Tennessee Walking Horse Vs Standardbred

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the differences and similarities between two prominent horse breeds – the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Standardbred. From their rich historical backgrounds to their distinct physical characteristics, temperaments, and preferred uses and disciplines, we will delve into the unique qualities that set these two breeds apart. We will discuss the specific training and care requirements for each breed, providing valuable insights for both experienced equestrians and those new to the world of horse ownership. Whether you are considering adding one of these magnificent equines to your stable or simply seeking to expand your knowledge of horse breeds, this article will serve as an invaluable resource, offering in-depth comparisons and valuable information for enthusiasts of all levels.

Key Takeaways:

  • Tennessee Walking Horses are known for their smooth, gliding gait, while Standardbreds are known for their speed and power.
  • Both breeds have unique histories and physical differences, but they share a strong, trainable temperament.
  • Tennessee Walking Horses are popular for trail riding and showing, while Standardbreds excel in harness racing and other athletic disciplines.
  • What Is a Tennessee Walking Horse?

    The Tennessee Walking Horse is a unique breed known for its smooth and distinctive running walk, gentle disposition, and versatile capabilities in various disciplines.

    Its historical significance can be traced back to the 19th century, where it was developed in the southern United States, primarily in Tennessee. The breed was selectively bred for its smooth gait, making it well-suited for long hours of riding and hauling in the rugged terrain. This emphasis on comfort and endurance has made the Tennessee Walking Horse a popular choice for pleasure riding, trail competitions, and even therapy work.

    One of the most distinctive characteristics of this breed is its running walk, which is known for its unique four-beat lateral gait. This smooth and ground-covering gait has made the Tennessee Walking Horse a sought-after mount for riders seeking a comfortable and enjoyable riding experience. Along with its gait, the breed is also recognized for its gentle and willing nature, making it suitable for riders of all levels, including children and novice equestrians.

    History of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breed

    The history of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed dates back to the late 19th century, originating from the crossbreeding of Narragansett Pacer, Canadian Pacer, and Standardbred horses to create a well-rounded and versatile equine companion.

    These foundational bloodlines contributed to the unique gait and gentle disposition that characterizes the Tennessee Walking Horse. Over time, selective breeding and careful stewardship by dedicated breeders refined the breed’s characteristics, leading to its recognition as one of the most renowned and desirable equine breeds.

    The Tennessee Walking Horse’s evolution saw significant milestones, including the establishment of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) in 1935, which has played a pivotal role in setting breed standards and promoting the breed’s excellence worldwide.

    What Is a Standardbred Horse?

    What Is a Standardbred Horse? - Tennessee Walking Horse Vs Standardbred

    Credits: Horselife.Org – Joe Clark

    The Standardbred Horse is renowned for its prowess in harness racing, characterized by a distinctive trotting or pacing gait, exceptional stamina, and a rich heritage rooted in the development of trotting breeds in the United States.

    Emerging during the 19th century, the Standardbred holds a unique position in the equestrian world, distinguished by its remarkable athleticism and versatility. Initially bred for their speed and endurance for trotting races, these horses were developed in America, with their lineage tracing back to the descendants of the Thoroughbred and Morgan breeds. Their innate strength and resilience have solidified their reputation both on and off the race track, making them prized among equestrian enthusiasts for various disciplines such as harness racing, pleasure driving, and even as steady and reliable carriage horses.

    History of the Standardbred Horse Breed

    The history of the Standardbred Horse breed traces back to the early 19th century, originating from the infusion of Thoroughbred, Morgan, and Norfolk Trotter bloodlines, resulting in a distinct equine breed recognized for its speed, endurance, and contributions to the sport of harness racing.

    With its lineage deeply rooted in the 1800s, the Standardbred Horse breed quickly became synonymous with the burgeoning sport of harness racing, known for its ability to pull a sulky at a swift pace over extended distances, setting the stage for the breed’s legendary status in this discipline.

    The breed’s pivotal role in harness racing led to the establishment of key breeding advancements, such as the development of the famous sire, Hambletonian 10, and the implementation of standardized racing distances and rules, solidifying the breed’s enduring legacy within the equestrian community.

    Physical Differences between Tennessee Walking Horse and Standardbred

    The Tennessee Walking Horse and Standardbred exhibit contrasting physical characteristics, with the former showcasing a refined build, elegant running walk, and distinctive conformation, while the latter is recognized for its muscular structure, powerful trotting gait, and robust physique.

    When examining the Tennessee Walking Horse, one immediately notices its slender yet strong build, characterized by a refined head, long neck, and well-angled shoulders, which allows for graceful, ground-covering strides.

    In contrast, the Standardbred boasts a more robust frame, featuring a deep chest, powerful hindquarters, and sturdy legs, all contributing to its ability to sustain a swift, rhythmic trot over extended distances.

    The Tennessee Walking Horse often presents a smooth, four-beat gait, known as the “running walk,” showcasing a unique rolling motion highlighted by the breed’s natural head nod.

    The Standardbred, on the other hand, is renowned for its consistent and powerful trot, capable of maintaining impressive speed and endurance.

    Body Structure and Conformation

    The body structure and conformation of the Tennessee Walking Horse are characterized by a well-arched neck, sloping shoulder, and strong hindquarters, while the Standardbred exhibits a compact, muscular frame, prominent withers, and a robust build suited for harness racing.

    The Tennessee Walking Horse presents a distinct conformation with a tall, elegant stance, accompanied by a deep chest and a level topline. This conformation facilitates its unique ambling gait, known as the ‘running walk’, providing a smooth, gliding motion. Their well-muscled hindquarters contribute to the horse’s ability to carry itself with grace and power.

    On the other hand, the Standardbred’s sturdy build, compact body, and muscular hindquarters are tailored for speed and endurance, perfectly adapted for the rigors of harness racing.

    Coat Color and Markings

    The coat colors and markings of the Tennessee Walking Horse encompass a wide range of variations, including roan, tobiano, and sabino patterns, whereas the Standardbred commonly exhibits solid colors such as bay, brown, black, and chestnut, with minimal white markings or patterns.

    Roan horses have a mixture of white and colored hairs, creating a diluted coat color with a unique appearance.

    Tobiano horses are known for their white patterns that cross the back and legs, while their head and tail typically have solid colors.

    Sabino horses often display extensive white markings, such as high socks, blazes, or white spots on the belly.

    On the other hand, bay horses have a reddish-brown body with black points, whereas brown horses have a darker brown body with black points, but no bay gene.

    Black horses have a uniformly black coat without any other coloration, and chestnut horses have a range of red to dark brown shades.

    These breed-specific colorations and genetic variations contribute to the diversity and distinctive markings of the Tennessee Walking Horse and Standardbred.

    Height and Weight

    The Tennessee Walking Horse typically stands between 14.3 to 17 hands high and weighs around 900 to 1,200 pounds, while the Standardbred exhibits a height range of 14.1 to 17.2 hands and weighs approximately 900 to 1,100 pounds, showcasing variations in size and weight within each breed.

    These height and weight specifications are essential components of the breed standards, highlighting the distinct physical dimensions of the Tennessee Walking Horse and Standardbred. The variation in size within each breed allows for individual differences in conformation and appearance, contributing to the overall diversity seen in these equine breeds.

    Gait and Movement

    The Tennessee Walking Horse is revered for its natural running walk, flat walk, and canter, characterized by a smooth and even gait, in contrast to the Standardbred’s distinctive trotting or pacing gait, showcasing a more pronounced and rhythmic movement during harness racing.

    Known for its unique gait variations, the Tennessee Walking Horse exudes elegance and grace with its natural running walk that is smooth and effortless, offering riders a comfortable and enjoyable experience. The flat walk of this majestic breed provides a level and gliding movement, further adding to its allure.

    In contrast, the Standardbred displays a distinctively rhythmic and powerful trotting or pacing gait, making it a formidable competitor in harness racing events. The breed’s specialized movements embody strength and precision, positioning it as a prominent figure in the world of equestrian sports.

    Temperament and Personality of Tennessee Walking Horse and Standardbred

    The Tennessee Walking Horse is renowned for its gentle and calm temperament, displaying a willing and amiable nature, while the Standardbred exhibits a resilient and focused disposition, often characterized by determination, intelligence, and an adaptable demeanor.

    These temperamental traits and distinctive personalities are key factors in understanding the behavior and disposition of these beloved equines. The Tennessee Walking Horse is known for its easy-going nature, making it an ideal companion for riders of all ages and experience levels. They are often described as dependable, gentle, and affectionate, making them popular choices for trail riding, pleasure, and show competitions.

    On the other hand, the Standardbred is recognized for its determination and adaptability. Their intelligence and focus make them well-suited for various equestrian disciplines, particularly harness racing. Standardbreds are known to possess a strong work ethic, often displaying a keen willingness to perform and excel in their endeavors.

    Tennessee Walking Horse

    The Tennessee Walking Horse is esteemed for its gentle and docile temperament, demonstrating a cooperative and friendly disposition, making it an ideal choice for pleasure riding, trail activities, and equine therapy engagements.

    Known for its graceful gait and calm demeanor, this breed is widely recognized for its versatility and adaptability. The Tennessee Walking Horse’s amiable nature makes it a popular choice for riders of all ages and skill levels, as it tends to form deep bonds with its human companions. With its steady and even-tempered personality, this breed excels in various equestrian disciplines, including endurance riding, dressage, and even Western events such as pleasure and trail riding. Its calm and collected nature also makes the Tennessee Walking Horse an excellent candidate for equine-assisted therapy, where its gentle and understanding disposition can have a profound impact on individuals seeking emotional healing and personal development.


    The Standardbred embodies a resilient and industrious temperament, displaying focus, determination, and adaptability, making it a valuable asset in the realm of harness racing and other performance-driven equestrian disciplines.

    Standardbreds are known for their remarkable work ethic and versatile nature, which contribute to their success in competitive settings. Their adaptable demeanor allows them to thrive in various training environments and excel under pressure, showcasing their determination. This breed is often described as intelligent, willing, and reliable, which are essential traits in harness racing where precision and consistency are paramount.

    Uses and Disciplines for Tennessee Walking Horse and Standardbred

    Uses and Disciplines for Tennessee Walking Horse and Standardbred - Tennessee Walking Horse Vs Standardbred

    Credits: Horselife.Org – Randy Thomas

    The Tennessee Walking Horse excels in various equestrian disciplines, including trail riding, pleasure driving, and versatility in equine therapy programs, while the Standardbred predominantly contributes to harness racing, trotting competitions, and performance-driven equine ventures.

    These two distinct equine breeds have carved unique niches in the equestrian world.

    The Tennessee Walking Horse impresses with its smooth, ground-covering gaits, making it a sought-after partner for trail enthusiasts and riders who value a comfortable yet efficient ride. Its gentle disposition and natural smooth gait also make it a popular choice for therapeutic Riding and Equine-Assisted Therapy programs, where its steady nature provides comfort to individuals with diverse needs.

    On the other hand, the Standardbred’s athletic prowess and adeptness in harness racing and trotting make it an iconic figure in the competitive equestrian world. Harness racing enthusiasts appreciate the breed’s speed, stamina, and signature diagonal gait. Its exceptional trotting abilities shine in competitive circuits, captivating audiences and demonstrating the breed’s intrinsic talent and versatility.

    Tennessee Walking Horse

    The Tennessee Walking Horse is renowned for its prowess in trail riding, pleasure driving, and its valuable contributions to equine therapy and intervention programs, showcasing its adaptability and versatility across a wide array of equestrian disciplines.

    These remarkable horses are known for their smooth, gliding gaits, making them ideal for long hours on the trail, delivering a comfortable ride for both the horse and rider. In pleasure driving, they exhibit elegance and grace, captivating audiences with their majestic presence and performance.

    Their gentle nature and calm demeanor make them well-suited for equine therapy initiatives, where they provide emotional support and physical assistance to individuals with various needs. They play a vital role in boosting the overall wellbeing of individuals through equine-facilitated activities, highlighting their significance in the realm of therapeutic engagements.


    The Standardbred excels in harness racing, trotting competitions, and performance-oriented equine endeavors, showcasing its speed, endurance, and essential role in shaping the realm of competitive equestrian events and racing competitions.

    Throughout history, the Standardbred has been recognized for its exceptional abilities in harness racing, which has become a cornerstone of its legacy in the equine world. Their remarkable speed and stamina make them prized competitors in trotting competitions, where they display remarkable agility and precision. Their versatility extends to various performance-oriented equine endeavors, such as dressage and show jumping, where their athleticism continues to impress.

    Training and Care for Tennessee Walking Horse and Standardbred

    Training and care for the Tennessee Walking Horse and Standardbred encompass essential aspects such as attentive grooming, specialized dietary considerations, and tailored training programs to ensure their physical well-being, mental development, and optimal performance in their respective roles.

    Proper grooming for these equine breeds involves regular brushing, mane and tail care, and hoof maintenance to uphold their pristine appearance and overall health. As for their dietary management, a nutrient-rich diet comprising high-quality forage and balanced concentrates is crucial to support their energy requirements and muscle development. Customized training regimens that emphasize their unique gait and pacing abilities are fundamental for nurturing their athletic prowess and endurance.

    Tennessee Walking Horse

    The training and care regimen for the Tennessee Walking Horse focuses on attentive grooming, balanced nutrition, and tailored training routines to maintain its physical well-being, mental enrichment, and development of its unique gait and versatile capabilities.

    Specialized grooming for these horses includes regular brushing to promote a healthy coat and skin, mane and tail care to prevent tangles, and hoof maintenance to ensure soundness. Dietary considerations are crucial, with a focus on providing a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals.

    Training methods for the Tennessee Walking Horse are designed to enhance their natural gait, promoting rhythm, cadence, and balance. This may involve ground exercises, longeing, and under-saddle work to encourage collection and engagement, ultimately contributing to their physical and mental development.


    The training and care regimen for the Standardbred revolves around harness racing conditioning, specialized dietary considerations, and performance-oriented training methods tailored to enhance its speed, endurance, and competitive edge in the realm of harness racing and trotting competitions.

    Standardbreds require a meticulous and systematic approach to their training, focusing on building both muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance. Harness racing conditioning often involves targeted exercises such as interval training and hill work to improve speed and stamina.

    Dietary management plays a crucial role in maintaining an optimal body condition score and ensuring a balanced intake of nutrients to support the horse’s performance and recovery. Trainers and caregivers must carefully monitor the horse’s nutrition, weight, and hydration, customizing the feeding program to the individual horse’s needs.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What are the main differences between Tennessee Walking Horses and Standardbreds?

    The main difference between Tennessee Walking Horses and Standardbreds is their intended use. Tennessee Walking Horses are bred for their smooth, comfortable gait, while Standardbreds are primarily used for harness racing. This also affects their physical characteristics, with Tennessee Walking Horses having a taller and more refined appearance compared to the compact and muscular Standardbreds.

    Which breed is faster, Tennessee Walking Horses or Standardbreds?

    Standardbreds are generally faster than Tennessee Walking Horses due to their breeding and training for harness racing. However, Tennessee Walking Horses can also reach impressive speeds and are known for their endurance and stamina.

    Do Tennessee Walking Horses and Standardbreds have different temperaments?

    Yes, the two breeds have different temperaments. Tennessee Walking Horses are known for their calm, gentle, and easy-going nature, making them suitable for riders of all ages and levels. Standardbreds, on the other hand, are more high-strung and may require experienced handlers.

    Can Tennessee Walking Horses and Standardbreds compete in the same events?

    While both breeds have their own specific events, there are some competitions that allow both Tennessee Walking Horses and Standardbreds to compete together. This includes endurance rides, where the two breeds can showcase their respective strengths in terms of gait and speed.

    Which breed is better for trail riding, Tennessee Walking Horse or Standardbred?

    Tennessee Walking Horses are generally considered the better breed for trail riding, as their smooth, comfortable gait makes for a more enjoyable ride on long distances. Standardbreds, with their shorter, more powerful gait, may be more suitable for shorter and faster rides.

    Do Tennessee Walking Horses and Standardbreds have different health concerns?

    Both breeds are generally healthy and hardy, but they may be prone to different health issues. Tennessee Walking Horses are more susceptible to gait-related injuries, while Standardbreds may be at risk for injuries related to their fast-paced racing career. It is important for owners to provide proper care and regular check-ups to ensure the health and well-being of their horses.

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