Animal-World > Horse Breeds > Light Horse > Tennessee Walking Horse

Tennessee Walking Horse

Tennessee Walker

Family: Equidae Tennessee Walking Horse, Picture of a Tennessee WalkerEquus caballusPhoto Wiki-Commons
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The distorted and inhumane shoeing practices used on these horses should be illegal. Anyone who understands the basic natural hoof mechanics and body posture of a... (more)  Heidi Meyer

   The sturdy Tennessee Walking Horse with its distinctive gaits, can be ridden comfortably for hours!

The Tennessee Walking Horse is a breed which originated in the Southeast United States. Wealthy southern plantation owners had a need for tractable, comfortable, and hardy horses that could stand up to the rigors of hours of daily riding while out inspecting the operations of their enormous plantation properties. The Tennessee Walking Horse served this purpose.

The Tennessee Walker has distinctive gaits which make it easy to ride over long distances at a comfortable and efficient rate of speed. Today they are used for pleasure and trail riding. Pleasure bred, or flat shod walking horses make excellent family and children's trail horses. They are an excellent choice for riders with physical limitations because of their smooth way of going. Tennessee Walking Horses are also bred for the show arena for shows designed to exhibit the special talents of the gaited breed.

In 1935 the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders Association was formed with 'Black Allan' as the foundation sire of the breed. In 1947 the name changed to the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association, or TWHBEA. Since then, over 450,000 Tennessee Walking Horses have been registered in all 50 states.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Perissodactyla
  • Family: Equidae
  • Genus: Equus
  • Species: caballus

Horse Breeds

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is a light horse breed, and one of the gaited horses. Light horse breeds generally weigh under 1,500 pounds. They are typically used as riding horses for leisure and trail riding. Being agile and swift, many are also used on the racetrack, in the show ring, and for work on the ranch.
Light horses are grouped in a couple of different ways, one being the continent or country where they originated from. They are also grouped according to training, classified as either a stock type, hunter type, saddle type, or 'other'. A body type is generally attributed to each class, with the 'other' classification being a bit of an odd ball. It includes those that are color breeds or those that may fit a body type of one of the training classes, but not be used for that type of training. The 'other' types can also include those that may fit into more than one of the type groups.
The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse as one of the gaited horses, fits into the saddle type class.

Horse Backgrounds

The Tennessee Waking Horse began as a blend of Standardbred, Morgan, Thoroughbred and Saddlebred breeds. Each of these contributed a major asset to the new breed. The Walking Horse displays the Morgan's remarkable good nature, the Saddlebred's elegant confirmation, the speed and athleticism of the Thoroughbred, and the distinctive movement and substance of the Standardbred.
In 1886, "Black Allan", a descendant of the famous Standardbed, Hamboltonian, was born in Lexington, Kentucky. Showing little interest in harness racing, the horse was sold to owners in Tennessee. There, he went on to sire several foundation horses of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed; among them the stallions "Roan Allan" and "Hunter's Allan" and the mare "Merry Legs".


The Walking Horse should have a long, straight and well shaped head set on a graceful sloping shoulder. It should be muscular and wide in girth with a longish underbelly and short back with a high set on tail. It stands between 15hh and 16.2hh and weighs between 900 and 1200 pounds. All solid colors are acceptable as well as roans and pintos.
The Walking Horse has distinctive gaits:

  • Slow Gait: The slow gait, also called the single foot, is a steady, gliding four beat walk.
  • Running Walk: The running walk is a faster version in which the hind legs aggressively overstep the front tracks and is accompanied by an expressive nodding of the horses head.
  • Walking Horse Canter: In the Walking Horse Canter, also referred to as a "rocking chair" canter, the horse elevates his front end while the hindquarters remain relatively level.

Walking horses bred for the show ring have gaits that show more exaggerated, defined action. The front shoes are often weighted and the feet are built up with padding and encouraged to grow extremely long.

Horse Care and Feeding

Tennessee Walkers tend to be easy keepers and generally do well on fresh grass hay. One to three pounds of 10 to 12 % protein grain supplement is sufficient for most pleasure horses. A dietary hoof supplement containing biotin is also recommended
The Walking horse is a moderate size and has a very good natured temperament making it an excellent candidate for a box stall, as well as a paddock or pasture environment. They are social horses and do best with the company of other livestock.

Horse Training and Activities

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is supremely adapted to be a trail horse. Good for pleasure riding, endurance and trail, this is an excellent family horse for kids and adults alike. It is a good choice for new riders and riders with physical limitations as the gaits are smooth and easy to ride.

Common Health Problems

Problems with the feet are the most common complaint because of the extraordinary demands put on these horses in the show arena. Laminitis and Navicular disease are of particular concern. Also, sore back problems may occur resulting from the sometimes disjointed movement of the horse. A well fitted saddle and a horse proportionate to the rider's size is of extreme importance.


The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is fairly available throughout the country. In 1947 the studbook was closed to all outside breeding, and all Tennessee Walking Horses were required to have both parents registered to be eligible for registration themselves. Some inbreeding is inevitable, and buyers should investigate a horse's pedigree to avoid any associated health issues.


Personal knowledge
Judith Dutson, Storey's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America, Storey Publishing, LLC, 2005
Elwyn Hartley Edwards and Candida Geddes, The Complete Horse Book, Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1991
Donald Braider, The Life, History and Magic of the Horse, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1977 Author: Joan Childs

Lastest Animal Stories on Tennessee Walking Horse

Heidi Meyer - 2012-01-27
The distorted and inhumane shoeing practices used on these horses should be illegal. Anyone who understands the basic natural hoof mechanics and body posture of a horse can see they are in tremendous pain, just standing still! There is a reason why navicular issues and hoof problems are rampant with these breeds, because they are incorrectly trimmed and inhumanely shod to distort and produce an exaggerated gait that is NOT NATURAL! Please do your research....they move beautifully on bare feet with no weights and CAN go for hours that way.....but you will only break down their body by continuing this insidious shoeing practice.

  • Colleen Gratton - 2013-05-07
    My disbelief is general public think this is okay... I agree... 100% you can obviously see the horses are in pain.
  • Clarice Brough - 2013-05-07
    So... it sounds like what you're saying is they need to be correctly shod, and if they are demonstrating pain, it has been done incorrectly. Which makes sense and a professional should probably be referred to, especially for this breed.
  • Nic - 2014-06-20
    People need to do there research before commenting!!!! If the breed is so bad Why is there 20 year old Walking-horses still showing and winning World grand championships and by the way a 6 year old was riding one of them, I don't see a 20 year old quarter horse still competing or In fact I don't see any breed of horse that lives that long and still showing. I show walking horses and they are treated better than most humans!!!! If the people in the walking horse industry did not care about there horses then why would people spend 500-700 dollars a month for training and that is not including shoeing and showing them, shoes cost about 125-200 and one show cost 60-125 and that is every weekend!!!!! Shavings up to their ankles all-you-can-eat hay worked and bathed everyday or every other day. Ya we sure do treat our horses horrible!!! P.s I had a 'Big Lick' horse and brought her home for the winner pulled the pads off and trail rode her that day for 2 hours and she did not even break a sweat or act like she was hurt in anyway!!! She is now happy and health with her first baby due any day now!!!
  • Sierra - 2014-08-29
    This was banned about 20 years ago. The padding used today is humane and only weights down a horse's front. This encourages them to use more power from behind, and the horse lifts his legs high. What you're refering to is soring, an abusive practice where a chemical is placed on the horse's fetlock along with a chain or boot that would rub against the chemical when the hoof touched the ground and cause severe pain. This practice is and has been illegal for years. The chains and boots you see today are only to put weight on the hoof, and causes NO PAIN.
  • Clarice Brough - 2014-09-01
    Really appreciate learning about how they are trained, and that those inhumane practices are totally BANNED! YES:)
  • Merida DunBroch - 2016-01-31
    Putting a horse on pads is not inhumane. The horse is in no pain and feels no discomfort whatsoever . It's inhumane to sore a horse's feet, yes. But there is nothing wrong with pads.
  • Anonymous - 2019-09-27
    They are illegal.
Merida DunBroch - 2016-01-31
A couple months ago a buyer came to look at some horses I was selling. She brought her daughter, a 10 year old kid. I didn't know that we would end up riding, or I would've brought a saddle and bridle, or at least a helmet! We got on my 22 year old black mare Stormy. The kid and I rode her bareback with nothing to hold on to but her mane. No helmets, nothing to save us if we fell. Especially since Stormy is not a little girl. After a while my mom and the kid's mother decided they would go look at some more horses. That left us all alone and my life in the hands of a ten year old girl. She wanted to see what would happen if she let go of the horse. Even after being told no, she did it anyway! Stormy immediately turned around and started running. I was sooo scared! It wasn't until we hit the rocky path that runs through the field that I finally managed to free my hands from her mane. I decided that if she reached the other horses and started a stampede, it would be the death of me. So I bailed and went into a tuck-and-roll. After I hit the ground and stopped rolling, it took about 15 minutes to get air back into my body. I was so mad! Not at Stormy but at the kid. Then she lied about what happened saying the horse jerked her head up. The nerve! I couldn't believe it! FIRST SHE ALMOST KILLS ME AND THEN SHE HAS THE NERVE TO LIE ABOUT IT?! After catching up Stormy and telling her she did nothing wrong, I ripped that kid a new one. I walked away with a damaged pride, some pretty bad scrapes and bruises, a friction burn on my finger, and a bump on my head. Haven't been free-riding since!

Stephen - 2015-06-10
I grew up riding Walkers, and loved them, and the smoothness of their gaits. My wife & I own mostly Quarters, from champion cutting and reining lineages, but we have one full Walker, and one that we were given that were told was a Walker/Arabian mix, though we have since realized that she is most likely all Arabian. Anyway, we have never had any issues keeping weight on our horses, except during the winter they might lose a little. We do not have much for pastures, so we keep a couple round bales of mix grass, and grain. But, our Walker is a constant battle with up & down weight. A friend, who has Walkers, said to add alfalfa pellets to our graining, and it has helped, but the issue is still there. He is only maybe 7-9 yrs old, & thinks he is my baby. Of course, so does 'my' 2 Quarters, and I think they are all my babies. But, even if the others are out running around the pasture, or following my wife through it, my walker stays with me, especially on the days when I am stuck in my wheel chair, which seems to be more & more. I am just not sure what to do about getting his weight maintained. For those that have Walkers, can you please help? I have contacted both the breeders Assc., & the Natural Walkers Assc., and have not had any help, yet. Because of my spinal cord & brain injuries from the Army, these horses are some of my best friends, especially the Walker. And, I agree. I do wish people would educate themselves, before they swallow their feet, legs, etc. The foot issues were made illegal, begining with the issues of nailing weight into place, as the nails helped increase weight, but also cause the horse pain, so they would lift higher. Any kind of mistreatment is not tolerated, and they look closely for it at every show, as my friends, who do still show their Walkers, have expressed to me, and others. But, that is the biggest probem with our nation, as a whole, is people believe what they are told, whether correct or not, rather than expend the energy to find the truth out for themselves.

  • Clarice Brough - 2015-06-11
    What a great story about your Walker, your Quarter horses... and you! Love all the great information too. I may try and do a newsletter post with your story, and maybe we can get some folks with Walkers to answer your questions about weight. On a personal note... my family took care of a Walker for a summer when I was a teenager. so I got the awesome experience of riding and caring for this breed of very cool horse!)
  • Loretta - 2015-07-01
    Dear Stephen, I just bought my first horse last Mothers Day '14'. Which is a Tenn Walker .he is 8 yrs old He is healthy and so gentle with my grandson (5)He eats Total Equine 1-2 pds a day and all the hay he wants plus pasture grass. And he put on a nice weight, try that brand and see. Loretta
  • Dexter Thompson - 2015-07-16
    Feed him some horse feed called straight it is 17% and keep him some hay and tie him out on grass for at least 2 hours a day and keep him out of the sun , because the sun burn fat off horses. Worm him out every month I had the same problem but since i start doing that my Tennessee Walker is bigger than ever and also buy something call muscle up give him two scoops a when u feed him if any question feel free to call me 6019382873
  • Dexter Thompson - 2015-07-16
    When the other horse are running he rather stay with you because he made that special bond with you
  • Merida DunBroch - 2016-01-31
    Simple. Just go to Bob's Feed or Tractor Supply or something and the right feed for them. Another thing that worked for my mare, Fancy, was keeping her out on grass. It worked for Princess, Nellie, Jack, Midnight, Merry, Smoke, and Mystery too.
  • Sandi - 2016-03-02
    If your young horses are not maintaining weight and you have tried what you think is every thing contact your local Equine Dentist, could be the animal needs to have some dental work done. Of course I am also assuming you have kept your worming up to date. After owning, showing and trail riding for nearly sixty years this would be my opinion of the weight problems.
  • Anonymous - 2018-09-08

    To put weight on your horse add half a cup of sugar and a whole cup of canola oil to his feed every day. When desired weight is achieved cut sugar to a quarter cup.
jezlyn - 2011-03-23
Amazing I love Tennessee walking horses.

  • Charlie Roche - 2012-02-28
    They are gorgeous.
  • Merida DunBroch - 2016-01-31
    Me too. Horses are awesome.