I am the proud owner of a Tennessee Walker. He's barefoot, and naturally gaited--although I haven't figured out how to get him to gait under saddle as we're just starting out and we're bitless. However, he does gait in pasture, and it's so beautiful it starts an ache in the back of my throat and makes me want to cry. He does it because it comes naturally to him and he's feeling good. I'll never understand some people's need to change that natural gait, of the attitude that abuse to achieve it is alright.
You will find that many Walkers gait best when ridden in contact. As a rider you don't want a horse that gaits "when he's feeling best." You want a horse to gait when you tell him to gait. Ditto for canter, stop, turn, etc.
Be very wary of "natural" when applied to horses. Horses have been domesticated for something like 12,000 years and gaited horses have been selectively bred for at least several hundred (and maybe several millennia). As such they are man-made animals. While the Big Lick, the JV Big Lick, rollkur, peannut rolling, etc. are abominations that does not mean that saddles, bits, spurs, shoes, etc. (which are all "unnatural") are equally abominable.
It's probably quite true that the BL horses have been the 1%ers of the TWH world. They are also the source for the bulk of TWH breeding stock over the past 50 years or so. That, IMO, has grossly damaged the genetic stock of the TWH, meaning another caution about "natural" in the TWH.
The BL was created in the early '50s to reinvigorate an moribund TWH industry. After WWII autos, motorcycles, etc. rapidly replaced the TWH as a mode of transport in the South. The great drought of 1948-49 essentially ended animal based agriculture in TN (it was cheaper to run a tractor than maintain a team; and the tractor could do more work in a day). Horses were dumped in HUGE numbers. Trainers and instructors were rapidly becoming obsolete. Then Talk of the Town won the Celebration three times, exciting the crowd with his "big lick" (note the lack of capitalization, here). So the trainers turned to the ASB world and imported the devices that could allow any horse to do a "Big Lick" gait. That put bums in seats and money in the till. It also opened the door to the abuses we see today.
Now you have three generations of human and a couple of dozen generations of horses bred for this process. What happens to those humans and those horses if the process is banned? Few of the zealots who have written on this consider those consequences. Or, if they do, they write of the humans as a "who cares; so what?" Not much about the horses, though, who are pretty much unfit for much else.
I don't think the TWHBEA as a whole has been banned from the Celebration and the NWHA has certainly NOT taken over. The Celebration is committed to the maintenance of a "humane" BL program. IMO this is an impossibility, but there it is.
There are a lot of dark clouds on the horizon for the Walking Horse world. If there is a silver lining it's that the tyranny of the BL might have been broken and the excessive influence of a few people in Middle TN has been dramatically reduced. But we won't know that for at least another 24 months.