By Sadie Fowler

This past show season saw the return of several new faces to the Tennessee Walking Horse industry — although, technically, they aren’t actually new.

A few weeks back, the WHR reached out to horse enthusiasts via social media to hear the stories of any newcomers who decided to jump back in the saddle after a 10 or more-year absence. It was exciting to see there were a few who’d chosen to return to their breed of choice. 

Of course, this group of the select few who had been away for more than 10 years doesn’t include all the new faces who have emerged, choosing the walking horse as their breed of choice. 

“The fact that we are seeing people coming back to competing and enjoying our horse after a hiatus is very encouraging,” said Mike Inman, CEO of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. “Their affinity for the horse and the camaraderie never left for these individuals. Seeing the positive turn on what is happening in so many facets of the industry has really been the motivation to get re-engaged.”

At quick glance, Sarah (Coffee) Burks made a return in a big way this year, and a previous feature story on her ran in the October edition of WHR. Additionally, Patty Wilson and Mary Morton are two others who have enjoyed their return. 

Wilson owns two horses now, one of which won at this year’s Celebration.

“I returned to the Walking Horse world this year after an almost 20 years out,” said Wilson, who resides in Birmingham, Alabama. “I grew up riding and showing from about the late 1960s until 1998 and I’m pleased to be back!”

Wilson’s horses are in training with Phillip Trimble Stables. 

Morton returned to the show ring in 2014 after raising a family and simply living life. She had shown as a youngster and is thrilled to be back as well.

Mary Morton returned to the show ring in 2014 after raising a family. She had shown as a youngster. 
She is at Dickie Scrivner’s barn and now has two horses in training, a flat shod horse and a padded horse. 
Her return to the show ring was also met with great success. She got her first Celebration ribbon — two, in fact — this year on her performance horse, Master Of Heartache. 

Morton said this year’s Celebration was a childhood dream come true for her, and she’s looking forward to continuing her journey with eyes set on a new pleasure horse.

Burks’ story was also one with great emotion and excitement. She was a well-known face in the industry who parted ways many years ago and admitted having several personal struggles along the way. 

Burks did a lot of soul searching and work on her own soul with the strong, healthy and helpful support from her late husband, whom she credits for encouraging her to live life to its fullest and reconnect with her horses. 
She has several winning contenders now and is a full-blown, regular — and welcomed — face to the industry once again.