THE TENNESSEE WALKING HORSE
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.
The hill people of Kentucky,
Virginia and Tennessee began crossing the Mississippi River about 150
years ago, their purpose being to settle the Ozark Mountain regions
of Missouri and Arkansas. With them went their best horses. These square
trotting horses were able to cover the ground, but their gait was uncomfortable.
This dilemma caused the tiring of both the horse and rider in just a
Before we get into the short history of
the Tennessee Walking Horse we shall delve into the ancestry of the
horse, as we know it today. These small ancestors of today's modern
horses were named Hyracotherium. They were a mere half a yard
of less in length and about the size of a fox terrier. Their legs were
shorter; they had longer heads relative to their bodies, along with
a more complete series of teeth. They had three toes on their hind feet
and four on their forefeet. Each toe had a pad on its underside; much
likes dogs have today.
Modern horses have long legs, each ending
in a single, powerful toe with a hoof, but no pad. Eohippus lived about
50 million years ago. Although these horses of the past were present
in Europe as well as North America, the majority of horse evolution
occurred on the latter continent.
The Tennessee Walking Horse was originally
called the Walking Saddle Horse, or Plantation Horse, and would do a
running walk, which was fast and comfortable. Its bloodline was a cross
between the Gray Johns, Copperbottoms, Slashers, Hals, Brooks and Bullett
families. This combination produced a type known as the Tennessee pacer
prior to the arrival of Allan F-1 in Middle Tennessee. It was a cross
between Allan and the Tennessee Pacer that produced today's Tennessee
Walking Horse. During this time, the most prominent saddle horse was
the now-extinct Narragansett Pacer, which originated around Narragansett
Bay, in Rhode Island.
Let's go back many, many years ago, to
the Middle Basin of Tennessee, where the Tennessee Walking Horse was
created. The early settlers of this region arrived from Virginia, the
Carolinas and other surrounding states and brought with them fine Narragansett
Pacers. The fine traits of these horse families were combined which
laid the foundation for the Tennessee Walker who developed distinctive
qualities of its own.
This fine horse was developed for the
purposes of riding, driving and light farm work. They also became very
popular with Southern plantation owners who called them Plantation Walkers.
A constant need was for horses with comfortable gaits that could carry
them the many miles necessary for inspecting massive fields.
Country doctors also favored the Walker
because of the many hours spent on horseback. The Circuit Rider and
country preacher also favored the Walker because of its fast and steady
gait. (Bred in Virginia, Traveler was bought by General Lee in 1861.
His breeding was possibly of Thoroughbred, Morgan and Narragansett blood,
which flows through so many well known Tennessee Walking Horses,)
The stallion who was chosen as the foundation
sire of the Tennessee Walking Horse (the registry was formed in 1935)
was Allan. This great black stallion's ancestry was a mixture of Morgan
and Hambletonian, who was the founding sire of the Standardbred. Allan
was the greatest contributor to the Walking Horse breed.
Tennessee's soil is rich in minerals via
the water flow over the limestone rocks. This in turn produced the hardy
Tennessee Walkers making them whole and free from disease. These qualities
have been passed on throughout the breed in all parts of the world.
Common Walkers are considered friendly,
gentle and intelligent animals. Colors of the breed vary including brown,
black, bay, chestnut, roan, palomino, white or gray. Their face, legs
and body may also be marked with white. The average height is 15.2 hands,
they have a long graceful neck, short back, well-built hindquarters,
sloping shoulders, slender but strong legs, and sound feet. The Walker's
head is well refined with bright eyes, outstanding nostrils, and pointed
well-shaped ears. Their manes and tails are usually left long and flowing.
The Walking Horse has three natural gaits,
the flat-foot walk, the funning walk, and the canter. All three of which
are natural smooth gaits.
The Flat walk is the slowest of the three,
described as bold, even and comfortable for the rider.
The Running walk is a faster movement
and gives the rider a sensation of 'gliding.' therefore, the Walker
is called the Walking Horse a ride with a glide.
The Canter is a rise and fall movement.
It is described as a spring and rhythm movement without jar or jolt
to the rider.
The Tennessee Walking Horse is a trail
and show horse throughout the country. They have developed good manners
and extraordinarily comfortable gaits which make them ideal for novice,
middle-aged and elderly riders.