November 2, 2006

Tennessee Walking Horse

Kirkwood is hosting a Tennessee Walking Horse show this weekend. Our breeds class was held in the show barn today so that one of the exhibitors could give us the breed specifics. The Tennessee Walker was originally bred to be as smooth and comfortable as possible for plantation owners to ride all day, checking their fields. Their gaits are natural to them and do not have to be taught, only accentuated.

There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the humane treatment of these show animals. There are inspectors that can show up at the events and disqualify an animal showing signs of inhumane treatment and the owner may face criminal prosecution. Therefore, it is not uncommon for owners to simply pack up and leave once the inspectors arrive. Consequently, our show this year is remarkably smaller than last year. I will mention that in some circuits, the inspectors pass horses simply because they are friends with the owners and trainers.

When the horse is being shown in the plantation class he must carry his hindquarters tucked deeply beneath his belly. This is also know as the "Big Lick". A horse does not do this naturally so, in order to produce this effect, the owners have a surgical procedure performed in which the stifle is cut. The photo here is showing a horse standing rather awkwardly in his stall, demonstrating the desired conformation of the show horse.

There are four muscles on a horse's tail. Many exhibitors cut the two muscles under the tail to make it more comfortable for the horse to keep his tail in high carriage. This horse is wearing a bustle or tail set which enables the horse to hold his tail in the desired position. The practice of setting a tail began many years ago when horses were the main mode of transportation. Tail "nicking" prevents carriage horses from clamping their tails down and trapping the reins between the dock of the tail and their buttocks. This procedure is now popular among saddle horse enthusiasts for purely aesthetic reasons

Tennessee Walking horses are shown in two types of shoes. The light shod is 3/8" thick by 1/2" wide. The plantation shoe is heavier and measures 1/2" thick by 1 & 1/2" wide. The hind shoe has a heel that juts out to prevent the horse from rocking back during his strides. The front shoe is built up with plastic pads to a height of about 6". The farrier trims the hoof to a low natural angle to accommodate the plantation shoe and then it is compensated with plastic pads. The pads are built up slowly to allow the horse to acclimate to the new angle. These shoes require more nails to secure them than traditional horseshoes.

The Tennessee Walking horse should bob his head when he walks. This bob comes from the hind end. If a potential show horse does not bob his head, he is better suited as a trail horse. The show horses are expected to overstep their front feet with their hind, the more the better. The horse with the biggest shoe and the biggest stride and the biggest head bob wins!


addicted2reliv said...

OMG!~ thnx4ur insight. I used to live in N'ville & shld've gone to see the TWH but never got a chance to. My Grandmother was just informing me of the treatment, so I researched it and your blog came up, so thank you for this. I hope the inspectors DO catch the inhumane treators!

That's cool u'r in Harry Potter! I was an extra in "Radio" but u can't see me LOL. I wish I could 'add' you as a contact on here but I still don't see how blogger does that; not used to it u know? My sis & cousin are the horse girls, but I still wouldn't that kind of treatment for anyone! wow.

Anonymous said...

Really the building up of the shoe is for the better for the horse. Their gate and high stepping is natural and the plastic pads are for padding, they absorb the impact of the horses feet hitting the ground. Tennessee Walking Horses are some of the best treated horses in the world. The inspectors need to be paying attention to Quarter Horses. Look into that one.

Angela said...

Anonymous- this post is simply a summary of information that was presented in school on that particular day by one particular exhibitor. I have no plans to write about Quarter Horses

Anonymous said...

They do not cut their stifles i have a walker and his hind end is up under him like a big lick horse and his stifles have not been cut, i would know as ive had him since birth. Do your research before you put something on the internet.

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Angela said...

For Anonymous #2, you can see from my previous comment that I am reporting on a discussion from a guest speaker. I have reported on THIS SPECIFIC LECTURE not all aspects of TWHs. No further research is required.

April said...


1. western pleasure AQUA's have a forced low profile, yes. But you can put these horses back in their stall at the end of the day and they can still lift their heads. Yes, it's an unnatural look but it's not painful or permanent.

2. The various things done to gaited horses are appalling. Your horses can't last long at the top of the show circuit the way they are kept! I won't even start on the things I've seen done simply because people who do this are not worth my time.

Anonymous said...

I have a twh as well she also will hit the "Big Lick" Her stifle wasn't cut! (I raised her) The horses pedgree can have alot yo do with them Hitting the "Big Lick"

Anonymous said...

The picture you posted is of a horse in the "bucket stance" as in all four feet could fit into a bucket. This is an attempt by the horse to get the weight off the front legs, which have been sored.