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.

Part II: Fundamentals of TWH Training

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

Do not try to set your horse's head until you are satisfied that he can do a fairly good running walk. After the running walk has been established, if the colt's head is still not right, use a standing martingale on him and tighten up on the chin strap. Bear in mind that some Tennessee Walking Horses have more head action than others, although the proper nodding action in reluctant colts may be improved through the use of martingales and tightened chin straps. Most Tennessee Walking Horses set their heads gradually themselves.
  There is only one way to ride a Tennessee Walking Horse; just mount him and relax. Do not post, and do not put any weight in the stirrups except just enough to balance yourself. Get on the horse and sit down. Ride your mount in a flatfoot walk for several minutes in order to get accustomed to the horse and the feel of his mouth. Put enough tension on the reins to steady the horse in his gait, riding with a flexible wrist so you can give and take with nod of the head.
  Do not pump your horse, but if his head is not properly set he may work you. When you have had your horse going along in a good smooth flatfoot walk for several minutes, urge him to increase his speed and let him go into a running walk. Please remember that the running walk is an extended flatfoot walk. Ultimately, you will derive much pleasure from his smooth gliding running walk. When desiring to canter, you must give the cue which the previous trainer or rider has taught the horse, as the various trainers have different ways in starting a horse to canter. Some will swing them on the rail, some will signal them with their foot behind the forearm and on the side, and some will tell them to canter by speaking to them. All horses when circled to the left should canter on the left lead, which means that their left fore-foot should be much extended, and when cantering to the right in a circle the right fore-foot should be much extended, and should never cross behind. Crossing is very uncomfortable to the rider, and is very conspicuous to the onlooker. When your horse starts crossing in the canter, just put him back in a flatfoot walk and start all over again. Most riders prefer an English saddle. Use any type bridle equipped with a curb bit, and be sure the curb strap is not too tight. When a horse is broke and ready to show or ride for pleasure he works well without a long shank rough bit.
  After our colts have been in training for two or two and one half months we begin the canter. A suitable place to teach a two-year-old to canter is on a gently sloping rise. Allow your horse to run or lope as slowly as possible up the rise, gradually slowing and gently raising him with the reins. Give him his head and when he starts to go too fast, pull him back. Help him to canter by lifting his head and putting pressure on his mouth. After the colt learns to canter at your command on the side of a hill, ride him on level ground and gradually develop the "rocking chair" canter by riding him in this gait every day. We teach our horses to canter along with the running walk, as I believe in many instances a horse's running walk may be improved if he is taught to canter early in his training period. However, it is advisable to canter them for only a few minutes each day, because too much cantering is hard on their legs.  Before giving the signal to canter, always drop your horse back into a flatfoot walk. When we desire to canter on the left lead, we pull the left rein and touch the horse gently with the left foot behind the left fore-leg and on the side. We change our lead by performing the same maneuvers on the opposite side of the horse and in reverse. Remember to drop back to a flatfoot walk each time you change leads. The canter our Tennessee Walking Horse gives you is easy although it has lots of spring, is gently rolling and has lots of head motion.
  During the second part of our colts' training, many of them are somewhat awkward and will often step on their front quarters with their hind feet. Therefore we start our colts off in the canter with the aid of quarter boots. It is often a good idea to canter a colt in a fairly large circle, and when he finds out he is not going anywhere he will stop trying to go fast and will soon develop a well established gait. As he becomes sure-footed we continue his training in circles, on the track, on sloping ground and in other places.
  It is very important for every owner of a Tennessee Walking Horse to thoroughly understand the gaits of his horse, and to so develop him. If at all possible, have a good ground man to watch the performance of your horse doing the different gaits while you are riding him. He can tell you when and how to pick up your horse, when you are bitting him right, and tell  you at what angle he looks the best and does his best reaching. A good ground man is able to point out the things that are done wrong during the training period and a horse is usually straightened out much sooner if two people work together on him.
  In the flatfoot walk the horse is supposed to walk "square and on all four corners" in a 1, 2, 3, 4 movement. The running walk should be a faster movement and with more stride. A ground man can watch your horse's movements from the front and from the rear as well as from the sides while the horse is being ridden. Watching them front or back, the ground man can tell the rider if the horse is going too fast, if he is "winging" or throwing his feet, or is unusually wide behind. If the horse is "winging" or wide behind he is not performing the gait correctly and it is better to take him back to a flatfoot and start again. From the sideview your horse is supposed to be moving in an even "gliding motion" with lots of nodding action.
  All Tennessee Walking Horses should be exercised daily. If you do not have time to ride your Tennessee Walking Horses daily, turn them out in a small paddock for a portion of each day, or else work them on a long leadline of approximately 20 feet in a circle about you. Either of these methods will take lots of the play out of your horses and they will relax and settle down to work quicker. This also keeps the horses limber. A  horse that stands in the stable constantly and with no exercise is prone to be tight and choppy in his gaits.
  By working our two-year-olds only a small amount each day, they are fairly established in their flatfoot walk and running walk, with only a beginning in the canter at the end of their first year under saddle. But as the new year rolls around and our colts are three-year-olds, we increase their working time. They are more fully developed, larger in size and heavier in weight. As we begin to finish our colts we continue to bring them out of the barn in a flatfoot walk. We spend plenty of time on this gait, for although is is the slowest of the three gaits performed by the Tennessee Walking Horse it is by no means the least important.
  Remember a good flatfoot walk is the foundation of the never-to-be-forgotten running walk.
  As three-year-olds we work our colts alternating between the running walk and then the flatfoot walk, because by now one gait will help perfect the other. Now is is easier for the horse to change from one gait to the other at the will of the rider. We are also doing more with the canter, and working it in more often with the flatfoot and running walk.
  It is a good policy to work the horses on different tracks on the outside of the barn, as well as around over the countryside, ever in new territory. Too much riding on the track will often cause a horse to sour on working in a circle anywhere, including in the show ring. By the time he is a three-year-old you will have learned where your horse likes to work the best, and how to bit him to get the best gaits out of him. Always keep in form, and when you get the key to y our horse and what it takes to make him perform his best, you are nearing your goal of having a top show or pleasure horse.
  As far as shoeing the Tennessee Walking Horse is concerned, the weight carried by each horse together with the angle of its foot depends almost altogether with the horse;  one horse may break too slow or too fast in front and not roll, or it may break too fast behind or too slow. We think that each individual horse is a different proposition, and should be studied by the rider and the ground man. Most Tennessee Walking Horses walk better if their feet are long. If they stumble or if their legs get sore, it is indicative that their feet are not at the correct angle. It is advisable to have an experienced blacksmith attend to your horse's feet. You cannot make a horse in a blacksmith shop, but you may help correct a slight flaw. If we have horses that are inclined to pace in the fairly early part of their training, we shoe them with heavier shoes and ride them in loose ground, up and down the hillside, in tall weeds, or most anywhere that the going is hard. Caution:  Do not shoe your two-year-old colts too heavily, because by so doing their tendons may be pulled or their legs otherwise permanently ruined.  As previously stated in this article, the pace is a one-sided gait and when your horse in inclined to be thrown off balance he will stop pacing and begin to walk. When our horses are inclined to trot, we shoe them light in front and this time find some good, hard, level ground, then take the horse back to a flatfoot walk and gradually ride him out of it into a running walk. This may take time to bit him down and get him into a good running walk, but when he hits it you can be very sure you will have a good running walk that is square on all corners.
  We keep the horses' ears and fetlocks closely clipped. It is a good idea to go over your horses daily with a rubber curry comb and a long bristled brush that is fairly soft. If a horse is inclined to have brittle hoofs, use a good hoof oil daily, and above all clean your horses' feet out every day, as this goes a long way in keeping your horses' feet healthy. The old adage "No foot, no horse" certainly applies to the Tennessee Walking Horse. In order to keep our horses looking their best we use light weight blankets on our horses in the stables. This does much for their hair toward keeping it clean and shining and making it lie smooth. We use tail sets on our horses and put them in stables equipped with tailboards. Our tailboards are about three feet high and 14 inches wide.