By Mark Davis


            It’s Friday morning at the 68th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and as the clock nears 9 am, there was a cool breeze blowing through Calsonic Arena, even before the big fans made their first turn.

            Even though the Thursday evening performance was after midnight coming to a close, there were quite a few people milling through Calsonic Arena preparing for the judging panel, made up of Jamie Bradshaw of Union Grove, Ala., Wink Groover of Longview, Texas, Tommy Loid of Bowling Green, Ky., Huck Moss of Trenton, S.C., and Ronnie Spears of Tullahoma, Tenn, to head to center ring so the show could get underway.

            Promptly at 9 am, morning announcer Kathy Herrin called class 33, Owner-Amateur Novice Youth Riders 6-17 Years on Novice Plantation Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings, Lite Shod, to the arena.  Eleven of the 15 expected hit the track to work for Judge Wink Groover and his cohorts with hopes of riding away with their very first Celebration blue.  Riding to the top of the event and out of the Novice division and taking honors back to Tarheel country, Score’s Heartbreaker and Kevin Helms scored the win, repeating a July win at Tazewell, Va.’s Tazewell County Classic, for Wanda Helms of Locust, N.C.  In the reserve position, A Red Ball Jet and Hannah McKenney rode for Kevin and Kim Smith of Yorktown, Ind,  Marquita By Design and Sarah Paul were third for Karrie Paul of Edwall, Wash,.  

Ya Ma Ka Me Crazy and Hailey Puckett

            It was time to get in the western frame of mind as class 34A brought the Amateur Owned and Trained Western Trail Pleasure, No Professional Training within 90 days.  Judge Tommy Loid called the gaits in the event which featured 17 of the 20 with reservations making their way up the chute.  Stealing the blue for the second consecutive year, this time with unanimous decision of the panel, were Bluegrass Bandit and Jared Carrier riding for The Carrier Family of Franklin, Ky.  This year’s wins for this pair include Shelbyville, Tenn.’s National Trainers’ Show, Panama City Beach, Fla.’s Gulf Coast Charity Celebration, Shelbyville, Tenn.’s Tennessee Classic and Spring Fun Show and Murfreesboro, Tenn.’s International Grand Championships.  I’m Clean and Sober and Dennis Pennington picked up the red silks to take home for Dennis and Becca Pennington of Bluffdale, Utah.  Dr. Charlene Cook and the attractive sorrel Generator’s Final Chapter were third for Central Georgia Equine Services, Inc. of Fort Valley, Ga.

            Class 34 B brought all 19 programmed entries to work in the Amateur Owned and Trained Western Trail Pleasure, No Professional Training within 90 days.  Judge Huck Moss served as Call Judged in the division.  When the work was complete, it was the hometown team of Pitcher Of Gold and Dr. Judy Moore riding to the winner’s circle for Moore-Foust Farms of Shelbyville, Tenn.  This title adds to an impressive resume which includes wins at Shelbyville, Tenn.’s Tennessee Classic, Murfreesboro, Tenn.’s Exchange Club Horse Show, Mt. Pleasant, Tenn.’s Lions Club Horse Show, Murfreesboro, Tenn.’s PWHAT Flatshod Jamboree, Parkers Crossroads, Tenn., Murfreesboro, Tenn.’s International Grand Championships. Dennis Pennington was back in the reserve position once again, this time with Highway Patrol riding again for Dennis and Becca Pennington of Bluffdale, Utah.  Delightfully Royal and Charlie Howard were third for Bob Lawrence and Charlie Howard of Thomasville, Ga., and Murfreesboro, Tenn.

            The crowd was in for a real treat as the young riders headed into Calsonic Arena once again for Class 35, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years On Show Pleasure Walking Horses.  Fifteen of the 20 anticipated hit the track and worked extra hard as Judge Ronnie Spears called the gaits in the division.  This event really got the Friday morning crowd excited and it seemed that everyone on hand had their favorite picked out and didn’t mind letting the panel know about it, you might have even thought some of them were crazy.  That would make sense since Hailey Puckett and Ya Ma Ka Me Crazy put on an outstanding show to capture the win for mom, Holly Puckett of Wartrace, Tenn.  Rising Rhythm and Katie Warr put on a stellar performance to garner the red streamers for The Spud Warr Family of Phenix City, Ala.  Hotline and Lily Waites pulled in for the yellow silks for The Andrew Waites Family of Hattiesburg, Miss. 

            Back in the pleasure division, Class 36 brought 18 of the 26 expected up from the warmup arena to work in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Western Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite Shod.  Judge Jamie Bradshaw served as the Call Judge in this event.  Showing she can ride in western just as well as she can in english, Sandra Johnson and Steelwatch put on an extraordinary performance, just as they did recently at Murfreesboro, Tenn.’s International Grand Championships to top the division with a unanimous decision of the panel for Sandra Johnson of Atlanta, Ga.  Drop The Hammer and B.J. Richards were back in the reserve position once again for Stacey Richards of Franklin, Tenn.  Kathy Anderson and The Grand Liza Jane were simply grand as they rode to third for John and Kathy Anderson of Shelbyville, Tenn.

The Great Escape and Sara Akin

            The young folks were back for class 37, Owner-Amateur Youth Western Trail Pleasure, Riders 6-11Years.  Twenty-one of the 23 signed in made their way to the track to show their stuff for Judge Wink Groover and his cohorts.  Riding to the top of the division was Hallelujah In The Sky and owner/exhibitor Logan Hankins of Paris, Ky., and don’t you know parents, and professional trainers, Jamie and Jennifer Hankins were very proud.  To make the win even more special, this horse is only a two-year-old and made his first ever show with Logan in the saddle at the Woodbury, Tenn. Lions Club Horse Show over the Fourth-Of-July Weekend.  Princess Speed and Hunter Morgan proudly picked up the red for Joseph Abernathy and Hunter Morgan of Olive Branch, Miss., and Oakland, Tenn.  The tried and true champion Genius’ Dixie Chick and Ashley Gordon were third for Stone Gait Farm of Orange, Calif.  Don’t you know that her grandmother, Susan Gordon, who passed away earlier this year from injuries suffered in a trail riding accident, would have been so very proud to see another generation of her family enjoying Celebration success.

            Moving to the halter division, class 38 brought the TWHBEA Youth Weanling, Handlers 6-17 Years to the ring, with 21 of the 25 programmed entries working the track as Judge Tommy Loid led the panel in the class.  Topping the competitive event was Miss Annika with Hailey Puckett at the lead chain for The Larry Messimer Family of Concord, N.C.  A Dance With Danger and B.J. Richards stepped into the reserve position for Lisa Teel of Andalusia, Ala.  Gen’s NRA and Josh Jones collected the yellow silks for Carole Hargett & Bob Neal of Shelbyville, Tenn.

            Class 39 was up next on the schedule, Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses, Two and Three Years Old.  Seventeen of the 27 expected made the gate call to work for Judge Huck Moss and his staff.  Repeating on their 2005 win in the Two-Year-Old Park Performance ranks, Santana’s Silver Streak and Bo Beam put on another very impressive performance to fall at the top of all five judges cards for Garber and Beam of Arab, Ala.  Another striking grey, Yao Ming and owner/exhibitor Nichole Kakassy of Nashville, Tenn., were close behind picking up the red streamers.  Golden Eagle and owner/exhibitor Lynn Culbreath of Mooresville, N.C. was third.

            The Show Pleasure horses were back on the rail in class 40, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 12-17 Years on Show Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings with 16 of the 20 expected working through the chute as Judge Ronnie Spears served as Call Judge.  Making a performance that could only be termed one way, great, was the duo of multi-titled champion The Great Escape and Sara Akin, victorious in 2006 at Tupelo, Miss.’ Faith Haven Horse Show, Byhalia, Miss.’ White Oak Classic, Germantown, Tenn.’s Charity Horse Show, Jackson, Tenn.’s Mid South Horse Show and Corinth, Miss.’ Magnolia Classic, riding for mom, Camille Akin of Collierville, Tenn.  Two-Thousand and Six marks Miss Sara’s final year in Youth competition and she finished it out in World Championship style!  Motown’s Mellow Mood and Clay Sanderson were in the second position for Bobby Mulvey & Judy Stevenson of Shelbyville, Tenn.  Jana Lawson and The Secret Spy picked up the yellow streamers for Charles and Florence Terry of Morristown, Tenn.  

Bluegrass Bandit and Jared Carrier

            Class 41 brought the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Plantation Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings, Lite Shod to the Calsonic Arena with eight of the 11 with reservations hitting the trail to work under the watchful eye of Call Judge Jamie Bradshaw and his cohorts.  Returning to the winner’s circle for the third consecutive year in this division was the dynamic duo of WGC Double Java and Jacqueline Holtschult, 2006 champions at Indio, Calif.’s Desert Classic and Pomona, Calif.’s West Coast Trainers’ Show, riding for Mike and Kathy Chiappari of Santa Rosa, Calif.  By the way, they did win with a unanimous decision of the panel.  Picking up another reserve, A Red Ball Jet, paired this time with Taylor Huth, was riding in high style for Kevin and Kim Smith of Yorktown, Ind.  Bradley Richards and Drop The Hammer were in the third position for Stacey Richards of Franklin, Tenn.

            The Owner-Amateur Riders 50 & Over on Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite Shod were up next on the program, Class 42, with 15 of the 21 expected making the gate call to work for Judge Wink Groover and staff.   Well, it’s another history making moment.  2000 Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion Cash For Keeps returned to the Celebration winner’s circle in the Lite Shod division for the first time yesterday with trainer Ray Gilmer, marking the first time a Padded WGC had returned to captured a World Championship title in a flat shod division.  Today, Jeanne Morrison stepped in the irons and captured a history making World title of her own for Andrew Morrison of Hattiesburg, Miss.  The duo had captured top honors previously in 2006 at Byhalia, Miss.’ White Oak Classic and Murfreesboro, Tenn.’s Bethesda Horse Show.  Commanding Dakota and Kathy Owen were a striking reserve for Double Springs Farm of Murfreesboro, Tenn.  Gene Means and Jose Quervo Gold delivered the yellow streamer for Gene and Sandra Means of Shelbyville, Tenn.

            The kids were back for Class 43, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Park Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings with 13 entries making the gate call to work as Judge Tommy Loid called the gaits in the event.  When the work was complete, it was another unanimous blue for Santana’s Coin.  The big walking sorrel gelding topped the Plantation Pleasure driving earlier this week with Wallace Brandon at the whip and today topped this event with Miss Lindsey Landrum doing the honors for Lindsey Landrum and John McNeely of Blowing Rock, N.C. and Franklin, Tenn.  Keep The Roses and Alex Blackburn picked up the reserve title for Sophia Borg & Alex Blackburn of Ponte Verde, Fla., and Franklin, Tenn.  Gen’s I Love Lucy and Meghan Davis were third for Nancy Clements of Batavia, Ohio.

BO Beam and Santana'a Silver Streak

            Fifteen entries hit the track ready to work in class 44, Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Two Years Old, Lite Shod.  Judge Huck Moss served as Call Judge in the division.  Topping all five judges cards was the duo of The Armed Cashier and Jeff Laughlin showing for 4-J Land & Cattle Co. and Jerrold Pedigo of Waynesville, Mo. & Murfreesboro, Tenn.  He’s Mo Dangerous and Grandy Tuck took the red streamer home for Jean Fowler of Knoxville, Tenn.  Princess Dumas and Ty Irby were third for Irby Farms of Mobile, Ala., and Shelbyville, Tenn.

            The final class of the morning performance was class 45, TWHBEA Youth Yearling Fillies or Geldings, Handlers 6-17 Years.  Sixteen of the 17 with reservations hit the rail to begin the work for Judge Ronnie Spears and his cohorts.  Leading to the top of the division like a dream come true was OOPS Dream Girl and Logan Goostree at the lead for Crestman, Hurley and Richards of Hendersonville, Tenn.  Stormy’s Silky Sue and Josh Jones were reserve in the event for J.T. and Martha Nelms of College Grove, Tenn.  Taylor Morgan and I Lined This Page were third for Rollie Beard and June Hawkins of Lewisburg, Tenn.

Santana's Coin and Lindsey Landrum

            Whew, another morning session in the record books by 1 pm.  Three days in a row, that’s hard to beat!  Remember, the morning sessions will continue in Calsonic Arena starting at 9 am on Saturday and Monday, with no day session on Sunday, but the WHT Ladies Auxiliary’s Dog Show will be on Sunday afternoon and is always a great time.  Also, don’t forget to take part in the Barbeque cookoff Saturday afternoon across the street from Calsonic Arena.  Good food and good entertainment . . .two things that one never wants to miss. 

            Whatever, however, take part in all the things that make up The Celebration.  It truly is an experience like no other!