Tennessee Walking Horses and other gaited breeds do possess one rather unique difference from most other horses. Stated simply. . . they have longer hind limbs than most horses that trot. I say “most” because we will see that some trotters have long hind limbs, some to their disadvantage, and some to their advantage, but not with the regularity of the gaited  horse. Because I was a Tennessee Walking Horse breeder, exhibitor, judge and pleasure horse trainer, I will be mainly speaking about this breed.

First, let’s look at the three different types of hind limbs found on horses. Type 1 is considered to be the best for most uses. When the horse is posed with his hind cannon vertical, a line dropped from his buttock to the ground should graze his hock and the hind cannon bone. Type 2 has the vertical line dropped behind the vertical cannon bone. This type is found in draft horses. Type 3 has the vertical line falling within or in front of the cannon bone. This is found in pacers and gaited horses and is an important point for “all breed” judges to keep in mind, as horses with Type 3 hind limbs will stand either “camped out” or sickle hocked. The horse with sickle hocks is also predisposed to unsoundness, unless the hock is well formed and strongly supported with proper muscles and ligaments. Fortunately, most walkers seem to have inherited strong hocks, but too much of a sickle hock is not desirable.

There are several ways to have a long hind limb, and there are variables on the length of limb. This should be taken into consideration when breeding or buying a horse. With proper “walking conformation” the horse should gait, but do you need a long-striding show horse or a more compact using-horse?