Ohio Tennessee Walker Dressage Question

Question: I used to own a Tennessee Walker that I only did trail riding with. My question is not my own horse but a friend who has arthritis of the spine and dislocated disc.

She is in to dressage and jumping with a large 17H Thoroughbred. She will be selling this horse due to her medical problems. I suggested a Tennessee Walker, and she thinks a walker cannot do dressage as it does not trot. If it is yes, she
wants to look into a large tennessee walker. I thought they could as my old walker could side pass and almost dance to music. He was very animated and loved being in parades. 

Thank you, Bonnie Case

From Panelist Liz

Hi Bonnie,

What a good friend you sound like!
Yes Walkers can do Dressage. There are also some Walker shows the have Dressage competitions . TWHBEA now has rules and patterns available just for this .   Also there are some Dressage shows that are now offering divisions just for them on open competition .

There are  Walkers out there to that are being shown in Dressage doing a straight trot to. The sky is the limit with the right horse.


From Panelist Erica

Indeed, I have seen classes set up before at some of the smaller local Dressage shows that were special for gaited horses - in particular TWH's. 

Any horse, including all gaited horses, can do Dressage to an extent. Some will be better than others depending on their conformation and understanding. Your friend may very well really enjoy riding a gaited horse in Dressage.

Yes TWHs can be used in Dressage as can any other horse. If you plan to show however, you will have to be sure to find shows that host special classes for gaited horses in Dressage as gaited horses (I don't believe) are not allowed in "traditional" Dressage classes.

Erica Frei

From Panelist Stella

Dressage type training can be used on naturally gaited horses, although for the type work your friend likely has in mind, an individual that works more "under itself" in front and without a TWH "nod" - steady head and neck...would be better. 

All of my training is dressage based(being it was also my main background), but I mainly work Paso Finos, and there are very few really large ones; I have worked other bigger gaited breeds very successfully this way too, but walkers that have more of a rack than a true nodding running walk do much better, as far as being more akin to what your friend is already used to. She does need to understand that with her back condition, gaiting is preferable to trotting anyway; however, if she plans to compete, about the only type competition that gaited horses might be allowed in (depends on show)would be musical freestyle. 

She may simply have to accept making a number of changes in her riding routines than she'd ideally like, for the sake of her health and the ability to continue riding pain free and not causing further degeneration...but, she's likely to find she's entering a whole new world of riding that she will enjoy just as much! And still be able to utilize her dressage knowledge, just adapt it to new circumstances....


From Panelist Theresa

TWH have been used for dressage, however, the USDF does not recognize the intermediate gaits of the walker in sactioned tests.  If you wish to compete at USDF shows you will need a horse that can trot. That said, lets address the walking horse:

The walking horse can trot.  If you are looking for a walking horse that can walk and trot, you will need to set your sites on a square going walking horse.  Many of the Big Lick trainers will try to discourage you from obtaining that type of horse. However, at the same time, those types will usually go for a smaller fee than the pacier type of walker.

You will need to pay special attention to the shoeing, and shoe the horse to manipulate the trot, without over doing it.

Our versatile horses (jumping, and dressage type walkers) have learned to trot only while using certian equipment, and still have a nice showable walk and running walk when using the "walking" equipment. (Different bits, and saddles)

Be aware, not all walkers can adapt to both styles, and if you wish to maintain a walk, make sure that your horse is well established in his walk before you go teaching him his trot. (We usually do this about 5 yrs of age, while always instilling BOTH gaits- the trot and the walk- or running walk). 

As you address your dressage training, make sure that your instructor understands the movements of the gaited horse, and the manipulations of that movement. Many people that I know have taken a walking horse, and in the process of achieving the versatility of jumping, or dressage have created a horse that is very confused, and becomes weary of doing any gait consistently, and isnt free moving like a working dressage or hunter.  He
must remain calm and of good mind.


From Panelist Lee

Well, Bonnie, it depends on what you mean by Dressage.  They can certainly learn basic school figures, exercises etc. They can benefit a lot from doing that sort of dressage work.  But if you are planning on doing competitive, test riding, type Dressage, they are not the best choice because the hard trot is not easy for them and all of that type of dressage work is based on the trot.  There are, however, dressage tests specifically for Tennessee
Walkers and a versatility program for TWH dressage offered in some TWH shows.

Lee Ziegler

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