American Walking Ponies originated with one American breeder, realtor Joan Hudson Brown of Macon, Georgia. She admired the looks and smooth gaits of the Tennessee Walking Horse and thought there should be a smaller version for children and small adults. Many ponies at the time were small enough and gentle enough for children, but were coarse-looking or were very bouncy to ride and could not compete with longer-legged ponies in shows.
Brown began the new breed in 1956 with Welsh stallions and Tennessee Walking Horse mares. She kept crossing the two breeds until in 1968 the palomino stallion BT Golden Splendor was foaled and became the foundation stallion of the new American breed. Not only was Brown the original breeder, she was also the founder of the American Walking Pony Registry. The number one pony of the breed was BT Golden Splendor’s dam, Browntree’s Flicka, a liver chestnut.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but American Walking Ponies are very handsome animals with bright eyes, thick manes and tails and long legs. From the Welsh side of the family, the ponies get their Arab-like heads, with wide nostrils and small ears. Many ponies also have arched necks. Their chests may look a bit narrow, but this does not detract from the smooth gaits. They have short backs to help power the hindquarters. They usually have thin, smooth coats.
The only colors not permissible in American Walking Ponies are those of any Appaloosa spotted patterns. They can go to another registration called Spotted Walking Ponies. Common colors in American Walking Ponies include various shades of chestnut, bay and dun.
The American Walking Pony not only had the smooth gaits of the Tennessee Walking Horse, but also great jumping ability – yet another present from the Welsh side of the family. They also make snappy harness ponies, but are intelligent enough to try just about anything asked of them.
Their gaits include the usual walk, trot and canter but they also have the pleasure walk, which is a smoother and faster version of a normal walk. Like a Tennessee Walking Horse, they tend to nod their heads performing these smooth gaits. Another gait has been coined the merry walk, which is a variation of the pleasure walk and much more comfortable to sit than a trot. American Walking Ponies have also been taught to slow gait and rack, although some seem to have a natural tendency to perform these smooth gaits.
According to “Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America” (University of Oklahoma Press, 2005), many of the owners of pony mares are reluctant to breed them because then the owners couldn’t ride them for a while. But the breed is growing steadily. In 2005, there were around 400 – 500 in the world. It is now estimated that at least 300 are still around. Although the American Walking Pony Registry was active up until 2005, it seems to have disappeared (at least on the web) after the 2008 world economic crisis.
“Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America.” Judith Dutson. Storey Publishing, 2005.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
Browntree Horses. “Introduction.” Joan Hudson Brown. http://www.browntreehorses.net/index.php