"Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are known throughout the industry
as the breed that shows abused and tortured horses."

~ Jim Heird, Ph.D., Do Right By The Horse, February 2010

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, January 9, 2012

RESEARCH and THOUGHTS - Claims that the TWH was bred to be a show horse

So I've had a few Big Lick supporters tell me recently that the TWH was originally bred to be a show horse. I thought this a bit odd, because the history that I've always known is that the breed was originally designed to be a riding and carriage horse.  The horse was bred to be a smooth, easy ride for plantation owners to be able to oversee their farms easily and comfortably, with minimal stress on the horse himself.  The horse was also used to hitch to the cart and take the family to market or to church.  Showing started on a whim, where TWHs were shown at local shows with Saddlebreds and other breeds, and then started to command their own breed shows due to their popularity.  So I decided to look up some history on the horse from the breed associations themselves.  Below is what I found.

Historical Information

Originally bred as a utility horse, the Tennessee Walking Horse is best suited for a recreational mount due to its smooth, easy ride and its gentle disposition. A calm, docile temperament, combined with naturally smooth and easy gaits insure the popularity of the Tennessee Walking Horse as the world’s greatest show, trail and pleasure horse.
~ Tennessee Walking Horse: The Basics, compiled by Sis Osborne, TWHBEA website.  Click here for the link.

For more than a hundred years prior to 1935 Tennesseans had been riding a horse which had easy gaits under the saddle. Tennesseans had always loved horses. The early pioneers who cam across the mountains from the Carolinas and from Virginia brought a hardy stock of horses with them. These horses were used for a three-fold purpose, that of riding, driving and for utility work on the farms as the land emerged from a wilderness.

The horses in Tennessee in the early days had Thoroughbred blood in their veins. There was also a strain of the Pacer, and some Morgan blood prevailed. By Andrew Jackson's time racing on the flat and quarter racing were well established.

Later the turn of the century these horses with good gaits were exhibited at County Fairs. Completion was healthy and each breeder tried to produce and developed a horse which would excel at easy gaits under the saddle. These horses were known to oldsters as "Saddle" horses. They were later called Plantation Horses, or Plantation Walking Horses. Today they are known as Tennessee Walking Horses.
~ A Brief History of the Tennessee Walking Horse, Walking-horse.com  Click here for the link.

For those who think the Tennessee Walking Horse is comparatively new on the equine scene, pages of history reflect the strong influence this animal has had in the building of this country and in the daily lives of our forefathers. Mainly used for utility and riding stock, he gained wide popularity for his ease of gait and ability to stride faultlessly over hills and through the valleys of the rocky middle Tennessee terrain. Being used as a utility animal for all types of farm work, as well as family transportation and recreation, the old plantation-type horse was highly valued for his smooth and sure gait, gentle disposition and keen intelligence.
~ Tennessee Walking Horse, North America, International Museum of the Horse.  Click here for the link.

The Specific Reason for Breeding the TWH

James R. Brantley owned Allan F-1, the first horse ever to be registered as a TWH.  Brantley "dreamed of developing a breed of horse adapted to the agricultural life and traditions of Middle Tennessee, the 'Plantation Horse', as he called it."  Brantley bred Allan to Gertrude, a saddle horse with an "impeccable" pedigree.  The foal "would produce an animal that met all of the qualifications he dreamed of in a Plantation Horse."  The foal was Roan Allen F-38, and Mr. Brantley said he "had it all: beauty, conformation, and, as history would later prove, championship qualities that excelled in what became the rapidly-developing breed of the Tennessee Walking Horse."
from Tennessee Walking Horse: An American Tradition, coffee table book.  Click here for the link.

For years, Mr. James R. Brantley dreamed of developing a new breed of horse, an easy-to-ride saddle and harness horse that could serve as the utilitarian horse of his era.  In 1903, he purchased the older stallion named Allan.  Allan carried in him bloodlines of some of the greatest horses of his day, and Mr. Brantley became convinced that through this horse, he could achieve his dream.
from In Memory of Allan F-1, Walkers West.  Click here for the link.

Honestly, I could keep posting more and more links, but you get the idea.  I found the same information over and over again, and most of it was referenced as coming from TWHBEA.

None of this information leads me to believe that the breed was originally developed specifically to be a show horse.  I believe that this claim is just another way for the BL community to have an excuse to keep doing what they're doing.  These new excuses--that the horse was bred to be a show horse, that the TWH is built to do the Big Lick--it's all just ways to lie to themselves.  It's sad that they have to create their own belief system to justify abusing horses.  But we see the same thing in other cultures were animal abuse is the "norm", such as dog fighting, cock fighting, Mexican rodeos (which includes horse tripping), bear baiting, and canned hunts.  I'll be doing more research on why this phenomenon happens, but this is definitely the beginning that I think people need to have in their heads starting now.  If we understand the reasons why TWH abuse, then we can be able to get to the end of soring.

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