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80th annual Celebration kicks off at Calsonic

By Sadie Fowler

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. — A beautiful August morning marked by sunshine, cooler-than-normal weather, the smell of horses and the familiar voice of announcer Dallas Eubanks got everyone in the spirit Wednesday morning, Aug. 22, for the 80th edition of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Proving just how fast a year can fly by, a crowd of friendly faces and horse show fans eagerly gathered in the Calsonic Arena to cheer on their favorite entries among a great field of nine classes that performed in front of this year’s capable crew of judges: Sam Sorrell, Leigh Stuart, Ross Campbell, David Sisk and Mike Hilley.

 “The first session was a great start to the 80th annual Celebration,” said Celebration CEO Mike Inman. “The competition was hot and the weather cool — a winning combination in anyone’s book.”

The Dale Steinmetz & La Patrona Model Pleasure Mares/WHTA Rider’s Cup class kicked off the morning session with five entries making the gate call. Mystic Jazz and Robert Nelms captured the unanimous victory for Rushing Creek Walkers. Walking to the beat for the reserve ribbon, Miss Jazz Queen finished as the reserve champion with Leighanne Tibbs directing the entry for Austin and Dalton Tibbs.

Ten entries showed up for the second class of the first session, the Owner/Amateur Trail Pleasure English and Western Two-Year-Old class, with Pitch Perfect landing the victory pass with Miles Irby on board for The Robey Family/Miles Irby. Owner and rider Ashley Wadsworth cruised in for the reserve award aboard Mr. Bentley. 

The Elite Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses performed in the third class of the morning with offspring of a very popular stallion, The Dixie Lineman, in the winner’s circle. I’m A Dixieland Delight lined up as the winner of this class with owner Vickie Penick on board. Lined Up At The Ritz and Lisa Baum earned reserve in the class, which included seven entries.

The second largest and certainly one of the most competitive classes of the morning in terms of depth, the Owner-Amateur Riders on English Country Pleasure Walking Horses class featured lots of entries and many of them have been winning all season long, proving just how challenging it can be to judge a show of this caliber. Gi Gi’s Majestic and Elysse Bradford, who claimed third in the same class last year, continued their undefeated winning streak this season by capturing the impressive win for the William Bradford Family. Cazadores and Tamara Hader proudly accepted reserve among the impressive crop of 14. 

Ten passed through the gate for class number five of the morning, the Owner-Amateur Riders on Two-Year-Old Country Pleasure Walking Horses, Optional Tack. Often seen in center ring judging herself, Jennifer Bingham had a different perspective on this particular morning aboard winning entry Megabucks for owners Jerry Myatt and Jennifer Bingham. Hailing from just down the road in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, reserve in the class went to Privileged and Maggie Moore for Jim Leek and Maggie Moore. 

The trend of the morning continued with depth and quality as 13 riders showed up for the Owner-Amateur Riders on English Trail Pleasure Walking Horses class. A pretty lady in red stood out among entries from the get-go, and also captured the attention of the judges come conclusion of the class. Kathy Zeis and Etta James By TJB enjoyed their victory pass for the second year in a row — and also in unanimous fashion — for owner Steve Zeis, who is also Kathy’s proud husband. Luciano and Darrin Sisk received a huge applause from their fan club for their reserve finish for owners Darrin and Linda Sisk and Lindy Holt. 

The Park Pleasure Walking Horses Four Years and Under Optional Tack Rider’s Cup class followed in the morning’s schedule with six entries making the gate call. Howard Hamilton greeted the standout winners from the class, Don’t Push Me José and Patrick Thomas, who represented S&P LLC, all the way from Saratoga, California, for the win. Jeff Laughlin had A Dangerous Deal in the safe zone for second place in this good class for owners Denny Russell and Carol Missildine. 

Quality entries who are all familiar with wins in their respective circuits filled the Calsonic for the second to last class of the morning, the Owner-Amateur Riders on Three-Year-Old English Trail Pleasure Walking Horses. But perhaps no one knows the winner’s circle better than the pair that emerged as winners of this class, Self Made Money and Kyndra Myers for The Harold Roberts Family. Skilled rider Kyle Bush, also no stranger to the winner’s circle, walked away as the reserve champion rider on board Miss Vanjie for Genz, Pittman, Bush and Ellis. 

Saving the best for last, the Owner-Amateur Riders on Country Pleasure Walking Horses, Four Years and Under, Optional Tack closed out the Wednesday morning session with an impressive 21 entries, 17 of which sported beautiful western attire. Following normal rail work, a work out helped the judges to narrow down the final order of finish in the class. In an incredible close out to the morning, One Breath Away and Kimberly Walden rose to the top among the amazing group, which including many of the industry’s great amateur riders. A seasoned pro herself, Whitlei Green earned the rights to reserve with a great applause from the crowd aboard Hashtag. Third in the largest class of the morning was I’m Viva La Vita and Tammy Hubbard. 


Shane Shiflet shot the winning moments on camera as the best of the best horses around walked to the tune of the organ, masterfully played by Brian Perry, for a morning that literally went off without a hitch.

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