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Truths and Myths about Tennessee Walking Horses

This page has some common truths and myths about Walking Horses. I am relatively new to Walking Horses, but not horses in general. I had never given much thought to the Tennessee Walking Horse, always having believed them to be hot blooded, high stepping show horses. I have a background in Good/Natural Horsemanship, as well as basic classical dressage. So I really didn't have much use for a breed I thought of as only being good for the show ring. So when I rode my first Walker, I was pleasantly surprised. They were not at all the horse I thought them to be. Instead, they were a quiet, level headed, people oriented breed. And smoooooth to ride! That was all it took, I completely fell for the breed. However, I questioned alot of the things I heard about them. The truths and myths that I have here on my page are things that I have personally learned in my quest to learn more about Walking Horses. I welcome all comments, both for and against, the statements I make here. Also, if you have your own truths or myths, I will gladly add them.

Myth:

Walking Horses need curb bits to Walk properly.

This is one of the biggest falsehoods. A curb bit can actually hamper a horse's Walk. The TWH Walks the best when his back is rounded, he's supple, and relaxed under saddle. All this is difficult (if not impossible) to achieve with a curb bit. Have you ever seen a horse Walk, free in a pasture? With no bit in his mouth at all? Hmmm, wonder how he does that?

Myth:

If he ain't noddin', he ain't Walkin'

This is another of the Great Falsehoods. A horse can be Walking, and not nodding, as well as nodding, and not Walking. The rider has alot to do with head nod. I have a video of a mare who is doing a perfect four beat Walk (checked with slow motion), yet she isn't nodding. And that's because her rider is riding her with a tight rein, with a (can you guess?) curb bit! By the same token, I have show videos of horses that are supposedly Walking because their head is nodding, but slow motion shows they're doing a stepping pace.

A true Walking head nod comes from the shoulder. If the horse is doing another type of gait (stepping pace, for instance), the head will be the only thing nodding. There is a big difference, when you know what to look for.

Myth:

The Walk has overstride, the rack doesn't

The amount of overstride all depends on the horse's conformation. Some horses will have alot of overstride, some just a little. So lack of overstride does not mean a horse is not Walking. However, a horse will tend to have more overstride at the Walk, then at the rack. This is because in the Walk, the horse is traveling with rounded back, and lower head. This allows him to reach further with each stride. In the rack, the horse is moving with higher head, and flatter back, which restricts the reach of the legs.

Myth:

A naturally gaited horse will Walk no matter what

Unfortunately, that is not true. The rider plays a big part in what gait the horse will do. The position of the horse's body plays a big part in what gait a horse will do. I have a young mare who does almost nothing but Walk, and never paces, in her paddock, yet with a rider on, she can quite easily be made to pace. So, a TWH needs to be ridden correctly to 'set' his natural gaits. Once set in his gait he will do well, and of course, it's easier to 'set' a naturally gaited horse, than one who's been bred to pace.

Myth:

A Walking horse needs special shoeing and special hoof angles to Walk

This one is right up there with curb bits. Walkers don't need to be shod any differently than any other horse. I have a mare that would foxtrot under saddle when I got her. She has callouses on her back coronets that appear to have been caused by the use of chains, to stop her from foxtrotting. She is now shod 'normally' in keg shoes by my 'normal' shoer. I used some basic dressage on her, and this mare will now Walk quite nicely under saddle. No gimmicks, no special shoeing, just plain Good Horsemanship.





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