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.
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.”
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