At TangleWoods Walkers, we strive to produce the very animal we fell in love with: the versatile, naturally gaited, phenomenally dispositioned Tennessee Walking Horse.
I'll be honest with you, I was raised in stock horses. I joked that, when I was old and crippled, I would get a gaited horse. Fate had many, many other plans.
Linda on Moon, bred by Ann & Bob Kuykendall
To start at the very beginning... I had been guiding at Roman Nose Hills Trail Ride for a few years. I was always drawn to a big TWH of my friend's, Moon. I would later learn by fate, he was bred by Ann & Bob Kuykendall. Our friend Linda had enjoyed a lot of years with her old buddy and a couple of other great Walking Horses. So, when a friend of hers decided to sale a pair, she spent all weekend working on me at a ride. "I know where there is a nice pair of Tennessee Walking Horses for sale!" I cannot tell you how many times she said that, on this one fateful ride. But let me tell you, I could feel the elbow in my ribs loud and clear.
That weekend, my husband's stock horse would lose it, and buck him off for the second time. At the end of the weekend, another guide's stock horse would dump him, causing significant injury enough for a helicopter ride. I had to leave my husband in an attempt to ride for help. By the time I got back, my husband's horse had made quite the scene and was so inconsolable he wasn't rideable. Barry ended up riding a friend's recently cut stallion back, as I ponied his horse. It was an eye opening weekend for my husband. When we arrived home, safely, I looked at Barry and asked him if he wanted to go look at that pair of Tennessee Walkers this week, to which he replied, "Yes please!"
We went to look at that pair Linda had been determined we needed. They were a pair of black geldings bred by Norma Lee Grimsley of Stonewall Walkers, Ponca City, Oklahoma. A feisty little woman with a passion for small horses from great bloodlines. When the bigger one strolled up the the fence, I could hear his hinds forging the front at his lazy walk- a farrier's nightmare. He eyed me over the fence with those giant popeyes and I thought, "Oh my gosh, its worse than I'd feared." lol. I did not yet see the absolute beauty in this horse. I heard a farrier's least favorite sound, but did not yet hear it with the ears of a gaited horseman.
We decided to trial the pair and the first time we gaited down the road we turned and looked at each other with grins on our faces like two little kids on our first ponies. We were sold. Hook line and sinker would come on our first trail outing together, were the absolute sane minds of these horses shown bright as the afternoon sun. To this day I wish I had video of Armed Secret Treasure working his way out of a 4" vine tangled up to his chest between his front legs and strung high from two trees. He slowly worked his way out on his own, and to my astonishment, he walked right down the trail as if nothing had happened! This influential event prompted our name and our desire to delve deeper into the breed.
We spent a few years trying others, always coming up with horses who possessed a great propensity for pace. I spent a couple of years buying into the idea that it could be fixed. I bought one who, as a friend in the industry put it "that paced the worst pace, to ever pace a pace that was a pace." I later found he had gone through two gaited trainers, who didn't have a lot of luck with him. I got him in a 4 beat gait, but not without a LOT of work.
There HAS to be an easier way, right? Enter Ann & Bob Kuykendall of Windy Hill Farm in Muskogee, OK. I had several friends who rode their horses on the trail, including the person who got us into TWH in the first place, Linda. Our friend Tom sent us to meet Ann and their horses. It was love at first sight.
Tom told me that Ann had a big 5 year old for sale, who had never been undersaddle. I was nervous about this at first. I had never started a horse that old... I had never started a gaited horse either! Tom told me not to worry, Ann's horses were solid. He told me of one he had that the farrier started for him in the round pen, then motioned for Tom to open the gate. Tom said he did and the farrier rode the horse to town, not figuratively. He rode that horse into town on his first ride!
So I called Ann and set up a meeting. I came out to find the prettiest herd I had ever laid eyes on. I fell in love with their big black mares: Windyhill Jill and Barbara Ann Genius. I was enamored by the friendliness and gentleness of the entire group. Bob and Ann were in their late 80s, and this 5 year old 'colt' was the last of their line. I needed a big horse for my husband, and Senor Genius seemed to fit the bill. I was in love with his sire and dam, and two ancestors who were Supreme Versatility Champions, as well as favored trail mounts by Ann & Bob. With multiple verifications from my small group of friends on how great these horses were, I developed a plan to make Senor ours.
We were still leasing pasture at the time, so I had to sell someone to purchase him. I picked the horse who was worth the most, and had her sold on my birthday. I called the next day to inform them I was coming to purchase Senor, but to my disbelief, Bob had to break it to me that Senor had died the day before, on my birthday.
I was heartbroken, to say the least. I couldn't understand Senor's purpose in that moment. Why would he live for 5 years, just sitting. Then die as soon as someone came along and wanted him. What was the purpose in that?.. I would soon find out.
I continued to come see Ann & Bob. Hungry to learn more about the breed and facinated by this wonderful lady. Here, stood before me, a legend in my own mind. This lady had been doing, for the last 60 years, what I thought nobody in the breed was doing. And what I wanted to be doing for the next 60 years:
Senor Genius "Senor" 2012-2017
Promoting the naturally gaited, versatile, phenomenally dispositioned Tennessee Walking Horse that anyone could get on and enjoy.
I kept thinking "Linda, I don't ride gaited, I certainly don't need another horse, and I don't have much interest in being seen on a gaited horse!"
Ann Kuykendall & Barbara's Amazing Grace at 1 month old
I arrived in Muskogee, OK 1 month after Barbara's Amazing Grace was born. She was perfect! Ann assured me she was going to be black, one white leg like her grandsire, and already showing the makings of being a big horse of substance. I couldn't believe it. I told Ann that I didn't know what her plans were for the filly, but as far as I was concerned, she was already sold.
I had no intentions of becoming a Walking Horse breeder, but even an blind man could see the path laid before me. I went to meet Ann with the simple idea of buying a gelding for my husband to ride the next 20 years. Had it not been for poor Senor's life and death, we would not have come to own 5 viable mares of the Kuykendall's bloodlines. With the birth of Amazing Grace, I realized Senor's purpose. God was spoon feeding me his plan to carry on what Ann had started: Versatile, wonderful Tennessee Walking Horses that anyone could enjoy.
Horses of Importance:
I thought, at the time, that my opportunity had slipped right through my hands. All of the Kuykendall's horses now aged, I didn't see how I would ever enjoy one of their horses for my very own. I had no idea what God had in store. If you believe in a higher power, here comes the moment where his plan became mine.
One day, I went to see Ann and she offered me the two bay mares. They were the youngest of what was left of her herd, 9 & 11 years old. One with 30 days on her some 8 years ago (do the math, and Ann started her in her late 70s). And the other with no rides at all, not even a saddle. Just halter broke. I thought I must be crazy to even consider this! I had 60 acres of pasture on lease. No cross fences, no pens, nothing to get them started. Or even catch them should they decide to become feral! But my husband agreed, seeing my dreams often before I do, that it was simply a deal I couldn't refuse. I had started countless horses, it was time to start a new challenge.
To my amazement, these were the easiest horses I have ever started. Honest, willing, intelligent, not a mean bone in their bodies. Before I knew it we were riding down roads, hitting the trails with friends, and guiding rides.
Click on their pictures to go to their pages.
I even had a few instances of horses exploding nearby, dumping riders, etc. Jackson's Saint Pattie watches these disasters unfold with the calmness of a veteran trail horse. Senorita Miss Autumn never acted like she hadn't been ridden a day in her life. Her and I clicked from day one and when I started her, I never felt like I trained her to do anything. She has always felt like she is an extension of myself, and like she was doing it for the 1,000th time.
As much as I love these two mares, there was always a little sadness. Always that hole left for that big black dream horse. The one Jill and Barbara opened and Senor had left. I had no Marauder in my bloodlines and no Barbara. Then, one fateful day, I called to chat with Ann, and Bob answered the phone. Giddy to spill the beans he announced "you are never going to guess what happened!" I could hear Ann in the background, demanding the phone. "Barbara Ann had a filly!" Ann in the background now, insistent that Bob didn't know what he was talking about and that he needed to hand over the phone. Ann gets on the phone, her disposition changed "BARBARA ANN HAD A FILLY!" I almost dropped the phone. Impossible! Barbara Ann was in her 20s, so was Jack, and they had been kept the same way for years, never an accident. How could this be? Fate.