The University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) announced that they are working together to develop and secure funding for a balance and mobility study to analyze the natural gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse.
The study would also analyze potential differences in horses’ weight distribution based on the way they are shod.
“Certainly there’s a natural evolution in the performance of show horses through breeding and improved training methods, but this study will finally help us determine if today’s horses are still in synch with the natural gait of this breed,” says Dr. Alan Mathew, head of the Department of Animal Science at the University of Tennessee.
“We base breeding decisions on performance in the show-ring, and that may not be the best way to preserve the natural gait of this breed,” says Chuck Cadle, executive director of the TWHBEA. This study will help us make the best breeding decisions so we don’t dilute our population and compromise the gait that makes our horse famous.
“We hope that with this scientific information, we can all agree on what’s in the best interest of the breed and how to move forward together,” Cadle adds. “If today’s show horses are not functioning the way the breed’s founding sires and mares did, then we as an industry may need to change our expectations for this breed.”
If the study could be initiated within the year, it could be completed by 2011. TWHBEA and UT intend to seek funds for the project and are willing to discuss it with interested parties.