Fewer Tennessee walking horses will pace Rockland Farm Owners abandon breeding, training, keep own animals CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

February 15, 1993|By Staff Report

The reason fewer Tennessee walking horses will grace the fields of Rockland Farm near Westminster this year has to do with farm owner Andrew J. Shaw waking up one morning in 1989 with blurred vision.

Mr. Shaw, a Westminster real estate agent, and his wife, Jane, owner of Triple J & K Inc. screen printing, share a long-held interest in Tennessee walkers.

Both have served on the national board of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association and have owned world champion horses.

But Mr. Shaw is also a diabetic who has been battling eye problems, including periods of blindness, for three years. By the summer of 1992, with his vision close to legal blindness, he decided to get out of the horse business.

He reconsidered after doctors were able to restore his vision to near-normal acuity, but then he was involved in a December auto accident that physicians did not expect him to survive.

Mr. Shaw, 68, recovered but decided to cut back the involvement that began about 30 years ago when he bought his first Tennessee walking horse.

He decided to discontinue Rockland Farm's breeding and training operations.

He and Mrs. Shaw will keep their own pleasure horses and continue to show their own horses.

She rides in the show ring; he doesn't, but has someone show his horses.

The changes will mean a reduction from between 30 and 50 horses to about 20 on the farm west of Westminster.

Mrs. Shaw doesn't want to give up her involvement with horses. She jokes that when she and Mr. Shaw were married in 1987, she brought horses to the marriage, "no children, but horses."

When she went into business for herself about 15 years ago, horses became "a way of getting me away from work," she said.

She chose Tennessee walkers because the horses have a reputation for good dispositions. She rode at first only for pleasure but later decided she liked shows.

Riding a Tennessee walker is like sitting in a rocking chair, Mr. Shaw said.

Tennessee walking horses can be shown as performance horses or flat shod.

Performance horses have the shoes on their front hoofs built up with pads and weights, "so that when they pick up their front feet, they're reaching high, trying to throw it [the built-up shoe] off," Mr. Shaw explained. He said the procedure does not hurt the horse.

Flat-shod Tennessee walkers, which wear ordinary shoes, can be ridden English or Western style.

But the gaits are different, Mr. Shaw said.

Tennessee walkers don't have a posting trot. They do a flat walk, a running walk and a canter.

"All three of these are so smooth that you sit in the saddle and enjoy the ride," Mr. Shaw said.

He said he has donated horses to the Army for use in pulling caissons at Arlington National Cemetery, donated one horse to a therapeutic riding center in Washington's Rock Creek Park and one to the stables at Camp David.

He said he also has shipped breeding stock to Germany, where Tennessee walkers are beginning to find favor.

He has owned two world grand champion performance horses and one flat-shod walker that was world champion in riding and driving.

To get the public better acquainted with Tennessee walkers, the national association plans an "American open house" May 1, when owners across the nation will invite the public to visit their farms and learn about the horses.

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