History of the Tennessee Walking Horse

Tennessee Walking Horses, a History

     The Tennessee Walking Horse surfaced as a breed of its own in 1935, with the registry of Allen F1 (Also known as Black Allen), the foundation sire of the breed. It wasn’t until 1947 that the Department of Agriculture finally recognized the Walker as its own breed. The Tennessee Walker stems from 6 breeds. These being the Narragansett Pacer, the Canadian Pacer, Thoroughbred, Standardbred, Morgan, and American Saddlebred.

     The Tennessee Walker, also known as the TWH, is bred as a utility horse in the south originally. Its main use was for plantation owners to oversee their land, but they needed a horse that they could ride all day without becoming sore or being jostled about by the gait. They required a horse with stamina, endurance, and speed as well. And finally, they wanted a horse with a calm, gentle, even temperament. From this, the Tennessee Walking Horse was produced. It is said that Traveler, General Robert E. Lee’s horse, was the first Tennessee Walker. After the Civil War, people set out to produce a horse with smoother-gaits. Some other well known horses that you may not even have known were TWH’s are Roy Rodger’s infamous mount, Trigger and The Lone Ranger’s Silver. The breed can easily adapt to English or Western riding and is a wonderful mount for people of all ages.

     Tennessee Walking Horses have three distinct gaits. First is the flat walk. This is a brisk gait with long strides, which reaches between 4 – 8 miles per hour. Each of the horse’s four feet hits the ground separately. The second gait is the Running Walk, and is an inherited, natural gait unique to the breed. This is the gait with the Walking Horse became most famous for. This gait is very smooth, and the horse and rider appear to “glide”. It is basically the same as the flat walk; however there is a noticeable change in the speed at which the horse is carrying the rider. 10 – 20 miles per hour can be reached with this gait. Lastly, is the canter. The canter is a gait other breeds have as well, but the Tennessee Walker seems to do it with more relaxation and ease. This is the fastest gait for a Walker, and is also referred to as the “rocking-chair gait”.

     In 1939, Henry Davis came up with the idea to have a “festival” for Tennessee’s most important attribute: The Tennessee Walking Horse. This idea turned into the first Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, which was held on September 7th , 8th , and 9th . The very first World Grand Champion was named there, Strolling Jim. Since then the show has been held annually without pause. There have been 64 World Grand Champions named in a total of 71 years. In 2006 there was no World Grand Champion named, as no class was held. Only 5 horses in the History were named World Grand Champion (WGC) more than once. Of these 5, only one horse was named 3 times. They are as follows:

     Midnight Sun – Named WGC in 1945 & 1946.

     Merry Go Boy – Named WGC in 1947 & 1948.

     Talk Of The Town – Named WGC in 1951, 1952, & 1953.

     Go Boy’s Shadow – Named WGC in 1955 & 1956.

Furthermore, of the 64 horses named World Grand Champion, only 4 were mares. They were:

     Melody Maid – Named WGC in 1942.

     Black Angel – Named WGC in 1943.

     Oakwood’s City Girl – Named WGC in 1944.

     Garnier’s White Star – Named WGC in 1954.

     Today the Tennessee Walking Horse has become one of the most popular breeds in America. They come in almost any color you can imagine, including sorrel, black, grey, roan, bay, chestnut, buckskin, palomino, champagne, cremello, and spotted with variations of sabino, tobiano, and overo. They have become widely known as a versatile horse, competing in both English & Western events, such as barrel racing, jumping, pole bending, and even endurance rides. With their track record, gentle temperament, and smooth gait, its no wonder the Tennessee Walking Horse, also known as the Gentleman’s Horse, is affectionately called “The World’s Greatest show, trail, and pleasure horse”.

Allen F-1
Allen F-1
The Running Walk being performed.
The Running Walk being performed.
Out On Parole (a.k.a. OOPS), 2002 World Grand Champion.
Out On Parole (a.k.a. OOPS), 2002 World Grand Champion.

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Comments 6 comments

Miranda 5 years ago

PLZ Help I have to do a report on the TN Walking Horse and I cant copy sentences off the Internet I have to put them in my own words! That's kinda hard when you have to write a 3 page paper!!! HELP!!!!!!


Chester 4 years ago

it's simple, all you have to do is take the concept of the sentence, choose a couple words and go from there. such as the sentence: "It is basically the same as the flat walk; however there is a noticeable change in the speed at which the horse is carrying the rider."

Interpreted: The Tennessee Walking Horse demonstrates a noticeable difference in speed during its flat walk compared to other breeds of horse.


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DrBill-WmL-Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

I enjoy reading each hub about horses. They nicely help inform my historical fiction family saga stories where horses are used regularly. Perhaps you'll stop by and read some. ;-)


Endang 2 years ago

לינדה,Painful writing, yet couuageors writing, so many never reach the point of being able to open up and share their hurts. Brings to mind a friend who is a succesful inspirational speaker. He and other Insp. Spkr's were at a convention for you guessed it inspirational speaking. A youngish man approached the group of seasoned and succesful speakers and asked if he might ask them some questions, it seems the business in Insp. Speaking that he was starting was not going well, and he couldn't figure out what he was doing wrong. He had gone to school, read many books on the subject, but people just weren't responding.One by one they questioned him, are you married? yes,


Sesha 24 months ago

I am hurting now, for Miranda. That is how you know you are a good wretir, לינדה, when you make us feel things, when we all become emotionally invested in this. I want to fly to her and keep whatever is about to happen next from happening. I want to scream at Harry and stuff a sock in him. בסדר . . I feel a little better now. But I'm awfully tense as I wait for the next page. אהבה וחיבוקים!דבי שפורסמו לאחרונה..


Melanie 3 months ago

The Plantation Walking Horse, as it was more commonly known for years, shared the same breed registry as the American Saddlebred, in 1935 breeders of horses that "walked" began trying to form their own breed registry, the breed wasn't formally recognized until 1950 by USDA as a light horse breed.

The Saddlebred, Standardbred and the Walkers all come from the same lines, and same horses will show up in their lines too.

The Hackney Horse also played a part, as did Arabians since they are part of the founding sires of the Thoroughbred.

And the first horse recorded as doing a running walk, was Bald Stockings, foaled in 1837. Others were more than likely doing this gait, but no mention was written down.

One of the descendants of Bald Stockings, was Roan Allen F-38, who was known to do 7 distinct "saddle" gaits, and knew the cues for each. He was shown both in "walking" classes and as a 5 Gaited Saddlebred and Fine Harness Horse, winning over the great Roe's Chief, and was said to have a lovely square trot and did well in the combination classes.

For many years, into the 1970s, Walking Horses and Saddlebreds were shown at the same shows, in their respective classes.

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