The Tennessee Walking Horse is the first horse to be officially named for a state. It's understandable why many folks associate soft gaits with thee Tennessee walker. In 1935, the original registry was established through a state charter in Lewisburg, Tennessee, by the governor, Jim Nance McCord and well-known horseman, Burt Hunter.
However, the breed didn't begin with thee registry. In the mid-1800's, the horse was known as the American Saddle Horse. Developed as a utilitarian plantation horse, this Tennessee gem carries the blood of Standardbreds, Morgans, Copperbottoms, Pilots, Mountain Slashers, Thoroughbreds, Canadian Pacers and Narragansett Pacers, Hals, Brooks, Whips and Bullets.
In 1899, a major change was made in the rules for showing Saddle Horses. As the need for truly serviceable horses diminished, and the desire for flash and showiness increased, a split in the breed occurred. Many breeders went in the direction of the big showy trotting horse that became known as the American Saddlebred. Others retained the soft-gaited gene, maintaining the horse that was to become the Tennessee Walking Horse.
Sun's Fiery Tribute, owned by Tom and Donna Doran of Hemet, California, with Beth Jennings up. (the picture on the left) is an easy comparison of the horse on the right - the great foundation stallion, Roan Allen. Both horses have the roan coloration, with flaxen mane and tail and wide blazes on their faces. These two horses are 100 years apart!
The Tennessee Walking Horse:
One of the very special soft-gaited breeds.