How to Train a Tennessee Walking Horse

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The Tennessee Walking Horse is a gaited breed known for its smooth running walk and typically placid disposition. However, as with any breed, a young or untrained Tennessee Walking Horse may be an energetic mount prone to rambunctious behavior. Only experienced riders with training experience should attempt to train any horse without professional assistance.

Things You'll Need

  • Halter
  • Lead Rope
  • Round Pen
  • Clicker
  • Treats
  • Tack
  • Helper
  • Practice ground work using a halter and lead rope. If your horse is not well-trained to lead, begin by working in a round pen. Lead your horse in circles to the left and right, then practice halting and backing in hand. Continue practicing this step until your horse can easily be led around his stable and will back, turn, move forward and yield his forehand and haunches on cue.

  • Introduce your horse to the tack you plan to use for training under saddle. Use a clicker and treats to reward your Tennessee Walking Horse for standing quietly as you tack and untack her. Depending upon the horse's temperament, you may need to practice this for several sessions before she accepts tack calmly while standing and while being led in hand.

  • Longe your Tennessee Walking Horse in a round pen while he wears the tack you intend to use for riding. You may wish to begin longeing with a surcingle and side reins, progressing to a saddle and bridle after your horse will walk, trot and canter calmly on a longe line.

  • Mount your horse for the first time. If possible, ask an experienced helper to hold your Tennessee Walking Horse while you practice mounting and dismounting. Be careful not to accidentally kick your horse or sit down on her back too roughly.

  • Ride at a relaxed walk for progressively longer periods of time. Tennessee Walking horses are traditionally trained at the walk until they have walked with a rider for a distance roughly equal to 100 miles. At that point, the horse will be asked to calmly canter while carrying a rider. Tennessee Walking Horses should not pace or trot.

Tips & Warnings

  • Enjoy the smooth running walk, a gait unique to the Tennessee Walking Horse, as it develops naturally throughout your horse's training. Lifting your horse's head slightly, shortening your rein and encouraging him to pick up speed will encourage your horse to begin to explore the running walk with a rider aboard.
  • If you need or want help training your horse, don't hesitate to hire a professional trainer. Look for someone who trains horses with positive reinforcement, not mechanical devices that force the horse into the desired gait.
  • As your horse becomes more confident under saddle, consider trail riding. Find an experienced, calm horse and rider to escort your young horse on her first few trail rides.
  • If you are angry with your horse, end the training session and take some time to calm down before working with the horse again. Everyone gets frustrated sometimes, particularly when working with a young horse, but it's better to end a ride early than to damage your trusting relationship with your Tennessee Walking Horse.
  • Avoid the harsh training methods used by some people who train Tennessee Walking Horses for shows. Many of these techniques, such as "soring," are prohibited by show rules but are practiced secretly by unscrupulous trainers.

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