tennessee "racking" horse ???

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tennessee "racking" horse ???

Postby viertaktsus on 15 Mar 2009, 21:21

dear all!

what do you think about rack with regard to tennessee walking horses.

in my off time i watch from time to time in youtube the newest videos about tennessee walking horses...
i'm wondering about the gaits some of the walkers do -
(and i have the feeling that there are introduced more and more racking twh's.
there's no headshake but a four beat sound)

what's your opinion about rack and twh's?
is it desirable to let your horse go rack additional to walk?
should they go this gait? is it harmful for the horses?

i'm curious about your answers!!!
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Re: tennessee "racking" horse ???

Postby Lykke Hansen -Dixie- on 17 Mar 2009, 00:19

Well, I don't think I've seen nothing but speedracking standardbreds on youtube, except from one TWH.
My mare is (to my regred) very pacy, and she only rack if she gets spooked.

I don't see why we should use the rack, when we have the flat- and runningwalk?
My guess is that some people might think it hard, to work with the walking gaits, and then - if their horses have a tendency for racking - they'll just use that gait, because it's nice and comfterble?
It could also be, that some people can't tell the difference between walk and rack?
I was asked on youtube, how I got Dixie into a walk. I saw one of his videoes, and his walker was racking all the way. So it might be that some are inexperienced?
Last edited by Lykke Hansen -Dixie- on 17 Mar 2009, 16:22, edited 1 time in total.
//Lykke Hansen

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Re: tennessee "racking" horse ???

Postby mikkee on 17 Mar 2009, 08:19

Unfortunately, my mare is very pacey as well, so I'll follow the posts in this thread ;)
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Re: tennessee "racking" horse ???

Postby Allanna on 26 Mar 2009, 01:07

Hi, The subject of rack in the TWH is currently being debated in the USA. I'll mention a few points. The flat-foot walk, running walk, and rack are three separate gaits. The Tennessee Walking Horse breed was named for the running walk gait as the defining trait of the breed. In the 1880's (50 years before there was a Walking Horse registry) all easy gaited horses were called Saddle Horses and were subdivided into three broad categories: Tennessee Pacers, Walking Saddle Horses, and Gaited Horses.
The Tennessee Pacers were raced under saddle or in harness at the pace, though there are hints that some of them did the same flying pace gait that Icelandics do. When slowed down to moderate speeds for general riding purposes the Tennessee Pacers did the amble and stepping pace or broken pace. Tennessee Pacers were developed from the Canadian and Narragansett Pacers and were the progenitors of the pacing Standardbreds in addition to their contributions to all the easy-gaited breeds that developed in the Southeastern USA.
The Walking Saddle Horses were horses that did the running walk or fox trot and fox walk but could not rack. The distinctive gait behavior of the Walking Saddle Horses was the reason the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' Association of American was incorporated in 1935. (The TWHBAA is the same corporation and registry as the modern TWHBEA.)
The term Gaited Horse was applied to 5-gaited saddle horses (progenitors of the American Saddlebred breed) and racking horses.
These distinctions were based on the gait behavior of the individual horse, rather than pedigree or registration since there were not yet any TWH, Fox Trotter or Racking Horse registries. The Tennessee State Fair had the premier horse show of the late 1800's and early 1900's so the divisions for various types of Saddle Horses at the Tennessee State Fair set the standards for that era.
The rack has been one of the 13 gaits in the TWHBEA gene pool since 1935, but for the first 25 years or so the rack was not wanted in TWH. However, there were differences of opinion about how TWH should move even among the registry founders. Burt Hunter, who organized the TWHBAA, wanted a 3-gaited horse that would be self-correcting for an 8 mph running walk, like his own stallion Hunter's Allen F-10. Albert Dement, breeder of such famous horses as Merry Legs F-4, Merry Boy, Last Chance, and Merry Wilson also wanted horses that would breed true for the running walk. On the other hand, James Brantley, breeder and owner of Roan Allen F-38, was very proud of the fact that Roan Allen did 7 gaits on command, including rack, and won both Walking and 5-gaited championships at the Tennessee State Fair. Today 99.9% of TWHBEA horses are linebred to Roan Allen F-38.
The show ring performance standards for TWH were changed 4 times between 1944 and 1955 and each change moved the TWH show gait closer and closer to the rack. The 1945 WGC Midnight Sun changed the weight support pattern of the running walk from the 3-leg support of the original running walk to a mix of 3-foot and singlefoot support. Merry Go Boy did the same gait as Sun and this version of the running walk is still seen in the flat-shod TWH divisions today. The 1951 WGC The Talk Of The Town was noted for his huge overstride and won doing a gait that was basically a rack with a head shake. This head shaking rack with a huge overstride is what most of the flat-shod 2008 Celebration winners do. The 1955 WGC Go Boy's Shadow was the first big-lick horse. The gait that TWHBEA is calling running walk in 2009 is not the same gait that was called running walk when the registry was organized in 1935. Another point worth mentioning when discussing the evolution of show standards for TWH is that the first law against soring was passed by the Tennessee state legislature in 1957. The first inspections of the front hooves of TWH occurred at the 1960 Celebration. The USA's federal government passed the Horse Protection Act in 1970 but US government inspectors found sore horses at the 2008 TWH Celebration show. The fundamental questions are 1. Are the current gait standards for TWH even possible for a sound, natural horse? and 2. Are we being lied to about the gaits of TWH? I'll include a couple of items from the March 2009 issue of the Walking Horse Journal magazine that address this question. Allanna
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Re: tennessee "racking" horse ???

Postby Allanna on 08 Jul 2009, 00:06

Is the rack harmful to the horse?
Hello again, I was hoping that someone who has experience with Icelandic Horses or one of the other Racking breeds might have some information about whether the rack gait is harmful to horses. Nobody’s said anything yet so I’ll offer what I’ve observed from my research for your consideration.
The English word “natural” means something that is hereditary, not taught or acquired. The rack is one of the 18 hereditary gaits of horses, but not all gaited horses inherit the rack. Some gaited horses cannot rack. So the critical question is, Did this particular horse inherit the rack? If the horse did not inherit the rack, trying to make it rack is harmful to the horse.
If the horse did inherit the rack riding the horse at its natural form of the rack some of the time will not harm the horse. Please notice that there are three conditions in the above statement. The first condition is that the rack must be inherited by that particular horse. Demanding rack from a horse that did not inherit the rack is abuse. The second condition is that the horse must be allowed to use the natural form of the rack. Too often the rack is exaggerated to extremes that harm the horse even if it did inherit the gait. The third condition is that the horse should also be ridden in other gaits, particularly the flat-foot walk, with its head low and back round. Riding a horse in one gait all the time as if it were a motorcycle will eventually harm the horse, no matter which gait it’s doing. The flat-foot walk is the only gait that horses are designed to do continuously in all conditions. Sandra posted an excellent article on this forum about how long a horse can be ridden in gait. If you haven’t read that article please do.
There are many people, some of them quite knowledgeable, who are convinced that the rack is always harmful to the horse even if the horse inherited it. These people believe that the rack should be used only very sparingly, or preferably never. Some of the objections to the rack are based on concerns about the posture most horses use when racking and the effect that posture has on the horse’s mental and physical health. Most horses rack with their head up in a high position and their back hollow, or ventroflexed. When racking, the horse also uses what Lee Ziegler described as “essential tension” in the neck and shoulders. But if horses naturally use this posture when racking, what’s wrong with the horse traveling in this position?
The first concern is the horse’s high head position. When a horse is frightened it throws its head up just before fleeing. After the horse has run far enough to feel safe it will lower its head, begin grazing and relax. The high head releases adrenaline in the horse, priming him for flight or fight. When the horse is in a familiar, comfortable environment simply raising its head extremely high still releases adrenaline, making the horse tense, nervous and spooky even when nothing is going on. Lowering the head releases endorphins that calm and relax the horse. The endorphins released by a low head position help the horse stay calm even in chaotic, stressful situations. The connection between the horse’s head position and its mental state is most obvious in horses that are more reactive by nature, but exists even in the most phlegmatic horses. Several of the natural horsemanship trainers here in the USA have developed various methods of teaching the horse to lower its head at the rider’s request as a way of calming the horse and making it safer to ride.
The rack is not the only gait that uses a high head position. When the horse travels in any high-headed gait the high head position makes it more likely that the horse will become so excited it gets out of control.
Some horses that are ridden at the rack for extended periods of time become speed crazy. A speed crazy horse has gotten so addicted to its own adrenaline it is out of control, refuses to calm down, and resorts to all sorts of dangerous behavior when the rider attempts to ride in a slower gait. Speed crazy horses are dangerous to ride and rehabilitating them is a very long, slow process, if it can be done at all. Some horses that have been ridden speed crazy cannot be rehabilitated and have been ruined as riding horses. Speed craziness can also occur in horses that compete frequently in speed events such as barrel racing and gymkhanas. Preventing speed craziness requires careful management specifically aimed at keeping the horse calm and obedient at all gaits.
The second concern about the rack is what the hollow or ventroflexed body position and tension in the neck and shoulders do to the horse’s spine. The rack is not the only gait that horses do in a ventroflexed position so the problem comes from working the horse in a hollow posture for extended periods of time, not just the rack gait. It is worth noting that there is documentation of spinal problems in non-gaited trotting horses that have been ridden in a ventroflexed or hollow body posture for extended periods of time.
Why is the ventroflexed posture so bad for the horse’s spine? When the horse is ventroflexed the muscles of his top line are slack, while the muscles of the underline are taut allowing the horse’s spine to sag. If this muscular imbalance persists long enough the horse develops lordosis, or sway back. When the spine sags too far the processes of the vertebrae bump into each other. This interference between the vertebrae creates irritation and inflammation that becomes arthritis. Arthritis causes the horse pain. When abnormal bone growth resulting from the arthritis puts pressure on the spinal cord it causes nerve damage, numbness and incoordination of the hindlegs. The horse becomes lame, prone to stumbling and collapsing in the rear and in the worst case may become partially paralyzed. Some people also believe that the rack involves a twisting of the horse’s sacro-lumbar junction which increases the damage the hollow posture does to the spine. All of this sounds horrible, and it is bad for horses that develop this problem. However, asserting that horses should never rack because every horse that has ever been allowed to rack will have its back ruined is nonsense.
With good management it should be possible to ride the horse at a rack part of the time without destroying his spine. Warming the horse up and cooling it down at a walk with its head low and back up will go a long way toward protecting the spine. Lunging the horse at the trot can also be helpful in lifting and stretching the spine. Having the horse do belly lifts and other stretches as part of the grooming routine will also help the horse’s back. Most important is to ride the horse sensibly and responsibly. Care for the horse as the living, athletic animal it is. A horse is not a 4-legged motorcycle, so don’t ride it like a motorcycle.
The worries about the rack causing spinal damage are based on the assumption that all horses always rack in an extremely high-headed, hollow-backed posture. But is that really true? The problem is not the rack itself, but too much work in the extremely ventroflexed posture. What if a horse could rack with its head in a moderate position that did not release adrenaline and with its back in a neutral posture that kept the spinal vertebrae separated? Wouldn’t that make the rack harmless for horses that could do it? Yes, it would.
Are there horses that inherit the ability to rack in a neutral posture? Yes. Horses that inherit the ability to rack in a harmless moderate, neutral posture should be considered the ideal for the Racking Horse and Singlefooting Horse breeds. According to the original standards for the breed the rack is not an acceptable gait for Walking Horses, therefore these perfect natural Racking Horses are not Walking Horses and should not be classified as Walking Horses even though some of them can also running walk.
As you can see, there is no simple answer to the question, Does the rack harm the horse?
Another consideration is whether the rack is suitable for the activities the horse is being asked to do. The rack is usually the same speed range as the canter. Some horses that rack easily have difficulty cantering, other horses do both gaits easily. The canter is a more functional gait than the rack for sports that involve jumping, though there may be some horses that can jump out of the rack.
There are numerous sports and show events where flying lead changes at the canter, lope and gallop are a required part of the performance: reining, barrel racing, pole bending, western riding, equitation at most riding disciplines, and others. Flying lead changes can only be done at the canter, lope, or gallop. The rack has no leads and the horse always has one or two hooves on the ground so flying lead changes do not exist at the rack.
The rack is a lateral sequence gait, well suited for straight line travel on relatively smooth and open terrain. Some people have promoted the rack as the ideal trail riding gait. Some people use the rack for competitive trail riding and endurance racing. However, one of the most successful endurance TWH mares in the USA was ridden at the canter in her races because her owner/rider found that the canter was that mare’s most efficient gait. If you’re competing in Endurance with a horse that can both rack and canter it will be helpful to monitor the horse’s pulse and respiration rate to determine which gait is more efficient for that horse.
Whether racing or just trail riding for pleasure, there are some trails that are so narrow, winding, rocky, steep, or thickly forested any gait faster than a flat-foot walk is dangerous. This applies to all but very short sections of all the trails around where I live so for me the rack is a useless and potentially dangerous gait. This is why I personally prefer Walking Horses that inherit the running walk and cannot rack. When the horse can’t rack I don’t have to worry about a gait we can’t use. Obviously, if your trails are safe for faster gaits the rack is an option for horses that inherit it.
Racking Horses and Walking Horses were recognized as separate types 100 years before registries were created for them. Racking Horses and Walking Horses are two separate breeds. Neither breed is better than the other. Each breed of horse has its value and purpose. A great deal of controversy and confusion has been created by combining Racking Horses and Walking Horses. It would be best for both breeds if we recognize the differences between Racking Horses and Walking Horses. Choose and enjoy the breed that suits you. Whether your gait preference is rack, running walk, or a horse that can do both gaits, please respect the preferences of those who want a different breed or type of horse than you do.
I hope all of this will help you make an informed decision about riding your horse at the rack.
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Re: tennessee "racking" horse ???

Postby Ryan on 08 Jul 2009, 09:03

Hello again Allanna and good morning! (it's morning here in Europe!)

Thank you so much for this very informative reaction on "Tennessee racking horses". I hope and think it will cause people to think more, better and longer about what they are doing with their gaited horse! And that they will act accordingly......

Of course it reminds me of my first TWH, acquired in 1986, my late stallion Lad's Black Buster, registered TWHBEA and RHBAA (the latter on my request). The fact that Buster was a natural racking horse apart from his ability to walk, this combined with the low level of knowledge in Europe at that time about how to ride a walk gait, well, it all stirred a lot of discussion.

Buster loved to rack and I loved to ride him at a rack, no question about that. Buster had lots of stamina (also at a canter or gallop!) and was very healthy without any problems until the age of 23 when he had an accident. The sequels of this accident caused me to decide to have my favorite horse euthanized at the age of 24, now two years ago. Remembering this still fills me with grief.

We all learned a lot about these gaits but there still remains a lot to be learned, and of course our young people have to learn it as well!

So, thanks again, for your effort, and I hope you'll come over some day to this continent to teach people here.....
Maryan

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Re: tennessee "racking" horse ???

Postby Allanna on 10 Jul 2009, 00:50

Hello Maryan, My sympathy to you about the passing of your beloved Buster. I understand about still feeling the loss 2 years later. I still miss my beloved Sacia's Pride almost 4 years after having to have her euthanized. She was my first horse that I owned for 24 of her 31 1/2 years of life and she was better than my dreams of what I wanted my perfect horse to be. Sacia's Pride was a natural running walker who could not rack. She matched the original Walking Saddle Horse type back before there was a Tennessee Walking Horse registry when Walking Horses and Racking horses were identified as separate types based on their gait behavior. Her best gait was the flat-foot walk, which was part of what made her so perfect for trail riding here in the White Mountains of Arizona where I live. As I said, the trails here are so rough, narrow and heavily forested I use the flat-foot walk 90% of the time I'm riding because it's not really safe to do faster gaits. Around here it's too easy to get your knee whacked on a pine tree, or worse yet, get your head knocked off by a low hanging tree limb, or an entire tree that's leaning over the trail where it hung up on another tree after being blown over by the wind. A nimble horse with quick steering and good brakes is essential to staying alive and safe where I ride!
It sounds like your experience with Buster confirms what I was saying about the rack being a safe and useful gait for horses that inherit it. Since Buster did enjoy racking so much registering him as a Racking Horse was an accurate presentation of the kind of horse he was. Unfortunately, I can't endorse everything the RHBA does since they do allow the same kind of dangerously extreme shoeing and training tactics on their show horses that have created so much trouble in the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. I hope that someday both breeds will be respected and appreciated for what they are naturally. The USA also has two Singlefooting Horse registries. The gait standards for both Singlefooting registries indicate they are using the term Singlefoot as another name for the Rack gait. The North American Singlefooting Horse Association, Singlefooting Horse Owners' and Breeders' Association, and Racking Horse Breeders' Association of America each have slightly different philosophies and registration requirements so you might want to do some research if you're considering registering a rack gaited horse in a USA-based registry for that gait. All three registries have official registry web sites.
My current trail horse, Cinnamon, is a naturally 5-gaited western-type horse with the slowest rack I've ever seen. The slowness makes her rack a more usable gait for where I live and ride though we're still trying to figure out how to communicate about her middle gaits and which to develop for use around here. I haven't decided whether to insist on flat walking her into a running walk and try to ignore the other gaits, or whether to try to get more precise control of her flat walk, amble, trot, rack, and lope, all of which she has done voluntarily on a loose rein. She can also stepping pace, fox trot, running walk and pace. She already neck reins.
Cinnamon's mother is double registered TWH and Racking Horse with both running walk and a very fast, very correct, natural rack. Unfortunately, the speed rack is the only gait that mare wants to do. Cinnamon's mother was the first horse I found that proved a horse could rack in a neutral posture.
Cinnamon's sire was a foundation-bred Walking Horse with a very natural running walk who could not rack so I know which parent Cinnamon inherited her gaits from. I have discovered that Cinnamon racks with her back lifted in a posture that is so close to the trot she racks herself into a trot and actually maintains the trot easier than the rack! I've got video footage of Cinnamon as a yearling playing at liberty where she racks herself into a trot, then breaks from trot to canter so it's completely natural for her, but totally contradicts the people who say the rack always uses a hollow posture.
Franne Brandon just loaned me a set of DVDs from the 2008 National Walking Horse Association National Show, and I've found several of the horses that competed in that show rack in a neutral posture with a low head position. Most of them were competing (and sometimes winning) Walking Horse classes instead of the Racking Horse classes. Unfortunately, most of the Walking Horses at that show were doing some variant of the rack when the running walk was called for, while some of the best running walks were done when the horses were supposed to be flat walking... and some of the best flat walks were done by some of the trail pleasure Racking horses. All of which goes to show how thoroughly mixed the two breeds have become.
I've just gotten started converting my videotapes into digital files so maybe some day I'll be able to post some movie clips of the movement of some of the horses I've been telling you about.
I've been to Alberta, Canada, twice and thoroughly enjoyed both trips. I've never been to Europe. Allanna
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