because many of the more influential horses had long since passed, their pedigrees had to be researched and established. Ultimately, 115 animals were selected and designated Foundation Stock.

Because of his profound influence in developing the breed, Allan was designated the number one foundation horse and became known from that point forward as Allan F-1. This designation was granted some 25 years after his death.

In 1939, the first Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration took place in Shelbyville, Tenn., and it remains today the breed’s largest showcase and its world championship show. In terms of entries and spectators, the 11-day event is considered the largest show in the world, drawing 250,000 spectators and more than 3,000 horses annually. The Tennessee Walking Horse became an officially recognized breed by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1950.

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