Old bloodlines

Naturally gaited

Sane & sound

​Using horse

LegsThe ideal conformation of the Heritage Walking Horse (HWH) reflects continuity from the old plantation walking horse of the early twentieth century, a horse expected to handle whatever jobs his owner had for him. The overall image is that of balance and symmetry.  The Heritage Walking Horse is a substantially built animal to be useful for pleasure and work.

The Heritage Walking Horse, in general, will feature the strong bone structure required of a working horse. His bone structure gives the impression of more height than the horse may actually measure, and these strong leg bones, coupled with the functional back, enable the Heritage Horse to carry weights that a lighter, finer made individual could not manage.

The horse’s body should be well balanced so that if the outline is divided by vertical lines going through the withers and the hip bone, the resulting three sections will appear to be of equal sizes.

Size of the HWH can vary from 14 hands to over 16 hands. Some horses have matured at a rare 17 hands. Weight is usually from 950 to 1500 pounds.

The head of the Heritage Walking Horse differs in size and type according to breeding, but will in proportion to the body size. The head functions as a counterbalance for the large back end stride.  The head should be noble, without coarseness, with an alert expression.  The profile of the head is generally straight, sometimes with a roman nose, although some lines may produce a slightly dished profile. A medium to wide forehead indicates intelligence in the horse.

The eyes shall be wide-set for vision in all directions, and will be kind, expressive, and of an appropriate size. Pig eyes are considered a fault. The sabino spotting pattern will result in a larger amount of sclera showing than solid colored horses.

The ears will vary in size from horse to horse, but are well shaped and set on the corner of head.  Longer ears in mares are not considered a fault.

The teeth shall meet indicating top and bottom jaw alignment. Teeth must be level, an overbite or under bite is unacceptable. Parrot mouth is considered a fault.

The throat latch will be clean with the two jaw bones spaced widely enough for ease of flexing and correct collection without interfering with the wind pipe and horse’s ability to breathe.

The neck should be an attractive part of the overall conformation of the horse. It should blend with the rest of the horse’s body, not too short nor too long. A ewe neck is a conformation flaw, while a thick, curved neck is often an indicator of a predisposition to insulin resistance. The neck should tie in seamlessly to the shoulders, not appear as if two horses had been pasted together to create one animal.


The length and angle of  a horse's shoulder impacts his gait, no matter what the breed. So a Heritage Walking Horse should have a long, sloping shoulder in order to perform its signature walking gaits in an optimal fashion. A straight shoulder will result in a choppier movement, without the fluid ease at which the old time Walking Horse was known to travel. Prominent withers are important to hold the saddle in place. They should be level with or higher than the croup. A horse with a high croup will have the tendency to be trottier than is desired in Walking Horses today. Mutton withers are frowned upon but can be bred out by crossing with  horses passing on good shoulder conformation.


Because the Heritage Walking Horse was originally and continues to be bred as a utility horse, he will have a good chest. This means depth for heart and lungs, and ample width as well. Narrow chested horses can function in the show ring but not out in the working world. However, the chest on the Heritage Walking Horse should not be so wide that he resembles a western stock horse , because he still needs to use his front legs in a four-beat walking gait, and not the trot and lope of the traditional western pleasure horse.


The back is a strong one as would be expected of a horse required to work daily. For this reason, it is strongly muscled, not too long, and is well-balanced.. A back that is too short to support a working horse's saddle is not desirable in a Heritage Walking Horse. The horse's loin shall be strong with well-sprung ribs. Slab sides are a fault.


The front legs should be straight without being over or behind at the knees, not toed or or out and the feet balanced with sufficient hoof and angles to insure soundness. When viewed from the side, they should be straight from the top of the leg to the front of the fetlock so as to minimize strain on the ligaments and tendons,since there is no muscling located below the knees. The leg shall be neither over, nor behind, at the knees. There should be little to no setback of the upper legs underneath the chest to enable the horse to reach effectively during all forward motion. Forearms should be muscled and powerful in appearance.

The horse when viewed from the side should not be camped out (hind legs set behind the rear end). The horse will have good solid hooves, with no deformity. The horse will have well curved hocks, with no evidence of post legs.

The hind legs will be very well muscled through the thigh and gaskin in order to drive the body forward with a gliding, sweeping motion when in gait. Cow hocks and sickle hocks are conformation flaws. The pasterns should be of medium length as long-over-sloped pasterns are subject to strain.


The feet should be of correct size to carry the weight of the body. Too small a foot does not provide enough weight-bearing surface. Front feet and hind feet should be matching pairs. The front feet should slope at an angle of 45 to 50 degrees from the ground. The hind feet should have slightly more slope and should be longer and narrower than the front feet. The hoof wall should continue at the same angle as the pastern. All feet should point straight forward. Any deviation from this is either caused by poor conformation or by incorrect trimming.


The hindquarters shall be strongly muscled and the croup will be sloped with the tail tied in well. The rear end will be well muscled to enable the horse to drive himself forward off the rear, but the muscles should not be so rounded that they interfere with the horse's ability to use its hind legs to move forward in a strong walking rhythm. A croup that is higher than the withers is not desirable as this often results in a tendency for the horse to trot.

Mane And Tail

The mane and forelock are full and natural, and will sometimes grow to be exceptionally long. The tail has natural self carriage in such a way that it resembles a waterspout when the horse is gaiting. Tail should not be set too high or too low on the horse.


All colors and patterns are accepted AS LONG AS THEY COLOR TRACE, LINE BY LINE, TO THE ORIGINAL STUDBOOKS OF TWHBAA. It will be the responsibility of the owner, working in cooperation with the IHWHA staff, to provide documentation of the true colors of horses that were incorrectly registered in years past.