by Sarah Smith

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – At 7 p.m., announcer Mark Farrar welcomed Ranger T. Walker and Ernie Brubaker to the ring as the official flag horse of the 78th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Larry Bright entertained with his talents on the organ and Shane Shiflet captured all the action. Ed Boggess of Fairlane Church of Christ delivered the invocation. Jason and Jeffrey McGee sang the National Anthem. Judges for the 11-day event are Chris Bobo, Nathan Clark, Ray Gilmer, Sam Sorrell and Leigh Stuart.

Although the sky was dark with the threat of a storm, it didn’t stop horse show fans from cheering for their favorites in the first class, the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Walking Geldings. Blue Ray and Alexis Nichols were called to the winner’s circle. The team was crowned Novice Youth 6-11 World Champions in 2015 and enjoyed two wins prior to claiming this world title. Reserve went to Willie Twilight and Landon Callicutt for John Callicutt. Willie Twilight carried Landon to the winner’s circle six previous times in 2016. A classic horse, Olympic’s Godfather carried Laci Matthews to the third tie.

Professional riders were next to the ring on the Two-Year-Old Walking Geldings, a Riders’ Cup class. Scott Beaty directed Airborne Hero to the blue for McWilliams Farms. Airborne Hero is sired by I’m Jack Daniels and is out of the McWilliams beloved Jose’s Magical Lady. Another homegrown talent, Don’t Push Me Jose’ carried Bill Callaway to the reserve word championship for S & P, LLC. Rounding out the top three was Belmont Park with John Allan Callaway for Jacob Baum. Belmont Park is also out of a notable former show mare, Miss Keeneland.

Delighting the crowd was the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, Riders 70 & Over. Emerging from the lineup as world champions were I’m Biscayne Bay and Ben Brogdon for Ben and Dr. Lynda Brogdon. This win continues the undefeated streak the pair is on with previous wins at Gulf Coast Trainers, Alabama Ladies Auxiliary and Belfast-TWHBEA shows. Collecting the red streamer was Lined With Poison and Lucky Collins for Don Collins. This team had wins at the Mississippi Charity Horse Show, Columbia Spring Jubilee, Christmas In July and Red Carpet Show of the South earlier in the season. Sudie Reed rode Miss Ebony Rose to the third award for she and husband Bob.

Next on the schedule was the Lite-Shod Walking Horses, Riders’ Cup. For the second time of the day, La Patrona earned bragging rights as a world champion. This win was with Joe Lester riding and was also a unanimous choice from the judging panel. Owner Dale Steinmetz rode to the winner’s circle earlier in the day. Jeff Laughlin directed Lil Wayne to the reserve win for Jeff Gillespie. My Black Cadillac and Laurie Toone picked up the yellow streamer for Allison Thorson.

The A division of the Three-Year-Old Walking Stallions, Riders’ Cup was next to take the track. Becoming a world champion and retiring the Dave Spence, Donald Paschal and Leslie Seaton Memorial Challenge Trophies was Amen Corner and John Allan Callaway for Brad and Trish Spivey. Amen Corner was found in the winner’s circle at the Marshall County Horseman’s Association Horse Show last month. I’m Johnny Majors and RM Kellett earned the reserve world title for Carrie Benedict. This team won at the Walking For Cancer, Woodbury Lions Club and Gallatin Memorial shows earlier in the year. The third honor in the exciting class went to El Capitan and Casey Wright for Billy and Debbie Woods.

The B division of the Three-Year-Old Walking Stallions, Riders’ Cup brought another Callaway to the winner’s circle. Bill Callaway directed A Pink Floyd to the world championship for Kathy Zeis. A Pink Floyd was a Two-Year-Old Stallion World Champion last season and earned previous season wins at the National Trainers’ Show, FAST Spring Showcase and Christmas In July shows. Second was Tarheel’s Pushin Jose and Derek Monahan for Bob and Mary Lou Rollins. This team also had three wins before hitting the Celebration oval. The Thomas, Rowland & Bell owned entry of The Memphis Blues and trainer Charlie Green were third.

You could say that the next horse and rider combo to be crowned world champions have “grown up together”. The American General and Maisie McSwain earned their first blue ribbon at the Celebration 12 years ago in the 11 & Under division. Now, they are the 2016 Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, Classic Horses 15 Years & Over. Blue Blooded Bandit and Sophia Borg enjoyed their ride to the reserve world title for Blackwater Stables. Multi-titled He’s Wild Eyed & Wicked carried owner Howard Eastridge to claim the yellow streamer.
The Park Performance Walking Horses, Four Years & Under were next to complete for championship acclaim. Riding from the line up with a unanimous vote from the judges was The Night Crawler and Travis Craft for the Terry Dotson family. This was the second outing for the team this season. The first was a win at the Cumberland County Horse Show. Patrick Thomas and Do Right were second in the class for Steve and Pat Wilson. Joe’s Cash Maker with Tyler Baucom up were third for owner Kerry DeArmond.

Claiming her first world championship and riding out of the novice division in the Owner-Amateur Novice Lady Riders on Novice Walking Stallions was Tanya Strickland aboard Joe Pa. The duo claimed blues at the Columbia Spring Jubilee and Marshall County Horseman’s Association Horse Shows earlier this year. In her first Celebration appearance, Michelle Mason directed Deal Me Aces to the reserve award for Jannie Chapman. The new team of Swing Batter Batter Swing and Beth Beasley carried the yellow award back to Athens, Ala.

The Four-Year-Old Walking Mares or Geldings, Canter, a Riders’ Cup class was up next. John Allan Callaway directed Godiva down victory lane for Don and George-Ann Pratt. Godiva was also a world champion in 2015 in the Three-Year-Old Mares division. I’ll Have Another Shady and Jimmy McConnell earned the red ribbon for Tammy Barclay. Third in the class went to Color Coded and Casey Wright for Eric and Diane Lackey.

Reigning World Grand Champions, Lined Up At The Ritz and Lisa Baum added another world title to their lengthy resume in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses. Lined Up At The Ritz has topped this class the past three years. Multi-titled BB King’s Jazz and Mikki Eldridge added the reserve title to their list of credits. Jackson Stephens rode BB King’s Jazz to a blue on Wednesday morning. With three wins added to his record this season, Ritz’s Red Solo Cup carried Kyndra Myers to the third award.

Owner-Amateur Lady Riders on Walking Mares brought six entries to the ring. Celebrating the title as world champions were Jose’ Miss Dolly and Lorie Riddley for Alan Riddley. This was a repeat from 2014 for the team and was their fourth win of the season. Powerstroke’s Evening Star and Sherri Pollack are carrying the red ribbon back to Saratoga, Calif., for S & P, LLC. Third was She’s Limitless and Molly Walters.

The final class of the evening brought five entries to vie for top honors in the Show Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings, Riders’ Cup class. For the fourth year in a row, Turnbow and Russ Thompson claimed the World Championship honors for Roger Emerick. Reserve went to Ready To Play and Travis Craft for the Terry Dotson family. Lipstick And Lead and John Allan Callaway closed out the top three for Lisa Baum.

Don’t forget that Saturday night is hat night at the Celebration.