Tennessee Walking Horse Breed

Last Updated on December 26, 2022

Ever wonder what the smoothest type of horse is? Look no further than the Tennessee Walking Horse! This gaited breed of horse is known for many things, being extremely smooth included!

Tennessee Walkers are very popular in North America and are famous for being gentle, easy to handle, easy to keep, and able to dip their feet in many different disciplines. Tennessee Walkers have a presence in everything from eventing to breed showing!

In this article, I’ll be discussing the history and characteristics of the Tennessee Walker, as well as discussing what disciplines they are primarily seen in today.

Breed History: Tennessee Walking Horse

Characteristic of many things originating in the United States, the Tennessee Walking Horse came out of a melting pot of horse breeds.  Some of the breeds used to create the Tennessee Walker include the Thoroughbred, the Saddlebred, the Morgan, the Standardbred, the Canadian Pacer, and the Narragansett Pacer.

While Tennessee Walking Horses are known today for their flashy and abnormal gaits, they were actually bred for their utility as plow and carriage horses. Their smooth gaits made them the ideal ranch horse for southern plantation workers that had to be in the saddle all day.

Tennessee Walkers were actually very commonly seen as all-purpose ranch horses during the breed’s conception and early years.

Today, the Tennessee Walking Horse studbook is entirely closed.  This means that every registered Tennessee Walking Horse must be a descendent of a horse that is included in that original studbook.

Tennessee Walking Horses have lined the history books of American culture.  Elvis Presley was known for having many Tennessee Walking Horses, and Roy Roger’s famous TV star horse, Trigger, was played by a Tennessee Walking Horse.

Tennessee Walking Horse Characteristics

So, what makes the Tennessee Walker so special? First off, their smooth gaits make them an ideal companion for riders with physical issues or ailments.  Many people who experience back pain while riding are able to decrease their pain by riding a Tennessee Walking Horse.

Tennessee Walkers are known for their long legs and angled shoulders.  The famous “parked out” stance that Walkers do, simply when they are comfortable, is a great illustration of these physical characteristics.  They have long necks which they hold acutely upright most of the time.

Tennessee Walking horses are, of course, horses, and their height can range anywhere from 14.3 hands-on upwards.  Most Tennessee Walking Horses fall in the average horse height of about 15.2-16.2 hands tall. 

Tennessee Walkers are also allowed to come in almost any color variations.  Solid colors such as bay, chestnut, grey, and palomino are just as acceptable as horses with pinto patterns and roan colored coats.

Tennessee Walkers are considered a “gaited” breed, which means they have gaits that normal horses do not have.  Tennessee Walkers are famous for their “running walk,” which is somewhere between a walk and a trot, though the speed of this gait can get up to 5-7 miles per hour.

Breed Disciplines

Now that we know what Tennessee walkers look like, what do people do with Tennessee Walkers? We also know that Tennessee Walkers were originally bred for ranchers who had to be in the tack all day.

Tennessee Walking Horse

Trail and Ranch Horses

Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are a popular mount for trail riders, especially those who are trying to ride long distances.  Their smooth gaits keep their riders comfortable in the saddle for hours on end.

They are also still used as ranch horses.  Though it may be less common today than it was a hundred years ago,  some ranchers still spend all day in the saddle, working on their ranch or farm. One of their go-to mounds for this job is the Tennessee Walker, a horse that will be able to keep them comfortable all day long.

Dressage and Eventing

While Tennessee Walkers do have a reputation as being the ideal western horse, they have also been seen excelling in English disciplines. Personally, I have seen Tennessee Walkers in both the dressage ring and out on the cross-country course!

Though Tennessee Walkers do have additional gaits, they also have the three traditional English gaits: walk, trot, and canter.  As long as a horse has these gaits, he can be successful at the lower levels of dressage and eventing.

Tennessee Walkers are known for being all-around good citizens.  They are great family horses, pleasure horses, trail horses, and ranch horses.  They are game to try whatever you want to try.

Family Horses

It is very common to see Tennessee Walkers used as family horses and kids’ horses.  They are very gentle and easy-going.  They can “take a joke,” or in other words, handle the mistakes of a beginner without taking it personally.

Tennessee Walkers make great first horses or great companion animals for those not looking to do competitive riding. Don’t get me wrong, they can be competitive, but they can also be an in-your-pocket type horse that is happy to just hang out with you at home.

They are also frequently seen being used as kid’s 4-H or high-school equestrian team mounts.

There’s also a whole different world of Tennessee Walking Horse breed show! At these shows, Tennessee Walkers are judged on their conformation and their overall demonstrations of their special gaits.

Think of classes like these almost like extra-large flat-classes, for English riders.  The discipline is known as “saddle seat” and it is popular in North America. Saddle Seat riders have their own, completely unique wardrobe, which is famous for sporting a top hat and pants without tall boots, which is the characteristic look for an English rider.


There is so much to know about the Tennessee Walking Horse! It is an incredible and unique breed of horses.  They are very loved by many American equine enthusiasts today, and they have played a large role in our country’s heritage.

I hope this article helped you learn more about the Tennessee Walking Horse.  If so, please share this article, and share with us your experiences with Tennessee Walking Horses!


Do Tennessee Walkers jump?

While Tennessee Walkers can be trained to jump, they are not bred for jumping.
The Tennessee Walker is a versatile horse, and it is possible to find a Tennessee Walker that has been trained for showjumping and jumping competition. However, you should know that the Tennessee Walker was not bred to be ridden in jumping competitions. This is because the Tennessee Walker is a heavy draft horse that was originally bred for farm work. 

Is a Tennessee Walker a thoroughbred?

The answer is no. The Tennessee Walker is a composite breed of which the majority of the population are of American Quarter Horse descent. They are also very closely related to the Quarter Horse, since the Quarter Horse is the foundation horse of the Tennessee Walker. The American Quarter Horse was developed from the Spanish Mustang, a breed of horse native to the southwestern United States. The original mustang was used for riding and racing, but over time it became less popular in the western states. When the American Quarter Horse was developed, there were many different breeds of horses being used in the western states, including the Tennessee Walking Horse. The Tennessee Walker was developed in the early 1900s by crossing the American Quarter Horse and the Narragansett Pacers. 

What is the difference between a Missouri Fox Trotter and a Tennessee Walking Horse?

A Missouri Fox Trotter is a breed of horse developed in the 1920s in the Ozarks of southern Missouri. Maintained by a small, private organization called the "Moose Creek Fox Trotter Association," the breed is recognized by the American Registry of Horse Racing as one of the five official breeds of trotters. What makes the Missouri Fox Trotter unique is that it is the only breed of trotter which is not raced. Instead, the horses are used for pleasure riding and for showing. In fact, many Missouri Fox Trotters are shown in the dressage ring. The Missouri Fox Trotter was developed as a fox-trotting horse, and the gait was later incorporated into the breed standard. Today, the Missouri Fox Trotter is known for its smooth gaits and easy-to-ride nature.
The Tennessee Walker is the larger  and heavier of the two breeds. Walking horses were used by farmers to plow fields and haul heavy loads.

What is the temperament of a Tennessee Walker?

The answer to this question can be answered with ease. You will find that they are gentle, calm, and trusting animals. Because of their friendly nature and their calm and trusting demeanor, the Tennessee Walker makes a wonderful companion for people who enjoy riding and are looking for a horse that is easy to care for. 
A Tennessee Walker is a very athletic horse, so it will have no trouble keeping up with you as you ride. The Tennessee Walker is also very easy to train, and it is excellent in dressage. In fact, many Tennessee Walkers are used in the dressage ring.
A Tennessee Walker is also a very strong horse. In fact, the Tennessee Walker was originally bred as a heavy draft horse. Because of this, they are a great horse for ranch work and are very popular with ranchers. They are also good for plowing, hauling heavy loads, and pulling heavy equipment. They are also a good horse for children, as they are very gentle and docile.