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Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

A Tennessee Walking Horse question?

Posted Saturday, June 6, 2009, at 3:07 PM

I'm one citizen of Shelbyville who freely admits I know absolutely nothing about Tennessee Walking Horses.

One thing I've always wondered about has nothing to with the horses and everything to do with the riders.

When do lady riders alway sit very erectly in the saddle while many male riders are hunched over? Is it an anatomical male vs. female thing?

It seems there are all types of classes at horse shows to include practically everything.

Should their add a class for hunched-over male riders on walking horses?

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This is pure speculation on my part but I think it's a habit-a cultural thing.

Female riders were expected to be *ladies*.

Most of the time,they exhibited in equitation and fine harness.

This meant they had to have a very tailored,refined appearance that included good posture.

One or two of the successful male riders of the sixties rode hunched over.

Since they were good enough to overcome any penalty arising from their poor confirmation,some of their peers began emulating an arthritic box turtle,as well.

(Think of a baseball player copying his idol by chewing tobacco.)

The original riders probably bent over due to back problems and shyness rather than any intent to pattern themselves after jockeys or Western riders whose focus was on speed.

Leaning close to a horse's neck might help when a fast lick or exaggerated canter made the seat less secure.

But,having the head ducked under and jutting forward does little more than undermine the Sunday-go-to-meeting polish of the English-style saddle and habit.

Even Western riders sit up straight when displaying their horse rather than chasing down stagecoach robbers.

But,making yourself a small target and protecting your head and face might make sense to riders who don't wear protective helmets and might face some tossed soft drink cans and brawls when soring inspections and judges' cards don't go to suit the rowdier folks around them.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Sat, Jun 6, 2009, at 4:51 PM


Cause its not "cool"...

-- Posted by Evil Monkey on Sun, Jun 7, 2009, at 11:21 AM

I suspect that it started when riding a horse with a deep back end it was and is to keep the guy's center of gravity over the saddle. A woman's center is lower and falls over the saddle naturally.

-- Posted by Tyger on Sun, Jun 7, 2009, at 1:33 PM

The deep back end theory may have some merit, but I can remember when Steve Hill was riding on Talk of the Town and others the he looked like a drunk that had been lashed onto the horse.

That was in the days before horses brought their back feet so far up under them. The natural gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse in those days was a beautiful thing to behold. To me there is nothing as beautiful as a good horse doing a good running walk. Just my humble opinion.

-- Posted by leeiii on Sun, Jun 7, 2009, at 3:22 PM

I agree,leeii.

Foals can have that easy and miraculous lick (and even approximate a spirited canter while they play).

How ironic to see some of those same young horses "mature" into clumsy distortions of the breed.

Proper training for human or non-human athletes involves maximizing natural ability and celebrating the results during competition.

Chemicals and action devices were never meant to be substitutes for competent handling and inborn talent.

The combination of professional dedication and pure joy can and should be seen in both mount and rider.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Sun, Jun 7, 2009, at 4:58 PM

OMG y'all have some theories. Basically trainers look over the right or left to watch the foot fall or to watch the knee break. It shouldn't carry over into the ring, but it is to watch the knee break. Some trainers, Landrum, Holt, Weaver and others you notice do not hunch and are superior trainers. It is a matter of equitation, good riders should have good equitation, ladies are not generally the trainers so they do not have the hunch habit, except for the 2 or 3 lady trainers out there. There is one from Kentucky that lays on the horses neck dang near kissing the ears at every shake and looks stupid. A very promininet lady amateur rider is so relaxed on the horse she hunchs back, like "ho hum I'm bored" that also looks like bad equitation. But she pays 120K a year in training so she could sleep on the thing and win. Just a tidbit

-- Posted by East side on Mon, Jun 8, 2009, at 4:11 PM

The Tennessee Walker is meant to have such a smooth gait that a water goblet can sit atop the rider's head and not spill a drop.

If a horse moves his back end as if he had a few too many prunes for breakfast and needs to hit the gate NOW or tosses his front feet as if he wants to sling his hooves off his body and the rider seems in need of a back brace,then there won't be much evidence of the breed's inborn gaits or of the work of a talented trainer.

Ideally,the horse and rider should move in such a fluid manner that those who aren't familiar with the breed would be in awe of their power and beauty and those who know horses and know the Walker would nod in affirmation at a demonstration of how to make the most of what the good Lord gave the horse to begin with.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Mon, Jun 8, 2009, at 9:18 PM

Maybe it hurts them and not the women, wouldn't really know just a thought.

-- Posted by Momof3&3step&1gran on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 6:37 PM

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Bo Melson is a retired sports and police beat editor of the Times-Gazette. He passed away November 15, 2014, at age 81.
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