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Ron Thomas Talks About The Canter



Posted September 20, 2001
The discussion about three-gait classes versus two-gait classes continues to command a lot of attention. It grieves me when I hear people say, "Ron Thomas doesn’t like Canter Classes". That is not true. I do like Canter Classes; however, I do not like Canter Classes in which horses are laboring and have a horrific gait that in no way resembles the slow, collected gallop that was initially associated with the canter. The problem with the canter in this modern day is not the horse, but it is the equipment that we ask the horse to wear. It is impossible for a horse in the Padded Division to have a smooth, collected canter wearing the shoes that the horse has to carry.

All show managers want the classes filled. This is a given. At The Celebration I am interested in the classes being filled, but not for the reasons some people suspect. A full class indicates interest in a class. It implies that the people showing the horses are having a good time. They want to be in a particular class because it is enjoyable and fun. A class with just a few horses says to the show manager that the people don’t want that class. There is not interest and excitement in it. Therefore, I want the classes to be full so that owners and trainers will be enjoying their Tennessee Walking Horses.

It frustrates me to hear people say that we must keep the canter because it is a part of our heritage. Things change. We must accept that. Many years ago cars didn’t have air conditioning and power windows, there were no paved streets in the barn area, horses didn’t travel in luxurious vans and trailers like they do now, etc. I have no idea as to the future of the canter, but I can comment as to the interest in classes that are three-gait classes.

If our intent in preserving the canter is to preserve history, then we should lay that burden on someone else’s shoulders and not the show manager’s shoulders. Show management must develop a schedule of classes that fits the needs of the people attending that particular show. If the people who come are not happy then show management will have a real challenge in subsequent years.

The ultimate responsibility for the future of the canter lies with the trainers. The trainers are the people who prepare the horses on a daily basis for competition in the show ring. They determine how the horse is trained and in what gaits the horse is trained. Show management does not determine this. Show management is the final piece of the puzzle in that they offer a complement of classes to suit the needs and wishes of trainers and exhibitors.

Throughout the 2001 show season very few shows have continued to canter 15.2 Horses, Four Year Old Horses, and Aged Mares and Geldings in the Professional Division. Most of these have now gone to a two-gait class. Only the trainers can tell you why.

Let’s look at some numbers from the 2001 Celebration. Let’s look at them objectively. These numbers reflect horses that actually came through the gate and were judged at the 63rd Annual Celebration.

Two Year Old - 83 Stallions, 72 Mares, 29 Geldings
Three Year Old - 97 Stallions, 67 Mares, 38 Geldings
Four Year Old - 25 Stallions, 12 Mares, 10 Geldings

Why were there 97 Three Year Old Stallions shown this year and only 25 Four Year Old Stallions? Why were there 67 Three Year Old Mares shown this year and only 12 Four Year Old Mares? Why were there 38 Three Year Old Geldings shown this year and only 10 Four Year Old Geldings? I think I know the answer to this. I know that you do.

Show management does not determine the history and the future of our breed with regard to its show ring destiny. The trainers determine this. Show management merely gives them what they want and need in order to put horses in the ring that continue to suit the needs of the owners.

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