The Tennessee Walking Horse or Tennessee Walker is a breed of gaited horse known for its unique four-beat "running walk" and flashy movement. It was originally developed the southern United States for use on farms and plantations. It is a popular riding horse due to its calm disposition, smooth gaits and sure-footedness. The Tennessee Walking Horse is often seen in the show ring, but also popular as a pleasure and trail riding horse using both English and Western equipment. Tennessee Walkers are also seen in movies, television shows and other performances.
The breed first developed in the late 18th century when Narragansett Pacersand Canadian Pacersfrom the eastern United States crossed with gaited Spanish Mustangsfrom Texas. Other breeds were later added, and in 1886 a foal named Black Allen, now considered the founding sirevof the breed, was born. In 1935 the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' Association was formed, and the studbook closed in 1947. In 1939, the first Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was held, an annual event that in recent years has attracted considerable attention and controversy.
The two basic categories of Tennessee Walking Horse show competition are called "flat shod" and "performance", differentiated by desired leg action. Flat shod horses, wearing regular horseshoes, exhibit less exaggerated movement, while performance horses wear built-up pads or "stacks" along with other weighted action devices, creating the so-called "Big Lick" style. Stacks and action devices are prohibited at shows sanctioned by the United States Equestrian Federationand some breed organizations. The Tennessee Walking Horse is the breed most affected by the Horse Protection Act of 1970, which prohibits the practice of soring, abusive practices used to enhance the Big Lick movement prized in the show ring, which still occur today despite the law. The controversy over continuing soring practices has led to a split within the breed community, criminal charges against a number of individuals, and the creation of several separate breed organizations.