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”.