TENNESSEE WALKING HORSES
Originally bred as utility horse, the Tennessee Walking Horse is best suited for a recreational mount due to its smooth, easy ride and its gentle disposition. A calm, docile temperament, combined with naturally smooth and easy gaits insure the popularity of the Tennessee Walking Horse as the "World's Greatest Show, Trail, and Pleasure Horse." A light horse breed founded in middle Tennessee, this breed is a composition of Standardbred, Thoroughbred, Morgan, and American Saddlebred stock. Tennessee Walking Horses generally range from 14.3 to 17 hands and weigh 900 to 1200 pounds. The modern Tennessee Walking Horse possesses a pretty head with small, well placed ears. The horse has a long sloping shoulder, a long sloping hip, a fairly short back and short, strong coupling. The bottom line is longer than the top line, allowing for a long stride. Tennessee Walking Horses come in all colors and a variety of patterns. The diverse color choices are sure to please any horse enthusiast. Different colors should not be discriminated against.
The Tennessee Walking Horse performs three distinct gaits: the flat foot walk, running walk and canter. These three are the gaits for which the Tennessee Walking Horse is famous, with the running walk being an inherited, natural gait unique to this breed. Many Tennessee Walking Horses are able to perform the rack, stepping pace, fox-trot, single-foot and other variations of the famous running walk. While not desirable
in the show ring, the above mentioned gaits are smooth, easy, trail riding gaits.
The flat walk is a brisk, long-reaching walk that can cover from four to eight miles an hour. This is a four cornered gait with each of the horse's feet hitting the ground separately at regular intervals. The horse will glide over the track left by the front foot with his hind foot: right rear over right front, left rear over left front. The action of the back foot slipping over the front track is known as over stride. Over stride is unique to the walking horse breed. The hock should show only forward motion; vertical hock action is highly undesirable. A Tennessee Walking Horse will nod its head in rhythm with the cadence of its feet. This nodding head motion, along with overstride, are two features that are unique to the Tennessee Walking Horse. This distinctive head motion along with overstride are both things the judge should take into consideration when judging a Tennessee Walking Horse.
The running walk is the gait for which the walking horse is most noted. This extra-smooth, gliding gait is basically the same as the flat walk with a noticeable difference in the rate of speed between the two gaits. Proper form should never be sacrificed for excessive speed in a good running walk. The breed can travel 10 to 20 miles per hour at this gait. As the speed is increased, the horse over-steps the front track with the back by a distance of six to eighteen inches. The more "stride" the horse has, the better "walker" it is considered to be. It is this motion that gives the rider a feeling of gliding through the air as if propelled by some powerful but smooth-running machine. Since their gaits are easy for them to perform, some walking horses relax certain muscles while executing the running-walk; they may flop their ears in rhythm; some may even snap their teeth. The running walk is a smooth, easy gait for both horse and rider. A true Tennessee Walking Horse will continue to nod while performing the running walk. Judging should not influenced by speed, but rather by the true form exhibited.
The third gait is the canter, which is a collected gallop. The canter is performed in much the same way as other breeds, but the walking horse seems to have a more relaxed way of performing this gait. The canter is a forward movement performed in a diagonal manner to the right or to the left. On the right lead, the horse should start the gait in this order: left hind, right hind and left fore together, then right fore. The footfall for the right lead is right hind, left hind and right fore, then left fore. When performed in a ring, the animal should lead his canter with the foreleg to the inside of the ring. In the canter, the horse gives one the abundance of ease with lots of spring and rhythm, with proper rise and fall to afford a thrill from sitting in the saddle. Thus, the canter lifts the front end giving an easy rise and fall motion much like rocking chair. This is often referred to as the "rocking-chair" gait.
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed is one of the fastest growing breeds in the USA and Europe. These versatile horses were developed in the Missouri Ozarks and were especially bred for their multipurpose qualities. They are noted for their gentle nature, willingness to work on the farm, their comfortable and surefooted fox trot gait (a broken 4 beat gait) which allows a rider to cover ground quickly and comfortably, their ability to perform impressively in open timed events, and their elegance in the performance show ring at their fox trot gait. These horses excel on trail rides, in competition rides, speed events, field trial events, handicap riding programs, parades, as police and park ranger horses, and more. All the above qualities are those which make up the winning combination for which these horses are known and their owners enjoy.
The motto of those who ride these amazing horses is
"To Ride One is to Own One!"
The three main Foxtrotter gaits are the flat foot walk, fox trot and canter. The Missouri Fox Trot gait is basically a diagonal gait. The horse performs this gait by walking in front and trotting behind with reach in each stride. He may disfigure or overstep his track, provided he travels straight on all four legs and does a true Fox Trot. The fox trot has a distinctive rhythm that is created by a horse moving its front foot a split second before
its opposite rear foot. The fox trot is a smooth gait because the horse is in contact with the ground at all times. A horse that is foxtrotting correctly will never have more than two feet off the ground at any given time. On both the front and back ends the horse will sit one foot down as it picks the other foot up and for a moment both feet will be touching the ground. A true flat foot walk is a four-beat gait in which each foot is picked up and set down in an even cadence. The rear end movement should be smooth and close to the ground without any snap or pop. Each stride should reach forward and slide in as it is set down, over striding the track of the front foot. The head shake is in time with the rear feet and should be smooth. The tail should set still and flow.
The canter is a broken three-beat gait, and should be performed with collection. The horse should be relaxed and under control, should not crossfire, and should be in the correct lead. In the canter the outside rear foot hits the ground first, the inside rear and the outside front feet hit the ground simultaneously, and the inside front foot hits last. This produces the broken three-beat cadence. Because of the rocking motion of the canter, the saddle should move smoothly without surging or bouncing. This rocking chair canter allows the horse to have a showy head movement as the head is used as a counter balance to the broken gait. The head will reach its highest point when the outside rear foot hits the ground, and its lowest point when the inside front foot hits the ground. The horse gathers itself on the off beat and takes another step. The speed of the canter should be near that of the flat foot walk.
The Fox Trotting Horse is not a high stepping horse, but an extremely sure-footed one, and because of the sliding action of the rear feet, rather than the hard step of other breeds, the rider experiences little jarring action and is quite comfortable in the saddle for long periods a time. The head and tail are slightly elevated, giving the animal a graceful carriage; and the rhythmic beat of the hooves, along with the nodding action of the head, gives the animal an appearance of relaxation and poise.
The ideal characteristics of the Fox Trot shall be that the animal will travel with animation, Fox Trot rhythm, and style. The horse will travel in a collected manner. The Fox Trot should carry with it rhythm, the head should nod, the ears should indicate the step, and the tail should be part of the rhythm. The step should be springy, consistent and smooth. The up and down motion should not be noticeable, but rather a smooth gliding gait without swinging.