Among good-natured, smooth-riding, gaited breeds, the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Peruvian Paso meet the needs of most equestrians. Various factors, one of which is the rider's size, determine which is the best choice for your purposes. Taller folks would probably prefer the Tennessee Walker, while the Peruvian Paso appeals to those want "pizzazz" in a mount. If you plan to show your horse, you might also take shoeing concerns into consideration.
Tennessee Walking Horses
The Tennessee Walking Horse, also known as the Tennessee Walker, stands between 14.3 hands and 17 hands and weighs between 900 and 1,200 pounds. The breed standard permits all colors. Some Tennessee Walkers are true black, a fairly rare shade in the equine world. The breed's family tree includes the thoroughbred, the American Saddlebred, the Standardbred and the extinct Narragansett Pacer. An all-purpose horse, the Tennessee Walker demonstrates versatility as a trail, reining and driving animal. He's also a good choice for riders experiencing back issues.
Tennessee Walking Horse Gaits
Every Tennessee Walker should perform three basic gaits: the flat walk, running walk and canter. The canter should have that "rocking chair" quality. Some horses perform variants of the running walk, including the single-foot, the rack and the stepping pace. The running walk is quite fast, with the horse able to travel between 10 and 20 miles per hour, according to the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors' Association. The horse overstrides, with the back foot going over the track left by the front foot, a characteristic known only in this breed. The bigger the stride the better, as far as Tennessee Walker aficionados are concerned. As he moves, the Tennessee Walker nods his head in rhythm to his gaits. If you ride your Tennessee Walker for pleasure, he doesn't require special shoeing. Show horses, however, are generally shown with "double nailed and triple nailed pads to add dimension to the hoof," according to the TWHBEA.
Somewhat smaller than Tennessee Walkers, Peruvian Pasos range in height from 13.2 hands to 15 hands, so those under 14.2 hands are technically ponies. They weigh between 900 and 1,000 pounds. The breed standard permits all solid colors, as well as roans, a combination of white hairs with the base coat. These horses are bred not just for their gaits but also for their good temperaments. Although Peruvian Pasos descend from Andalusians and other Spanish breeds brought to the New World by Spanish conquerors, their bloodlines have been pure for centuries. Consequently, it is the "only naturally gaited breed in the world that can guarantee its gait to 100 percent of its offspring," according to the Oklahoma State University veterinary website.
Peruvian Paso Gaits
Stylish and smooth -- that's the Peruvian Paso. He performs all of his gaits naturally, without the addition of any artificial devices, even normal horseshoes, as the breed is often shown barefoot, OSU says. Besides the paso llano, a four-beat lateral gait, the Peruvian Paso's gaits include the walk and the sobreandando, an accelerated paso llano. The Peruvian Paso is the only breed performing the termino, a movement in which the front legs roll toward the outside when the horse goes forward, comparable to a swimmer's arm motions.
- Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association: Gaits
- Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association: Tennessee Walking Horses - The Basics
- Oklahoma State University: Peruvian Paso
- Southern California Peruvian Paso Horse Club: About Peruvian Horses
- Peruvian Pasos: The Peruvian Paso Horse Versus the Paso Fino Horse
- Gaited Horses: The Tennessee Walking Horse
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.