Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Part I: Fundamentals of TWH Training

*From "The Tennessee Walking Horse", April, 1949

The Tennessee Walking Horse, because of its nice disposition and easy gaits, has walked its way to popularity and into the hearts of people throughout America and also many foreign countries during the past few years. This well-mannered horse with its gentle temperament, beautiful conformation and free and easy gaits, provides a ride that is healthful; and is the ideal mount for those both young and old who desire the utmost in satisfaction from horseback riding.  Equine lovers who are inexperienced in handling horses have found the Tennessee Walking horse easily managed, and have grown to love and admire it.
 Thousands of Tennessee Walking Horses have been purchased during the past few years and have been shipped into sections where Tennessee Walking Horses have never been before. Requests are received almost daily from owners and riders who do not throughly understand the mannerisms of our Breed, and as a result the horses are not trained or ridden in the manner to which they are accustomed.
  We begin handling our colts when they are about a week or 10 days old, and teach them not to be afraid of us. They will learn by kind treatment that we do not intend to hurt them. We enter his stall and paddock at frequent intervals, pet and handle him, gently rub his legs, and pat him on the nose and ears; he will become accustomed to  being handled, and soon be our friend.
  Horses are like people, no two are alike, although fundamentally all are just about the same. Tennessee Walking Horses are intelligent animals and very docile; they invariably respond to kind treatment. you can be good to your horses and also your colts without spoiling them. However, leave off all sugar and apple feeding, etc.; this does not make your animals one bit more gentle nor do they think any mm ore of you----it only teaches them to bite and be ill-natured.
 When your colts are about six weeks old put halters on them and begin teaching them to lead. After they have become used to the halter attach a four-or five-foot leadline to the halter. Have an attendant lead the colt's mother off in front of him and the youngster will follow her. After a few days the colt will respond to your movements of the leadline, and while following along in the steps of his mother he will not even realize he has been taught to lead. Be very careful not to overwork your colts, and do not ever let them get tired.
  Bear in mind that every colt demands certain particular attention because every colt should be treated as a different individual. However, the above practices are those which are generally applicable to almost every colt. If one particular phase or recommendation does not work with your colts, try another similar method. As the colt grows older we think he should be led on a loose rein, the attendant holding the rein some four or five feet from the colt's head, letting it walk naturally. Former experience has taught us not to lead a colt fast enough to cause it not to go in a long, loose flatfoot walk or faster than a slow running walk; and we never try holding onto a colts halter and trying to force it to nod. we have seen a large number of loose colts that never developed into top horses. We think this was due to the fact that they were led so much. Many are tried to be taught so much excessive motion that when they are put under saddle they are inclined to be choppy in their gaits. Pampered colts being led and held back are inclined to not properly line up and often go wide behind, which faults must be corrected later in order to make top horses.
 Fresh air and plenty of exercise are good for growing colts. Therefore we let ours run out practically the year 'round during the day and night when the weather is pretty; and put them in the barn or some other good dry shelter when the weather is cold and bad. After colts are weaned, which is at about six months of age, we leave our shelter door open so that colts may come and go and random. A trough is placed in the barn or shelter where the colts have access to a good balanced grain rationing, together with a good legume hay.
  We start to break our colts around the first of each year, or when they are a year and a half or two years old. At this age they will range in weight from 700 to 750 pounds, and will stand approximately 14 hands and three inches.
  I like to take my colts completely off the pasture from 30 to 60 days ahead of time, and feed them a good balanced ration. During this time when the colts are in the barn and before we begin riding them they are placed in a stall convenient to a small paddock for use during pretty weather. during this period a bitting rig is used for a short time each day. Be very careful not to place a colt in a strain by reining his head too high, or having the side reins too tight at the beginning. Tighten the reins gradually as the colt becomes used to the bitting rig. This helps the colt get accustomed to having bits in its mouth, reins on its neck, having something on his back and also get him used to a girth. This also helps make it easier for the rider to set the youngster's head when this part of his education arrives. About one hour each day is long enough for the average colt to have on a bitting rig as we do not want to tire the colt.
  we shoe our colts just before we begin to ride them with plain keg shoes; the size of the shoe depends on the size of the hoof. After the colt has worn a set of shoes for about two months his feet might have grown too long and will need shortening. we use a regular bridle equipped with a snaffle bit, and it is a good idea to lead the colts around a few times after putting the snaffle bit in his mouth in order for him to become more used to having it in his mouth. We ride our colts the first few days without a saddle. Get on his back gently and be as quiet as possible until he realizes that  you intend to ride him. It is a good idea to have an attendant lead the colt around with you on his back. He will soon become used to the idea and will not mind having you there.
  Follow the above procedure for a very short time each day until the colt is absolutely at ease with you on his back. After a week or so take him to a place where there is level ground, and hold the reins in your own hands. Be very careful not to snatch the colt or pull up on the reins quick or hard. A colt's m mouth is very tender and you may scare and hurt him without meaning to in the early stages of his training. Allow him to walk in one direction then another, and he will soon learn how to respond to your handling of the reins. When you are sure the colt is accustomed to having you an his back, he is ready to be ridden with a saddle.
  It is a good idea to let the colt smell the saddle before it is placed on his back, so that he will not be afraid of it. After you have placed the saddle gently on the colt's back, let him stand for a few minutes then lead him around. He will soon find out that the saddle is not going to hurt him and he will not be afraid of it. When the colt has ceased to pay any attention to the saddle being on his back, mount and ride him.
    As it is generally known, the Tennessee Walking Horse has three distinctive gaits, the flatfoot walk, the running walk and the canter. Each of these gaits should be throughly understood and recognized by every Tennessee Walking Horse owner and handler. The Tennessee Walking Horse is a born walker and while at his mother's side he can be seen performing these gaits and to change from one to the other, at the will of the rider, is the sole task which the trainer finds before him.
  The flatfoot walk is the slowest of the three, and is the first gait Tennessee Walking Horses perform. We ride our colts in a flatfoot walk for about 30 or 40 days, around parked automobiles, tractors, other horses and around other objects with which we want them to become accustomed. The Tennessee Walking Horse is fearless and level headed, and once he has learned an object he is not afraid and does shy away from it. When we are sure he is not afraid of these things, we ride him further away from the barn and in other surroundings that soon become familiar sights to him. He can be ridden around over the farm, along the roadside and other places where he will see moving vehicles. He will soon learn not to be afraid of anything.
  After riding our colts four to six weeks in a flatfoot walk they are fairly bridle-wise. We then remove the snaffle bit, because the colt is ready for a curb bit. Still using a regular bridle with a curb bit and a loose chin strap, we ride our colts over new territory, often in soft ground. If they feel that they are going somewhere they will start striding and want to go on. The flatfoot walk has a speed of from four to five miles and hour, and is performed with much comfort to his rider. With the diagonally-opposed movement of its feet he strikes the ground with his right-fore and left-rear, and left-fore and right-rear.
  We now allow our colts to go into a running walk. Mount your colt and ride him in  the flatfoot walk for about 10 minutes, or until the colt begins to relax and take hold. Then add a little more to his walk by gently urging him on and taking hold of his head by slightly tightening up on the reins. The running walk is a faster movement of the flatfoot walk and is obtained by simply making the colt "go on". Do not ride the colt in the running walk too long at a time. We ride the average colt only 30 or 40 minutes each day.
  The running walk is the most popular and leading gait that the Tennessee Walking Horse performs. It is a four-cornered gait and is started like the flatfoot walk, but as the speed is increased the horse oversteps the back foot over the front track from a few to 18 or even 24 inches. It takes the jar or jolt from its back by the spring of its legs, the motion of its feet and the nod of its head. When your horse is walking his best you will notice him relaxing certain muscles that cause him to nod his head in more pronounced movements, as he lengthens his stride, takes hold and gets down to work.
  The Tennessee Walking Horse nods his head with his every stride and brings each fore-foot to the ground a mere second before he does his diagonally opposite hind foot. This is the only difference between a running walk and a fox-trot, and is also the reason that our Tennessee Walking Horses are born walkers and never man made. A horse doing a stepping pace springs from the ground with his right fore-foot and right rear-foot, then with his left fore-foot and left rear-foot, going a one-sided gaits. He usually shows a kind of hopping motion with his tail and not too much motion with his head. The Tennessee Walking Horse must stay on his four corners and not on two sides as the horse that does the amble or stepping pace. When our colts are inclined to want to pace we use trotting balls on their front feet to help square them up. This extra weight helps to start them to reaching, or in other words to lengthen their stride, it also makes them fold their knees a little more. We often ride our colts some distance from the barn; colts are aware that they are leaving home. This is a good way to start a colt to walking as he is anxious to get back to the barn and to more familiar surroundings. he will begin to take hold and start to stride and want to go on. You may steady him with the bit and he will likely hit a good true running walk.

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