Skip to the content


Tennessee Walking Horse
North America

About the Breed

The Tennessee Walking Horse, a member of the light breeds of the equine family, is no mystery horse, nor is there anything magic or difficult to understand about his makeup. It is a composite breed that evolved from the Narragansett Pacer, Canadian Pacer, Morgan, Standardbred, Thoroughbred and American Saddlebred. These bloods were fused into one animal in the middle Tennessee bluegrass region, resulting in one of the greatest pleasure, show and trail riding horses. The result, over countless years, was the Tennessee Walking Horse – the first breed of horse to bear a state name.

For those who think the Tennessee Walking Horse is comparatively new on the equine scene, pages of history reflect the strong influence this animal has had in the building of this country and in the daily lives of our forefathers. Mainly used for utility and riding stock, he gained wide popularity for his ease of gait and ability to stride faultlessly over hills and through the valleys of the rocky middle Tennessee terrain. Being used as a utility animal for all types of farm work, as well as family transportation and recreation, the old plantation-type horse was highly valued for his smooth and sure gait, gentle disposition and keen intelligence.

In 1885, a cross between a stallion called Allendorf, from the Hambletonian family of trotters, and Maggie Marshall, a Morgan mare, produced a black colt with a white blaze, off hind coronet and near hind sock, Black Allan, foal of 1886. He was later to be chosen by the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ Association as the foundation sire of the Tennessee Walking Horse and designated as Allan F-1. While the bloodlines of the Gray Johns, Copperbottoms, Slashers, Hals, Brooks and Bullett families ran thick and produced a type known as the Tennessee pacer prior to the arrival of Allan F-1 in Middle Tennessee, it was a cross between Allan and the Tennessee Pacer that produced today’s Tennessee Walking Horse.

The Tennessee Walking Horse has impressed the nation with its gentle disposition and its kindly manner, and continues to prove itself as one of the most versatile horses in the land. This docile temperament, together with its smooth easy gaits, has caused it to be much in demand in all sections of the country. It serves nobly as an English or Western pleasure mount and has taken the young, the aged, the timid, as well as experienced riders along pleasant paths and trails.

The Tennessee Walking Horse is now in all parts of the country. No longer found only in Tennessee, registered Tennessee Walking Horses can be found in all fifty United States and several foreign countries. And since the organization of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ Association in 1935, nearly 400,000 horses have been registered.

Breed Characteristics
The Tennessee Walking Horse generally ranges from 14.3 to 17 hands and weighs 900 to 1200 pounds. The modern Tennessee Walking Horse possesses a pretty head with small well placed ears. The horse has a long sloping shoulder, a long sloping hip, a fairly short back and short, strong coupling. The bottom line is longer than the top line, allowing for a long stride.

Tennessee Walking Horses come in all colors and a variety of patterns. The diverse color choices are sure to please any horse enthusiast. Different colors are not discriminated against.

The Gaits
The Tennessee Walking Horse performs three distinct gaits: the flat foot walk, running walk and canter. These three gaits are the natural inherited gaits for which the breed is famous. In addition to these gaits, many Tennessee Walking Horses are able to perform the rack, stepping pace, fox-trot, single-foot and other variations of the famous running walk, while this is not desirable in the show ring the above mentioned gaits are smooth easy trail riding gaits.

The flat foot walk is a brisk, long-reaching walk that can cover from 4 to 8 miles an hour. This is a four-cornered gait with each of the horse’s feet hitting the ground separately at regular intervals. The horse will glide over the track left by the front foot with his hind foot (right rear over right front, left rear over left front). The action of the back foot slipping over the front track is known as overstride. Overstride is unique to the walking horse breed. The hock should show only forward motion, with vertical hock action being highly undesirable. A Tennessee Walking Horse will nod its head in rhythm with the cadence of its feet. This nodding head motion, with the overstride, are two features that are unique to the Tennessee Walking Horse.

The running walk is the gait for which the walking horse is most noted! This extra-smooth gliding gait is basically the same as the flat walk with a marked increase in speed. This breed can travel 10 to 20 miles per hour at this gait. As the speed is increased, the horse over-steps the front track with the back foot from 6 to 18 inches. The more “stride” the horse has the better “walker” it is considered to be, for this gives the rider a feeling that he or she were gliding through the air as if propelled by some powerful but smooth-running machine. Walking horses relax certain muscles while doing the running-walk, some swing their ears in perfect motion and some even snap their teeth. The running walk is a smooth, easy gait for both horse and rider. There should be a noticeable difference in the rate of speed between the flat walk and the running walk but a good running walk should never allow proper form to be sacrificed for excessive speed. A true Tennessee Walking Horse will continue to nod while performing the running walk.

The third gait is the canter, which is a collected gallop. The canter is performed in much the same way as other breeds, but the walking horse seems to have a more relaxed way of performing this gait. The canter is a forward movement performed in a diagonal manner to the right or to the left. On the right lead, the horse should start the gait in this order: left hind, right hind and left fore together-then right fore. The order for the left lead is: right hind, left hind and right fore, then left fore. When performed in a ring, the animal should lead his canter with the fore leg to the inside of the ring. In the canter the horse gives one the abundance of ease with lots of spring and rhythm, with the proper rise and fall to afford a thrill from sitting in the saddle. Thus the canter lifts with the front end giving an easy rise and fall motion that is likened to a rocking chair. This is often referred to as the “rocking-chair-gait.”

Breed Organization
In 1935, admirers and breeders of this unique horse, met to form the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ Association of America. The purpose of this association was to collect, record and preserve the pedigrees of the Tennessee Walking Horse, to maintain a registry, develop rules and regulations governing all aspects of Tennessee Walking Horses, and to sponsor programs promoting this breed. Lewisburg, Tennessee, USA, the home of the first meeting was chosen as the official headquarters for this new breed.

The Tennessee Walking Horse stud book was closed in 1947, meaning that from 1948 forward to be registered as a Tennessee Walking Horse, both parents must also be so registered. The Tennessee Walking Horse was officially recognized as a distinct breed of light horse by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1950. In 1974 the registry’s official name was expanded to the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA).

The TWHBEA entered the 21st century committed to promoting the Tennessee Walking Horse to the world. With approximately 400,000 horses registered and Association membership approaching 19,000, the Tennessee Walking Horse has firmly established itself as one of the top ten recognized horse breeds in the U. S., and has earned distinction as one of the fastest growing breeds.

Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association

The official breed registry

250 North Ellington Parkway

P. O. Box 286

Lewisburg, TN 37091

Tel: 931-359-1574

Fax: 931-359-2539


Walking Horse Owners’ Association

P. O. Box 4007

Murfreesboro, TN 37129

Tel: 615-494-8822z

Fax: 615-494-8825

Email: [email protected]


National Walking Horse Association
4059 Iron Works Parkway, Suite 4
Lexington, KY 40511

Phone: 859-252-6942

Fax: 859-252-0640

Email: [email protected]