By Mark McGee | photos by Shane Shiflet

There was something for everyone with pleasure, weanlings and equitation classes filling out the 11-class schedule Saturday morning for the 85th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration at Cooper Steel Arena.

The hot and humid morning started with perfect attendance as all nine programmed entries answered the gate call from announcer Travis Olinger in the Youth Model class. Mystic Jazz played the right notes for top honors with Harper Grider handling for Laurie Toone of Shelbyville, Tennessee. Mystic Jazz has two blues in four classes this year. Catherine Zeta-Jones and handler Peyton Nelms were reserve for Ed Lukacevic, while My Miranda Lambert walked out with a yellow streamer with Laci Mathews guiding for Rushing Creek Walkers/Brandon Tate. Nathan Clark was the call judge.

For the third year in a row Ally Jo Jacobs from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, rode to first in the Auxiliary Equitation Youth 6-11 class. She is undefeated in four classes this summer. Ruth Collins placed second and Haven Kasselman was third. David Sisk was the call judge with all three listed entries competed. 

Two of six listed entries were under the direction of call judge Kenny Smith in the Owner-Amateur Youth 12-17 English Trail Pleasure class. Diva By Daddy was the blue ribbon winner for owner-rider Maddie McMorrow of Georgetown, Kentucky. Diva By Daddy has 10 blues in 17 classes in 2023. Parking Lot Charlie tied second with Emma Carter aboard for Gary and Karen Doss. 

Shade Of Honor was guided to the winner’s circle by Isaac Witherspoon for James Campbell of Thompson’s Station, Tennessee. The second tie went to Sweet Georgia Brown J&R with Emery Sims directing the contender in the Weanlings, Youth Handlers class. Sweet Georgia Brown J&R is owned by Bobby Jones and Roger Richards. The yellow ribbon was awarded to Just A Darling with Peyton Nelms guiding for Teel & Washburn. Only one of 15 programmed entries failed to show for call judge Derek Bonner. 

Call judge Leah Boyd put five of seven expected entries through their gaits in the Owner-Amateur Youth 12-17 English Country Pleasure class. Margarita Cash and Emma Carter rode to the first place tie for Gary and Karen Doss of Minford, Ohio. It was the second blue of 2023 for Margarita Cash. Sabotage, with Kylie Duvall in the saddle for Stooksberry and Duval, was second. Granted Parole and Tanner Johnson left the ring with a yellow ribbon for Keith Johnson.

Co-owner Sterling Woodruff rode Kissed In Dixie to a unanimous first title for co-owners Dakoda and Cheyanne Gardner of Shelbyville, Tennessee, in the Owner-Amateur Youth 6-11 All Day Pleasure class. Disaronno and Gracie Jean Ware rode out with a red streamer, while Peligro Dinero was third with co-owner Carson Sells aboard for co-owners Julie Carlson and Phyllis Langley. Nine of 11 programmed entries made the gate with Nathan Clark calling the class. 

Call judge David Sisk directed the Owner-Amateur Weanlings class with 13 of 19 scheduled entries participating. In their show ring debut, Ring Girl CTF and handler Hunter Fikes walked to top honors for John Fikes of Hamilton, Alabama. Owner-handler Amanda Wright and A Road Trip were reserve. He’s John The Baptist and handler Jaron Dotson won a yellow streamer for Jesse Dotson. Jr.

It was perfect attendance for the Owner-Amateur Youth 6-11 Trail Pleasure class with all seven programmed entries in the ring for call judge Kenny Smith. Mr. Bentley and owner-rider Lakelyn Mathews of Clarksville, Tennessee, were the unanimous first place. Mr. Bentley has three blues in eight classes this summer. The Serengeti and Caroline Stanley were reserve for Hannah Myatt. Tempted and Caroline Insell rode to third for Tom Insell.

Dixie’s Legacy took top honors with co-owner Jackson Laughlin in the saddle for co-owner Billie DeArmond from Greer, South Carolina, and Shelbyville, Tennessee, in the Owner-Amateur Youth Park Pleasure clas. Boston Bay and co-owner Jocelyn Laughlin walked away with a red streamer for co-owners Anne Evans and Alex Johnson. In third were Julia Callaway and Just Jose It for Kim Leonard. Derek Bonner was the call judge with eight of 10 slated entries working the ring. 

Eight of 10 programmed entries worked with call judge Leah Boyd directing in the Owner-Amateur Youth 6-11 Country Pleasure class. The Tiger Lily and owner-rider Caroline Stanley from Cynthiana, Kentucky, won the blue. It was the second blue in three classes for The Tiger Lily this show season. Reserve was First Knight Out with Ally Jo Jacobs in the saddle for The Gregory and Jacobs Families. Designer Champagne, a classic horse, was ridden to a yellow ribbon by co-owner Alayna Arnold for co-owners Corbin Parker and Kimberly Walden.

The Auxiliary Equitation World Grand Championship (Canter) had four entries, two more than expected, vying for the world grand championship of the Celebration this year. Nathan Clark called the class. When all the rail work and patterns were complete, it was John Garrett Burton, from Bowling Green, Kentucky, walking away with the floral horseshoe. He added this to his previous win of the Celebration that came in the Auxiliary Equitation Youth 15-17 (Canter) class on Wednesday morning. Burton made Celebration history by becoming the first ever male Equitation World Grand Champion. Rounding out the top three placing int he class were Kate Cowan in reserve and Kilie Phillips in third.