This is Shadow

One of two Tennessee Walking Horses (TWH for short) at Epic Farms and our resident PDQ (Professional Drama Queen). His lens is designed to give you some insight into the Walking Horse breed as well as talk about himself (his most favoritist subject :o)

Walking Horses are very well known for their smooth gliding gait, known as the "running walk". Bred by plantation owners who spent long hours in the saddle, Walking Horses are extremely gentle and make excellent trail horses. They also have wonderfully kind and generous hearts, as we have learned firsthand from our boy Shadow.

The History of the Walking Horse

Did you know the Walking Horse breed was created by accident? Bred to fill a need for transportation both under saddle and in harness, the Walking Horse was a combination of American Saddlebred (for style), Morgan (strength), Standardbred (endurance) and Thoroughbred (speed). Because they were used extensively for plantation supervision, the nickname “Plantation Horse” was born.

The foundation stallion for the Tennessee Walking Horse was named Allan F-1. He was considered a failure as a trotter and changed owners again and again until he was purchased by a man named James Brantley in 1903 at the age of 17. In the hands of a proper trainer, Allan exceeded Brantley’s expectations and the resulting crosses between Allan and Brantley’s mares produced outstanding sons. A registry for the Tennessee Walking Horse was established in 1935, listing Allan F-1 as the foundation sire.

The Walking Horse Today

Today’s Tennessee Walker stands approximately 15-16 hands and comes in all different coat colors. They are one of the most versatile breeds of horses and are capable of many different disciplines. Their smooth gaits make them wonderful pleasure and trail riding horses and their nature is calm and inordinately kind; an excellent choice for the novice rider.

The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has been facing more and more controversy in recent years, due to reports of soring (see next module for more information). The National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) was established in recent years by a group of people committed to preserving and fostering the natural abilities and welfare of the Walking Horse. It is located in Lexington, Kentucky.

The Origin of Soring

Soring began quite by accident back in the early days of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. Shortly after the breed association was established in 1935, Walking Horses became one of the most sought after breeds on the market. Prices soared their popularity increased.

In the 1950s, the Walking Horse industry hit a slump. It was about this time that a trainer discovered that mustard oil (a caustic agent) applied to his horse’s legs, caused him to step livelier. At the next show, his horse all but flew around the arena with his feet snapping off the ground as if they were on fire. Eyes rolling, he would barely set his foot on the ground before snatching it back up again. The crowd absolutely loved it. People quickly began experimenting, and before too much time had passed “everybody” was doing it.

The spectators went wild for the action and the judges clearly favored those horses with the flying feet. It didn’t take too long for this vicious cycle to become “the new norm”. For more information on soring, please visit this lens.
Plastic wrap (photo left) is used to help blistering agents be better absorbed by the skin, and chains are put on as an additional irritant.

Shadow’s Story

A Bit of Background

Shadow and Champ (both Tennessee Walking Horses) were 8 1/2 years old when we got them. They had been living together way out in the country for about 2 years before we came along. Nice, quiet – no traffic – country living.

We had been told by their owner that he had purchased the two horses together from a woman in Florida who had them for about a year. She had gotten Shadow around the age of 5 from “a big show farm” where he had been used for showing and for stud. Unable to control him, the woman had him gelded thinking it would calm him down (this did not solve the problem, of course, so she then sold him to the man we got him from). So here is his history as we knew it at the time of purchase:

* Birth – Age 4 on a large farm and used for show and at stud
* Age 5 – 6 owned by a woman in Florida who had him gelded
* Age 6 – 8 1/2 owned by a farmer in rural Alabama

The Meltdown

One afternoon, while Shadow and Champ were eating I thought I would rake up some of the leaves that were all over the ground near the hitching post. I picked up the rake intending to show Shadow (so I didn’t scare him) before I started working. The second I picked up the rake and turned to face him, he exploded. He let out a horrible scream, reared straight up and threw himself backwards hard enough to snap that heavy post like it was a twig.

What I saw next was even more frightening: Shadow had scrambled backwards still attached to the ring on the broken post with an additional center piece of wood that was now splintered and pointing straight out towards the opposite post with Champ still attached! I’m pretty sure my heart stopped for a moment. After considerable time speaking in soothing tones, I was able to approach Shadow (who was breathing like a freight train and trembling from head to toe) and my daughter was able to unhook Champ before anyone was physically hurt.

The Aftermath

We didn’t sell Shadow, although it was a very close call there (because who wants a lunatic for a horse?) Fortunately, it was only a short while later that I stumbled across some information on the dark side of the Walking Horse show industry (soring) and suddenly it all became clear. I am so very thankful that we did not sell our main [melodramatic] man, choosing instead to work our way through this crisis one slow and steady step at a time.

Shadow is now the official Ambassador for the Moo Crew both at the farm and on line via avatar, and in spite of everything he has been through just loves to have visitors. He is pictured here talking to one of our board members: “Are you absolutely, positively SURE you didn’t bring a treat with you Mrs. Ray-Ray??? None? Not one? What’cha got in the bag there? Anything good?”

An Alter Ego...Really?

We cannot, of course, talk about Shadow without mentioning his bestest friend Blankie. Ever his favorite sidekick, Blankie is the facilitator of his alter ego, SuperShadow.

The day that started it all (Shadow’s blanket fettish, which was discovered quite by accident) generated a short story which has been published on its very own lens.

Since you’re here and not there, however, here is a picture of Shadow and his most faithful companion for you to see…

Shadow's Favorite Sites

EPIC FARMS: A small non-profit striving to share the BIG picture
I don't pretend to have all of the answers (shoot, I'm still coming up with questions). Our site is simply offered as a collection of learning experiences and personal observations that I found fascinating. Of course I find horses in general fascinating, so I'm starting from there :o) Horses are...
Gaited Horses is all we do! Gaited horse training,gaited horse saddles,gaited horse breeds, gaited horse articles,gaited horse chat rooms,gaited horse messageboards. All from the nations leading gaited horse author,clinician, and trainer Brenda Imus. A MUST VISIT SITE for gaited horse owners...
FOSH is the acronym for the Friends of Sound Horses. The organization is incorporated as a public benefit humane and education organization. Its purpose is to provide information to the public about the humane care, treatment and training of gaited horses, with a special emphasis on...
The NWHA is an alliance of people committed to preserving and fostering the natural abilities and welfare of the Walking Horse.
The purpose of Stop Soring is to create an easily accessible source of information and facts on soring and to help bring an end to this illegal and cruel practice...
Tennessee Walking Horse Torture Continues: More Soring Injuries Than Ever Come To Light - CBS News...By Bonnie Erbe

Look Who Else is a Tennessee Walker

(Shadow's name dropping :o)


(He's also claimed "breed bragging rights")

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Epic Farms is a small family run non-profit striving to share the big picture with horses. We have kid-friendly programs geared toward area service organizations and small groups; our goal is to share the wonderful world of horses with everyone!

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  • blue22d Apr 01, 2014 @ 11:57 pm
    Great story you have shared making a very interesting lens. Thanks for sharing.
  • Arachnea Mar 31, 2014 @ 8:27 pm
    Great lens. I enjoyed learning about Shadow. I'm sorry for his negative experience. Just put this new-thing-learned on my list of negatives about human nature and move on. Saddening, really. Congrats on lotd.
  • mmullon Mar 27, 2014 @ 1:08 am
    I am so glad Shadow has a good home now. We had a Walker for years Muscles was also a victim of soreing. He was the most gentle loving stud i have ever known. As was our 18 year old 5 gated saddlebred.
  • Lionrhod Mar 26, 2014 @ 3:41 am
    Oh wow. What an amazing story. Thank you so much for writing it. I grew up with my own Shetland pony (a gift from my horse-trainer aunt - not well received from my parents but they dealt for many years) and adored him. After Foxy was attacked by neighborhood dogs, (huge vet bills) and he'd run off for the 30th time to chase the local mares (even though he was gelded) my parents sold my dear best friend to a pony ride place when I was about 16. He was about the same age. Yes I cried. A lot. Two years ago, before we moved back to FL, I almost made friends with a beautiful mustang paint mare.Terrified of humans, not so terrified of pickups with hay in the back. She kept showing up in the field near my house, and I slowly befriended her. At first I couldn't get within yards. Eventually she dared close enough to sniff my ear. I barely breathed! Then Stardust's owners found her. Just as well as we ended up having to move back to FL temporarily because of Mom-in-law's Alzheimer's and Starry would have needed to be re-homed if I'd adopted her. I hope Shadow is well. What an awesome tribute to him.
  • November65 Mar 24, 2014 @ 7:03 pm
    Shadow, I really love your story.I had never heard of Gaited Horses, but I have not been around horses much.The thought of Soring just hurts my heart.I don't understand why someone would do any harm to an animal of any kind,I believe they are gifts from the Good Lord,and should be treated accordingly.

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