NOTE: the following excerpts are taken from AMERICA'S TENNESSEE WALKING HORSE, published in 1973 by Jack Knox, a nationally know editorial cartoonist, who had a long and lasting interest in horses of all breeds. For many years, he was a familiar figure at the Celebration, where many of his sketches of Tennessee Walking Horses were done. He spent much of his early life in the cowboy country of
Next is form. Form is a horse's "way of going" and is extremely important. A beautiful horse with perfection conformation will appear to show poor conformation if his "way of going" is not in honest form in his flat-walk, running-walk and canter, or with an "artificial" touch in his gaits.
So what is artificial? In the faults section, Knox has drawings that look very familiar. In fact they look just like the TWH Big Lick horse of today. The faults include:
1. Show horses should go straight, front and back. Faults are winging, where the front feet swing outward, or crossing in front and moving wide behind.
2. Over reaching and hitting the ground with the heel. This is not to be confused with the heel first step that all horses should have--this is an actual banging of the heels on the ground because the horse is moving too fast and is off balance.
3. "On the toes" or digging behind. This is obvious when horses fling dirt behind.
4. Lifting the horse to canter or "pumping" the horse to force the canter. "More of a 'crow hop' than a collected gallop!"
5. Wobbling and twisting hind legs when riding a sore horse.
Most importantly, Knox writes: "Behind the scenes or in the ring, whether front feet are sore from founder, laminitis, sand cracks, thrush or sored intentionally, unsound horses are easily detected."
I'm sure Knox would probably be pretty upset with how the show horse looks today. We can find nearly all of those faults in any Big Lick video you can find on YouTube. So why has the horse come to be like this? Why are the faults that are so clearly stated in such brilliant illustrations now the norm? The desire for more lift and reach, more crouch behind, and wanting the horse to be "doing something" without care for the horse's welfare has created this. We must understand that all of this is clearly to satisfy the vanity and pride of the horse owners, trainers, exhibitors, and even the judges. It is time for the industry to realize this has gotten out of hand. These illustrations alone should make all of us stop and think about what's going on.
I hope everyone takes time to read Smitty's blog. We can learn so much from it and how to get back the breed we seem to have lost. I think Smitty's got a great thing going so we can all learn about the roots of this horse and realize why we need to go back to what this horse used to be about. Let's all have pride in the natural gait and versatility of this wonderful breed!