Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tennessee Walking Horse

 In the late 1800s, settlers of central Tennessee began breeding Morgans, Narragansett Pacers, and Canadian Horses, the breeds they had brought with them when they had first settled there, one with another. The outcome were several fine, elegant saddle horses with many of the good qualities from each breed. However, the one characteristic that set it apart from most other breeds was its unique gaits.

 Most people remember the Walker by its running walk, which resembles a smooth trot that is much easier to ride than other breeds' bouncy trots. Because of that, many people, such as farmers, who would spend long hours in the saddle preferred the Walker over any other breed. Tennessee Walkers are born with the unique smooth trot, and no other breed can replicate it. As the Walker does the swift running walk, which can reach up to 20 miles an hour, he would slide smoothly across the ground, his head bobbing while his hind legs overstepped, leaving prints in front of his forelegs. The running walk is a four-beat gait and the Walker can do it for miles without tiring.

Illustration of the Walker's three special gaits, the flat walk,
the running walk, and the canter.
 Another one of their special gaits is the flat walk. The flat walk is a fast, four-beat gait in which the Walker would overstride, a trait unique to the Walker. His left rear would step in front of his left front and his right rear would step over his right front. Two factors are taken into account when this gait is judged: whether the horse bobs his head to the rhythm of his footsteps and whether he overstrides, both of which are unique qualities of the Walker. 

  The final gait is a canter that resembles that of a rocking horse. The Walker steps one foot at a time, moving either to the right or to the left. For example, if he starts with a right lead, he should continue with the left hind, the right hind, the left fore, and the the right fore again, always moving his legs in a diagonal motion. This gait usually has a lot of spring to it, rising and falling much in he manner of a rocking horse. Therefore, the gait is known as the "rocking horse" or the "rocking chair" gait.
According to the illustration above, this Walker is cantering.
Notice in the illustration that the horse in the bottom right corner
is in the same position as the horse in this picture.

 Walkers are commonly dark in color, usually bay or black, though they can be chestnut, grey, palomino, or almost every other color. Their head is very intelligent looking, with bright eyes and large nostrils; their neck is arched, with sloped shoulders beneath it; their haunches are powerful; and their legs are long, coming complete with hardy hooves. 

 Walkers are show in both western and English competitions and are judged on how well they perform their distinctive gaits. Also, they are used in both leisure and trail riding. 

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