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Horse Articles :: Walkaloosa Horse

Walkaloosa Horse

Walkaloosa horses are gaited horses with the same exotic coloring of the Appaloosa, but contrary to what the breed's name implies, a Walkaloosa does not have to have Walking Horse ancestry. Any combination of naturally gaited horse with Appaloosa coloring qualifies as a Walkaloosa and the many accepted gaits include the Fox Trot, the Running Walk, the Rack, and the Stepping Pace or basically any smooth saddle gait somewhere between a trot and a pace. Even Gene Autry owned a gaited Appaloosa and he delighted in showing off El Morroco's smooth gait by putting a glass of water on his saddle horn and riding swiftly without spilling a drop.

Even though the Walkaloosa breed registry itself is fairly new, the breed itself has been around for centuries. Appaloosa breeders claim to have the oldest recognizable breed known; a claim that can backed up by the drawings of spotted horses in the prehistoric ice caves of France. The Paso Fino breeders claim that their breed is the oldest breed in the Western Hemisphere since their ancestors came to the New World with Columbus on his second voyage from Spain and some of the Conquistador's Paso Fino horses also carried the spotted coat patterns of what is known as the Appaloosa today. These spotted horses made their way via various means throughout the Americas and the Nez Pierce Indians eventually claimed them as their own when they turned up in the north. They were one of the only tribes to practice selective breeding. They were very proud of their spotted horses and extremely pleased with the smooth, rolling gait called the Indian Shuffle, because they could move their belongings quickly without jarring of either the rider, or their belongings. In an age when the average horse could be bought for as little as $2, cowboys were willing to pay up to $50.00 or more for a good Appaloosa Shuffler. Not only was it a mark of prestige, but the comfortable gait was as easy on the cowboy and his belongings as it had been for the Spaniards and the Indians before him.

But as wonderful as the Shuffling horses were, early breeders did not try to keep the Shufflers in their Appaloosa herds and with the large percentage of non-gaited Quarter Horse, Arabian, and Thoroughbred in today's Appaloosas, many breeders had never even heard of a Shuffler. With so much Quarter Horse influence in the breed now, the current emphasis on stock horse performance has all but erased the gait that had been so carefully bred into the horses centuries ago. In fact, breeders shy way from including the naturally gaited horses in their breeding programs because any intermediate gait, other than a trot, is cause for disqualification in the Appaloosa show ring, yet that gait is exactly what the Walkaloosa show ring is looking for to put back into their horses.

The Appaloosa horse had already been a distinct breed for over a hundred years by the time the Appaloosa Horse Club (AHC) was formed in 1938. At that time, no distinction was made between the many gaited and non-gaited Appaloosas, so they were all registered as Appaloosas. But now the AHC will no longer register any Appaloosa colored foal that has a parent from a gaited breed. However, gaited Appaloosas can still be registered as Appaloosas if they qualify under normal AHC rules (ApHC, AQHA, AHR, JC parentage only) but that gene pool is so small that these horses are extremely rare. A related breed is the Tiger Horse, a gaited Appaloosa with no added gaited breeds, but rather an attempt to find and register the original gaited Appaloosas to preserve them before they are lost completely.

The earliest recorded registration of a Walkaloosa was from 1965, but there is no other information available regarding that comment, or just when the Walkaloosa name was chosen, since the Walkaloosa Horse Association (WHA) wasn't formed until 1983. The WHA maintains the records of horses that have both Appaloosa coloring or heritage and the smooth saddle gait. In order to qualify as a Walkaloosa, a horse must meet one of three criteria: it must have both registered Walkaloosa parents; or show Appaloosa coloring and demonstrate an intermediate gait, other than a trot; or have both verifiable Appaloosa and gaited horse blood.

Because the registry is currently open to so many different breeds of gaited horses, the Walkaloosa comes in many body types, but it is the combination of the coloring and the smooth, natural gait that makes them unique. Horses of Walkaloosa breeding that do not display either color or gait at registration time are registered with a Breeding Stock number since gait often develops as the horse matures and may be passed along to offspring even if not seen in the parent. As for color, it is know that Appaloosa color just does its own thing, and if the horse does develop a gait and/or color, it will be acknowledged on the papers. The complete pedigree is not necessary to register a horse, but it looks better on the certificate.

But even with so many conformation types possible, there is a breed standard that is designed to promote the ideal look for the breed, with the goal being to create a horse that combines beauty with functionality and a docile temperament along with smooth and brilliant gaits. Walkaloosa horses are to be bred for balance of movement and harmony of form with the ideal Walkaloosa traveling in a smooth solid gait with animation, rhythm, and style. They should have radiant coloring, intelligent minds, good conformation and the genetic ability to transmit all these traits to their offspring. Breeders of Walkaloosa horses should keep a special adherence to a breed standard that ensures soundness and versatility, with conformation adhering to standards that promote a sound, hardy horse with longevity.

The Walkaloosa ranges between 13 and 17 hands with 14.2 to 15.3 hands being average and they can weigh from, 600 to 1,300 pounds, additionally, the Walkaloosa horse should be able to perform three gaits: walk, their special gait and the canter, all with equal ease. The overall physical impression of the breed should have stallions displaying masculinity and mares displaying femininity. The thickness and type of muscling pattern will vary between the gait types, but the muscling should be ideal for the specific gait that the individual horse is best suited for.

The Walkaloosa is meant to be an outstanding pleasure and trail mount, but also a working cattle or show horse and therefore they should show a kind disposition with a willingness to work and learn.

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