By Mark McGee

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. ¬– It wasn’t a rocket’s red glare, but lightning briefly flashed in the distance to the east as Mark Posey from Chattanooga offered an impressive rendition of our National Anthem to  get the Sunday night session of the 82nd annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration underway on “Church Night”.

In an answer to prayers rain was light and brief, but balloons of all sorts filled the air to greet the Lead Line Ponies, 54 inches & Under, Riders 6 Years & Under, World Grand Championship, the first of 14 classes. As show announcer Mark Farrar pointed out to the cheering crowd these riders are the youngest to compete in the Celebration. 

A beaming Ally Jo Jacobs, led by her father Jake, made the world grand championship trip for The Jacobs Family from Murfreesboro, Tennessee aboard My Little Red Wagon. With the win Ally Jo becomes the first youth to qualify for Saturday night’s “Stars of the Future” Showcase. It was the sixth first place for the team in an undefeated 2020 show season. Rascal Flatts, with rider Cohen Grider and handler Courtney Grider, were reserve. Little Sista placed third with Lexi Cofer riding and Jerry Williams leading.

Seventeen entries answered the gate call for the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 12-14 Years on Walking Mares or Geldings, with 16 finishing. My Hometown Girl and Luke Callicutt rode to the world championship for owner John Callicutt from Seagrove, North Carolina. It was the fourth blue for the duo in 2020. Dominick placed second for Harper Grider, while BiBi Beasley and A Superbowl MVP earned the yellow streamer.

Slingblade and Debbie Marbry cleared the way to a world championship in the 13-entry Owner-Amateur Riders on Western Country Pleasure Walking Horses class. It was the third win of the year for the team. Diamond At The Ritz received the red streamer with Kimberly Walden aboard, while Eye On The Title and Lisa Baum were third.

In the Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Performance Walking Stallions six entries started the class with five remaining for the final judging. A Touché’ and Jannie Chapman from Owens Cross Roads, Alabama, rode to the world championship. It was the second victory for the pair this season. Gretzky and Allison Thorson made a power play for second. Paroled From Hardtime and Sister Milligan placed third.

A perfect 10 entries started in the Elite Owner-Amateur Gentlemen Riders on Walking Mares or Geldings with nine earning ribbons. A Home Run By Ted was named the world champion with Greg Kiser from Rosedale, Virginia swinging for the fences. A Home Run By Ted has one more blue ribbon this year with Tim Smith in the saddle. She’s Busted In Tijuana and Scott Tew rode to second for owners Madeline and Kimble Tew. Tornado Alley received the yellow streamer with Kerry DeArmond in the stirrups.

Uptight Jose’ was loose and relaxed on the way to a unanimous decision by the five-judge panel for the world championship in the Elite Owner-Amateur Lady Riders on Walking Mares or Geldings for Bruce McDonald from Lake City, Georgia. Powerstroke’s Evening Star and Sherri Pollack carried home a red ribbon for S&P LLC, with Dollar’s Bright Star and Jannie Chapman claiming third.

Mark Farrar praised the 11 entries in the Owner-Amateur Novice Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Novice Walking Mares or Geldings for their speed in entering the ring. Aaleah Bell from Belvidere, Tennessee, received a loud ovation from the crowd as she made the world championship ride, her first ever in the Celebration, aboard Dixie Rita. The red ribbon was carried home by I Am Jose’s Silver Dollar and J. Parker Watts for owner Dale Watts. Ritz Tornado and Braxton Ailshie came in third for Jamie Ailshie.

With 27 entries the Owner-Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Show Pleasure Walking Horses was the biggest class of the night and the largest number so far. For the first time in this year’s Celebration a workout was required under the direction of call judge Leigh Stuart. Twelve entries were called to the track for the final workout. Earning their first Celebration world championship in the highly competitive class was The Crimson Sky and Ashley Case for owner Judy Case from Madison, Alabama, as the unanimous selection of the judges. Black Lined and Conley Tyra won a red streamer for owner Kourtney Tyra. Walkin’ Chick, with Morgan Walden Head in the saddle for Perry Walden, claimed third.

Anthony Davis and Jessica Lawwell from Lewisburg, Tennessee earned the world championship in the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 15-17 Years on Walking Ponies to the delight of a large contingent of her fans. It was their second blue in 2020. Big Blue Nation and Makenna Dempsey received a red streamer for owner Charles Gleghorn. Versace’s Dollar and Alexa Compton placed third among the six entries for owner Rick Compton.

There were 26 entries listed in the program, but Mark Farrar explained only seven horses went through inspection and all entered the ring for the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions class. Joe Pa and Tanya Strickland were the unanimous choice for the world championship for co-owner Brian Strickland from Easley, South Carolina. It was the third blue for Joe Pa this year and the second with Strickland aboard. Really Coach? was second for Carol Missildine who co-owns with Russell Enterprises. The Lonestar Legend was directed to third by Sister Milligan. 

Twelve entries competed for their first ever world championship in a glittering Owner-Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Western Trail Pleasure Walking Horses class. Knockin’ Boots and Leigh Anne Gregory shined bright for owners Phyllis Langley of Scottsdale, Arizona and the Brad Gregory Family from Franklin, Kentucky. Knockin’ Boots had two previous blues this season, one with Gregory aboard. Magellan and Alex Johnson set a course for second for co-owner Anne Evans. Retribution was directed to third by Garold Ross for co-owner Julie Ross.
Section A of the Owner-Amateur Riders on Four-Year-Old Walking Mares or Geldings had a patriotic touch with Honor My Country winning the world championship unanimously in a field of 16 entries with Stephanie White riding for Toni White from Eatonton, Georgia. It was the fourth victory in an undefeated season for the team. Charlie’s Perfect Angel and Tara Rhoades won a red ribbon. Charlie’s Phantom was third with Alexis King on board for Mae and Bob Bills.

The Owner-Amateur Riders on Four-Year-Old Walking Mares or Geldings, Section B attracted 14 entries. Walktime Dolly, with John Callicutt in the stirrups for the partnership of Riddley and Callicutt, walked to the world championship. It was the second blue ribbon for Walktime Dolly in 2020. A Master’s Degree W was second in the class with Jake Jacobs in the saddle for the Jake Jacobs Family. I Am Melania took home a yellow ribbon with Eric Lackey riding for Mr. and Mrs. Eric Lackey.

The finale was the Four-Year-Old Walking Stallions, Canter with eight entries giving the late-night crowd something to cheer about. Jose’ Revival, with Casey Wright in the irons, rode to the world championship for Debbie and Billy Woods of Lexington, Tennessee. It was the second blue in as many shows for Wright and Jose’ Revival. Walk For Roses was reserve with Russ Thompson on board for Logan, Manie and Brassy. Form A Line picked up third place with Josh Watts riding for Ann and Chris Mills.