The Tennessee Walker, which is formally known as the Tennessee Walking Horse, is elegant, refined, a built solidly. It’s a fairly tall horse, with the breed averaging up to 17 hands in height. The weight for these horses, however, typically falls into average or below average categories, with most weighing between 900-1,200 pounds. Their head is well-defined, with their smaller ears in good placement a standard for the breed.
If you’ve been wanting to get to know this breed a little better, then these Tennessee Walker horse facts are going to help.
#1. Six different horse breeds were used to create the Tennessee Walker.
Several of the breeds in the bloodlines of the Tennessee Walker are what you’d find in most other modern breeds: Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, and Saddlebreds, for example. One of the unique breeds involved is the Narragansett Pacer, which as a breed is now considered to be extinct. The Narragansett was developed from a combination of English and Spanish breeds and were one of George Washington’s favorites.
#2. The Tennessee Walker was bred to be an all-purpose horse.
This horse breed has a unique look that is “flashy” or “bright,” but that isn’t the purpose behind the breed. They were created to be a standard utility horse. This is why they are tall, generally light, but still quite strong. They are horses that love racing and pulling as much as they love working out on the ranch.
#3. Tennessee Walkers have a closed stud book.
Since 1947, the stud book for this horse breed has been closed. This means every foal must have two parents that are registered through the Tennessee Walker association in order to qualify for registration. If the bloodlines of a parent cannot be verified, even if the both parents are known to be Tennessee Walkers, the foal will not be allowed to register.
#4. There are 3 distinct gaits with the Tennessee Walker.
This breed gets its name because of its running walk gait, but Tennessee Walkers have two additional gaits that are naturally performed. The first is a flat foot walk, which has the horse hit the ground with each foot at a regular interval. They also have a relaxed canter, which makes them an excellent trail riding horse. Some individual horses can also do stepping pace and fox-trot variations naturally.
#5. Tennessee Walkers have a breed trait that other horse breeds would consider to be a fault.
The Tennessee Walking Horse overstrides when it is performing a flat walk. If you look at the horse as it moves, you will see that the front feet could be hit by the back feet while moving. In most breeds, this type of overstriding is considered to be a fault and trainers would work with the horse to limit the habit. For the Tennessee Walker, it is actually a desired trait.
#6. Several famous horses were Tennessee Walkers.
The two most famous horses in this breed are likely Trigger and Silver. Trigger was the Roy Roger’s horse and when a replacement was necessary, a Tennessee Walking Horse named Gold Zephyr filled in on the role. And if you’re familiar with the call of “Hi-Ho Silver Away!” then maybe you know that one of the horses that fulfilled this role was also a Tennessee Walker.
#7. The Tennessee Walking Horse is one of the most popular breeds in the US.
Since the stud book was closed in 1947, more than 450,000 horses have been registered in the US. All 50 states have Tennessee Walkers and annual registrations can include up to 15,000 new foals. Part of this is the fact that the breed as a whole is an easy keeper. Most horses will do well with fresh hay, with only 1-3 pounds of protein grain supplement often required. Some veterinarians may also recommend a biotin supplement for this breed.
#8. The most common health problem with Tennessee Walkers involves their feet.
Extraordinary demands are often placed on this breed in terms of walking and showmanship. Their stride makes it possible to go long distances in a low-stress way, but over time, Laminitis and Navicular disease are known to occur. Tennessee Walkers that are in shows tend to experience a greater risk of these health issues developing. Because the gait is somewhat disjointed, some of the horses may also experience shoulder or back pain or develop arthritis over time.
#9. The name of this breed is interesting considering its foundation.
The foundation stallion for Tennessee Walking Horses was named Black Allan, though he might be referred to as Allan F-1 by some. He was actually considered to be a failure as a trotting horse because of his continued insistence on pacing. The owners decided to breed him instead of dealing with the trotting issue. His sire, Roan Allen, was able to perform many gaits, and that, in turn, led to the establishment of a breed.
#10. The Horse Protection Act of 1970 governs the show, sale, and exhibition of this breed.
In the 1950s and 1960s, owners of Tennessee Walkers were using the process of soring to exaggerate the gait of the breed. Soring involves the intentional infliction of pain to the hooves or legs of the horse. From caustic chemicals to the insertion of several dozen nails into the hoof, the cruelty of these practices is extreme. A sored horse cannot be entered into a show or exhibition, nor is it allowed for sale. Drivers cannot have transported sored horses to a sale or show either.
#11. Several organizations, instead of just one association, govern Tennessee Walkers.
This is due to the many controversies that exist regarding showing rules, laws against soring, and overall compliance with the stud book. The breed registry is maintained by the breed association, which promotes all riding disciplines, but does not actually sanction any horse shows. The United States Equestrian Federation [USEF] does not sanction any shows for Tennessee Walkers either. There is a heritage preservation society to maintain original bloodlines, organizations to promote flat-shod horses, and multiple organizations to create show rules for the breed when allowed.
#12. Tennessee Walkers are considered to be a warm-blooded breed.
These horses are ability to combine their quickness and agility, but still have a milder overall temperament than the hot-blooded breeds that are out there. This makes Tennessee Walkers one of the better overall horses for riding. It’s also why you’ll see them competing in many sporting events, though their unique gait can make it difficult for the breed to compete in specific skill events like dressage.
#13. This horse breed accepts all color variations.
There are considered to be 14 common coat colors available to Tennessee Walkers, which makes them a more diverse set of horses than other breeds which offer color restrictions. This horse breed is also one of the few that would allow multiple registrations should the horse be a specific color, such as Palomino. Grullo is one of the rarest colors in the breed, but it still meets breed standards.
#14. There is an annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in the US.
Often referred to as the “Celebration,” this annual event is the largest horse show for this breed. It has been held every year since 1939 and is always at or near Shelbyville, Tennessee. What is unique about this event is that it wasn’t actually created because of a need to show the horses. The founders of the Celebration simply felt that Shelbyville needed to have a festival or event every year and came up with this idea. Today a World Grand Champion horse is chosen from about 2,000 horses at each Celebration. About 250,000 people come to this event every year.
#15. Only two horses have won three consecutive titles at the TWHNC.
From 1951-1953, The Talk of the Town became the first three-time winner of consecutive titles. I Am Jose would be the second horse to accomplish this feat, doing so in 2013-2015. I Am Jose would also become the first 4-year old horse to take the title of Grand Champion in almost 50 years.
#16. Bud Dunn has been the oldest rider to win at the Celebration – twice.
At the age of 74, Bud Dunn became the oldest winning rider at the TWHNC. In 1999, he was able to set this record again at the age of 81. Dunn passed away in 2001, but spent more than 40 years of his life training horses, mostly in northern Alabama. He was inducted into the Tennessee Walker hall of fame in 1987 and twice won the Trainer of the Year award for the breed. Over his career, he would also win 20 World Championships with various horses.
These Tennessee Walker horse facts show just how versatile this breed happens to be. If you want a horse that is fun to ride and will love the trail just as much as you do, then this is the perfect breed of horse to own.