The Racking Horse is an old breed and a young breed at the same time. They developed on southern plantations in the 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1971 that a breed registry was formed to promote and protect their bloodlines. Today, the breed is known for its wonderful temperament and smooth gaits, making them popular throughout the country.
Horse people in the southeastern United States wanted a horse they could ride for hours, that was intelligent, beautiful, gentle, and calm. The Racking Horse answers all these questions and then some, making them a popular horse in many equestrian circles.
Racking horses are a gaited horse breed. Although their breeding and bloodlines date to the early 1800s, they only became an official breed in 1971. They originated from Tennessee Walking Horse bloodlines but have diverged and have their own gene pool now.
History of the Racking Horse
Southern plantations before the Civil War were large swaths of land. Horses were a popular means of transport across the plantations daily or for travel in the local community. The Racking Horse breed developed on these plantations as the need for a horse that could be ridden for hours grew.
Breeders throughout the southern part of the United States continued perpetuating the breed after the Civil War and into the 1900s. Racking Horses were developed from Walking Horses and some other bloodlines. However, those that developed the breed wanted a horse that gaited without action devices, tail sets, or the other techniques used in showing Walking Horses. The breed was intentionally developed to be used as pleasure horses instead of show horses.
Several stallions influenced the early days of the breed. Bentley’s Ace was the World Grand Champion Racking Horse in 1975. He also became the first syndicated stallion. EZD Falcon Rowdy, a buckskin stallion, won multiple speed racking competitions, as well as siring many foals. He won world championships in 1973 and 1983. Speck, another popular show, and breeding stallion was a red roan. The bloodlines of both stallions are still seen in pedigrees today.
Racking Horses are a gaited breed known for their smooth gaits and versatility in a variety of disciplines. Horses naturally rack, it’s a bi-lateral gait that isn’t a pace or trot. It is a four-beat gait that is faster than a walk and slower than a canter. Other breeds artificially rack, but the Racking Horse is born with the ability. The gait is sometimes referred to as a single-foot gait since only one hoof strikes the ground at a time during the rack.
Horses average about 15.2 hands and 1,000 pounds. The breed association allows numerous colors including chestnut, brown, black, buckskin, grey, roan, palomino, cremello, and spotted. They have beautiful and intelligent heads that are carried high on sloping shoulders. The top line is flat with the hip sloping to match the shoulder, and clean, straight legs.
The Racking Horse’s popularity and population both grew because of their intelligence and calm temperament. It’s one of the reasons the breed took such a strong foothold and remains popular today – along with the smooth gaits and versatility. They are popular with everyone from beginning riders to seasoned professionals.
The Racking Horse is the state horse of Alabama, with the official designation coming in 1975. This is because of their use in Alabama and the southern region overall, as both a pleasure and show horse, and on plantations. The state horse designation came soon after the 1971 breed association recognition by the United States Department of Agriculture. A group of Alabama businessmen stewarded both processes, which they started in the 1960s. Naturally, the breed headquarters is also located in Alabama.
Many states have designated an official horse. The Morgan Horse is the state horse for both Vermont and Massachusetts. Kentucky and Maryland both have the Thoroughbred as their state horse. In Idaho, the Appaloosa receives the honor, while the Nokota lays claim in North Dakota. Understandably, Missouri and Tennessee recognize the horses that use their state name.
Racking Horses Today
Today, Racking Horses are used for pleasure, trail riding, show, lessons, and so much more. The official breed registry continues promoting them, as do some smaller organizations, such as the Florida Walking and Racking Horse Association. The breed organizers intentionally kept the name generic – Racking Horses – so they would be beloved and used by equestrians around the country. Their smooth gaits and engaging personalities keep riders racking on.