Tennessee Walking Horses Hit the Trail


For many, the Tennessee Walking Horse is an ideal trail mount because of the breed’s smooth flat and running walk, and its famed easy-going disposition. “We’re the greatest horse on the trail,” boasts Diane McMurtrey, vice president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) Pleasure Horse Committee.

The distance program is open to all members and simply requires filling out an application from the TWHBEA, explains Lori Puckett, industry development manager for TWHBEA, which is headquartered in Lewisburg, Tenn. “We send you a book, and you log your hours. Then you document any hours you spend in the saddle on a trail ride.” At designated mileage increments, riders send their log book into the association and receive an award. “Those awards vary from a jacket to the Chevron patches for the jacket, halters and more,” Puckett says.

TWHBEA also launched a special partnership with the National Park Service this year. “June 7 was the National Youth Trail Riding Day,” Puckett explains. “The TWHBEA [hosted] events in national parks as well as state parks all across the United States. It’s a big stride for our youth to get involved in trail riding, and also for us to educate our members on the importance of maintaining the trails in national parks so they can be used by trail riders for years to come. We hope that every year June 7 will be National Trail Riding Youth Day.”

Both the TWHBEA and the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) note increased interest in their trail riding programs. “Our trail program has gotten much larger than last year,” says Don Vizi, executive director of the NWHA, which is located in Lexington, Ky. “These horses can out-walk any trail horse because of their gait and endurance.” One of the NWHA’s trail programs is the Iron Buns Award, which honors riders spending the most hours in the saddle.
Vizi says the Tennessee Walking Horse’s disposition and gaits make it a great mount for riders of all ages.  “A lot of our senior citizens really enjoy it,” he says. “They’re known for a rocking chair canter, and that’s great for the young kids and the older people, too. You can just get on and enjoy the ride. You don’t have to work so hard.”

“I have also noticed more of the retired or nearly retired generation getting into horses for the first time and enjoying the partnership with their horse, whether it is the versatility program or trail riding,” says Linda Starnes, of Starnes Stable in Brownsville, Ky. Starnes competes in versatility and enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horses on trail. “Trail Riding is gaining in popularity as a recreational pastime,” she explains, “and you can take the same horse that you ride on the trail and be competitive with it in the versatility program.”

For information on TWHBEA, visit www.twhbea.org, and for more information on NWHA, visit www.nwha.com.
Also link to breed profile.

For more information on Tennessee Walking Horses, click here >>


  1. I just read the article about the TWH in HI, issue August 2008. I have to say I am very disappointed in the article. It was like reading a show planner rather than a description of the breed. I am usually impressed by the main breed article of each issue. This time, however, there is absolutely no information about the history of the breed, any explanation of their natural gaits, their original uses, their conformation, height, or colours. Another glaring omission are the controversial, and in my opinion cruel, practices of cutting and setting the tail and soring, and using uneven shoes and chains to exaggerate their front stepping action. I noticed that none of the photos show any set tails or high steps as though they didn’t exist. This is a problem of which everyone should be aware so that a stop can be put to it. I’m not saying that the article should have been about that but it should have been mentioned and it should have been about the actual breed and not about where to show. Keep up the good work!


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