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Use and characteristics of the Tennessee Walking Horse
Tennessee Walking Horses are strong and powerful animals with magnificent presence and full, long manes and tails. Standing 14.3 hands (59 inches/150 cm) to 17 hands (68 inches/173 cm) tall, they look even larger thanks to their conformation and head carriage. Equestrians have plenty of choice when planning to buy a Tennessee Walking Horse. They are bred in most solid colours as well as pinto patterns and more unusual colours such as silver dapple. The breed is notable for its length of shoulders and hips, short and strong back, and long neck. The legs can be cow-hocked or sickle-hocked, which would be faults in other breeds but are of benefit to breeders who sell a Tennessee Walking Horse. That’s because this unusual conformation enables it to perform the gaits for which it is famous. The best-known is the spectacular four-beat running walk, during which the hind feet overstep the front feet by up to 18 inches (46 centimetres). As it powers along at speeds of up to 20 mph (32 kph), the horse nods its head rhythmically. The slower flat-foot walk is also a four-beat gait. They are also famed for their “rocking-horse” canter.
Origin and history of breeding Tennessee Walking Horses
The grass of the good limestone pastures of Tennessee has played an important part in creating the quality of the modern Tennessee Walking Horse. In this noted horse country, many types of horse, including gaited mustangs from Texas, came together to create the breed. Most of the other contributors, such as the Narragansett Pacer and Canadian Pacer, were also gaited. These breeds often became rare or extinct as people began to drive horses more and abandoned the comfortable gait for horses that could trot in harness. The Tennessee horses were first known as Tennessee Pacers or Southern Plantation Walking Horses, and they were useful, beautiful all-rounders on plantations and farms. In 1886, the founding father of the modern Tennessee Walking Horse was foaled. That was Black Allan, a member of the famous trotting Hambletonian line. However, Black Allan was naturally gaited and simply didn’t trot! He and his son Roan Allan passed on their natural gaits to their offspring and the legendary Tennessee Walking Horse breed was born.
Tennessee Walking Horses in equestrianism
Tennessee Walking Horses are great for pleasure riding. Many have variant ambling and pacing gaits, making them supremely comfortable to ride. However, these are not found in the performance horses of the breed. At the highest level, these animals are trained to do the “big lick”, using stacked pads, though this is very controversial. Elvis Presley was a great fan of the breed and had several Tennessee Walking Horses including Bear, Memphis and Ebony’s Double.