The Tennessee Walking Horse - Head
The Tennessee Walking Horse's head should be in proportion to the rest of the animal's body. The head and throatlatch should be refined and clean-cut, with the facial bones exhibiting a chiselled appearance. The eyes should show character, being of good size and well placed, with good width between the eyes. They should be clear and bright. The face should be straight, rather than convex (Roman-nosed) or concave (dish-faced). The ears should be well set, medium to small in size, and they should be carried forward showing attentiveness. The muzzle should be small, with large, sensitive nostrils. The upper and lower teeth should meet. The jaw should show bone structure but should not show excessive thickness.
The Tennessee Walking Horse - Neck
The head should join the neck at approximately a 45 degree angle, with a distinct space between the jawbone and neck. The neck should be medium to long in length, and the head should be carried high. In the adult, the neck should be slightly arched. The neck should be lean and muscled and blend smoothly into the shoulders and withers. Excessive arching or a crested neck is undesirable.
The Tennessee Walking Horse - Balance
A Tennessee Walking Horse should have a balanced appearance. Balance is the single most important characteristic in equine selection because it forms the basics for movement, length of stride and, ultimately, performance. Balance is determined by the skeletal structure. When judging, it is important to attempt to visualize and evaluate the skeleton of the horse underneath muscle and other tissues. Slope of shoulder is critical to balance. Slope of shoulder changes drastically when the angle of the shoulder is increased or decreased. Not only does the top-to-bottom line ratio of the neck change, but the ratio of length of back to length of underline also changes. It is ideal to have a short top line and a long underline. The balanced horse will also have legs that are approximately the same length as depth of heart,
The Tennessee Walking Horse - Shoulder
The shoulder should be long and slope forward at an angle of 45 degrees from the withers to the point of the shoulder. The shoulder should be smooth, yet well muscled. The withers should be at least as high as the top of the rump. In addition to overall balance, slope of shoulder influences length of stride. Thus, the steeper the shoulder, the shorter the stride. Angle of shoulder and angle of pastern serve to absorb shock when the horse moves. Horses with long sloping shoulders will be better able to disperse the damaging effects of concussion, and their strides will have more freedom of movement and style of action.
The Tennessee Walking Horse - Topline
The topline of the Tennessee Walking Horse should be level, or slightly sloping to the hindquarters. The back should be short to medium length, with a short, strong loin. The croup should be long with good muscling and a well set tail. The croup should slope moderately from the point of the hip bone to the point of the buttock. The topline of the horse includes the withers, back, loin or coupling and croup. As viewed from the side, a properly balanced horse will be higher at the withers than at the croup. When the withers are higher than the croup, the hindquarters are positioned more under the body, which enhances the athletic ability of the horse. Strength of topline, which includes prominent withers, short, strong back and well-muscled loin, has a positive influence on soundness and athletic ability. The ideal withers should be sharp, prominent and well-defined. The well-defined withers are important from the standpoint of holding a saddle on the horse without excessive tightening of the front cinch. Tennessee Walking Horses should have short, strong backs relative to a long underline. The topline to underline ratio (Figure 3) plays an important role in balance, length and type of stride. Length of back is directly related to length and slope of shoulder and top to bottom line neck ratio. The loin (coupling) should be well-muscled and strong . The loin is the pivot point of the horse's back and is the area between the last rib and the croup. Short, muscular loins are needed to carry power from the hind legs forward. The croup should be long and gently sloping. This adds length to the stride as well as dimension and muscling to the hindquarter. The flatter and more level the croup, the more likely that horse will move with a vertical action behind and less of a horizontal action. The horse with a steep croup will move with the legs more collected under the body. The angle of the croup will have a great influence on the position of the hock. Moreover, these two factors together will dictate a collected, balanced horizontal movement.
The Tennessee Walking Horse - Hindquarters
The hindquarters of the Tennessee Walking Horse should be of moderate thickness and depth, well muscled when viewed from the side and rear. The muscling should be evident inside and out on the rear legs. The hock joint should be fairly wide and deep, with the joint being clean. The cannon area should be vertical from the hock to the pastern, with the pastern showing a 45 degree angle with the ground.
Conformation of the Tennessee Walking Horse is directly related to skeletal structure. It includes the bones and ligaments which bind the bones together to form joints. The manner in which a horse moves is determined by the horse's conformation and skeletal structure. The usefulness of Tennessee Walking Horses depends on their ability to move and perform in an appropriate manner. Structural correctness ultimately determines the value and usefulness of a horse. Regardless of whether the horse is a favorite at the Celebration or a youth's pleasure mount, the length and angle of the bone structure, combined with skeletal correctness play a critical role in the usefulness of the athlete. An understanding of skeletal make-up will assist in the evaluation of horse conformation.