Dean Byard has unofficially offered his helping hands in putting on the Walking Horse Association Trainers’ Show for many years, but this year marks the first year he is serving as the official show chairman.

The 50th anniversary of the show is set to draw large crowds eager to get started with the 2018 show season March 22-24 at the Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville with each night of classes kicking off at 6 p.m.

“I’ve been helping out forever — in fact I’ve been to all 50 of them, back to the time when it was held in Nashville,” Byard said. “I’ve even judged three of them … The Trainers’ Show is one of the biggest shows we have in the industry and I think this year could be one of the biggest Trainers’ Shows we’ve ever had. People are more enthusiastic about this year’s upcoming show season than I’ve ever seen.”

Byard, who resides in Nashville where he works at Two Rivers Ford, has put forth great effort to ensure this year’s show is fabulous. Upon agreeing to head up the event, Byard first lined up a great panel of judges, including Jamie Bradshaw, Allen Forman and Ronnie Spears.

“We sent out a ballot to all members of the Trainers’ Association and those were sent back in and the show committee tallied up who had the most votes,” he said. “All three agreed to do it right away and all three are qualified.

Actually, all three of them have judged it twice in the past.” This year’s show will place a great emphasis on the amateur exhibitors, Byard said. Other highlights of the show: 20 classes will be Riders’ Cup of the 66 total classes and Riders’ Cup classes are five-time point classes. Lots of opportunities to earn money will be offered and, perhaps something Byard is most excited about, the Three-Year-Old Classic will return.

“It’s been at least 25 years since we’ve had this class so I’m excited about that,” Byard said. “We’ll be paying out $5,000 with $1,500 going to this winner. Back in the day we used to have three or four world champions competing against each other in this class. The three-year-old class is one of the most exciting classes we have in our industry. Everyone wants to watch the three-year-olds so I was thinking bringing this class back would bring with it some excitement.”

The Walking Horse Stake, one of six championship classes offered, will also offer increased prize money with the winner taking home $1500. In both of these classes, anyone who enters and shows and doesn’t get a ribbon will be refunded their entry fee.

Something that doesn’t happen often, the trainer showing the most horses will also be rewarded with $500. Lots of prizes will be awarded, keeping the show as exciting as ever.

Again, emphasizing the amateur competitor, each night the show will award 10 gifts that will be awarded based on drawing from a pot filled with names of all amateur riders who have shown that night.

“The gifts are going to be unreal,” he said. “We’ve been donated great things, such as a full-page ad in the Walking Horse Report, a box for the Celebration, and even a $1900 riding jacket donated by Marsha’s. That will be the grand prize given out Saturday night.”

On Saturday night, a drawing will take place for an ATV, with tickets costing $100 apiece. “We’re hoping to sell 200 tickets,” he said, adding money raised will go to the WHTA.

Another addition to this year’s show will be the Amateur Novice Class, open to all
riders who have never won a blue ribbon at the Trainers’ Show.“I’m really interested to see how many people show in this,” he said. “A lot of people have said they think we’ll see 25 or more, so we’ll see.”

The Show Pleasure Championship has been renamed for former show chair Benny
Johnson, in recognition of his devotion to the show for more than 25 years. “The show pleasure class was always Benny’s favorite, so we thought this would be a good way to honor him for his 27 years of serving as show chairman,” Byard said.

In addition to recognizing Johnson, the show will take many opportunities to recognize others throughout the show as well, including trainers. There have been 28 different trainers in the show’s 50-year history to have won the Stake. One trainer has won six times alone and another has won it five times.

All 28 will be honored in center ring at some point during the show, and for the six of the 28 trainers who are deceased, a family member representing them will be recognized in center ring.

A few other show highlights: All ribbons will have a 50th anniversary tassel attached to denote the milestone show, special 50th anniversary medallions will be given to all winners, and ribbons will be given to eight place ties, all receiving money as well.

On Saturday night, March 24, the Trainers’ Auxiliary will host a casual barbecue dinner for all trainers, grooms, farriers and vets. It’s just one more way Byard hopes to make the 50th edition special.

“It’s going to be a great show,” Byard said. “There’s nothing like a Tennessee Walking Horse and I’ve worked hard to try and make the show better. I hope it’s the best one we’ve ever had.”