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Carrying On The Family Tradition



Horses, hunting, hard work, honesty and humility...these are the foundations of one of the industry’s rising stars, John Allan Callaway. At 25, he has already established a reputation for both his training ability and passion for his profession. Born and raised in Rayle, Georgia, Walking Horses have always been an important part of his life. His parents, Allan and Karen Callaway, along with younger brother, Bill, are just the beginning of a very close knit extended family, most of whom are active in the horse business.

With his father’s training barn only a few yards from the house, it can be said that he has been studying and learning his craft since he was old enough to walk. Learning to ride was not a decision for John Allan, it was simply a fact of life. He does not remember exactly when he started riding, but he does say that he learned to ride on his mother’s former show mare, Mack’s Lady Ann.

Karen says, “he lived on that mare. He would ride her up to the front steps of the house and tie her at a hitching post we had there so he could come inside to watch cartoons. As soon as they were over, he’d be off again.”

Show ring success also came early for John Allan. At age 6, he made his first show aboard Shanlo’s Masterpiece and won his first blue ribbon as well. He went on to make his first appearance in the Celebration oval later that same year, and in 1988, at age ten, he earned his first World Championship with Dandy Don in the 11 and Under Gelding class.

A long time friend and mentor, Gary Edwards, remembers John Allan as a child who really loved horses. “When he was a boy he helped out at the barn, and he did it because he wanted to.” Gary continues, “Allan could put him on a horse to be able to see what it was doing. We learn a lot when we are young, and he’s doing so well now because of his experiences back then.”

After moving to Shelbyville with his family in 1993, John Allan continued to ride and show, and his natural talents as a trainer began to develop. As with most family owned operations, he had been assisting his dad for several years, but he did not join the ranks of professional trainers until after his graduation from high school in 1996. He admits that working for his dad is the only job he has ever held.

Early in his career, John Allan was extremely successful training plantation horses. He won his first blue ribbon as a professional at the WHOA/Kiwanis Club Horse Show in 1997 with Prime Time Generator. Later that year, he claimed two World Championships, one with Prime Time in the Plantation Pleasure Riders 18 and Over class, and the other with American Legacy in the Plantation Pleasure Three-Year-Old Stallion division. In 2000, he earned World Championship honors aboard It’s Up In Arms in the Plantation Pleasure Four-Year-Old class as well as a National Futurity title with Generator’s Raindancer in Plantation Pleasure Two-Year-Old ranks.

His dad quickly pointed out that these experiences have significantly contributed to his current training style. “The successes he had with plantation horses taught him both the natural feel for a horse as well as good hands. John Allan almost never rides with an over check or a tie down. He knows how to bit a horse well,” Allan said.

2000 was a record year for everyone associated with Allan Callaway Stables, especially John Allan. In addition to the world title and the futurity title already mentioned, John Allan won the Three-Year-Old Gelding World Championship with Five Star Ritz. He acknowledges this win was special because it won the He’s Puttin’ On The Ritz performance horse incentive award.

Another memorable experience was his brother Bill’s first World Championship ride on Andrew Johnson, the first amateur World Champion he trained. But the one thing that truly stands out about Celebration 2000 is what John Allan calls his greatest achievement to date. He was behind the team of Capone and Mike Hooper as they rode under the spotlight as the Three-Year-Old Amateur World Grand Champions.

Mike Hooper also recalls this experience with fond memories. “The biggest thing for me is that John Allan, the horse, and I won it as a team, and that’s especially important because he’s such a close personal friend.” Mike continued, “I’ve been really impressed by his ability to get a horse ready for an amateur to ride and be able to handle easily. He really tries to pair up horses and riders that fit well together.”

After such an outstanding year, John Allan was honored by his peers with the prestigious Assistant Trainer of the Year Award for 2000 at the annual Walking Horse Trainer’s Association awards banquet. Good friend Mickey McCormick summed up the association’s feelings about John Allan when he said, “He’s one of the premier young trainers in the business today. He’s a fine young man with a lot of integrity, and he’s a credit to the horse business.”

In the past couple of years, John Allan has continued to reap the rewards of his hard work and dedication to his horses. In both 2001 and 2002, he and Andrew Johnson earned Open Show Pleasure World Championship honors. Last year he also won the Celebration’s Two-Year-Old Gelding class with Grave Danger.

This last title is a source of particular pride for John Allan because of his affinity for young horses. He says, “I enjoy taking a horse and helping it develop its talent. I want to see them reach their full potential.” He also mentions two of his favorite horses, Sky Jam and I’m Mr. Threat, among his proudest accomplishments last year. Both of them garnered reserve world grand championship acclaim, and John Allan showed I’m Mr. Threat to his reserve tie in the Three-Year-Old Grand Championship.

Although he insists that he does not want to be known for specializing in just one aspect of training, his recent success with young horses proves the depth of his talent and dedication. “He’s doing a wonderful job with young horses, and that’s a lot of hard work. He’s steady and consistent with them, and he has a knack for knowing when to ease off a young horse so he doesn’t push them too far. A great trainer has to know this,” notes Gary Edwards.

His father is a bit more direct with his impressions of John Allan. Allan simply says, “I’m amazed at what he’s been able to do with these horses. I’ve never had anyone work as hard and love it as much as he does.”

If there is one common thread among people’s impressions of John Allan, it is definitely his reputation for hard work. Mickey McCormick comments, “I’m most impressed by his work ethic. He’s always trying to do things the right way, and his horses are always very well prepared.”

When asked what qualities he looks for in a great horse, John Allan replied that the most important characteristics are those a horse is born with, presence and heart. “I look for the way a horse sets up and carries itself in the ring. Plus, they have to have enough motor to get the job done,” he said. He cited Out On Parole as an example of “my kind of horse. He’s good up front, good behind, and he has the presence and motor to still be there at the end. He’s just good all over,” he says.

He brings these ideals to his newest role in the industry. In 2002 John Allan earned his judging license and wasted no time in putting it to use. He judged his first show in Nettleton, Miss. last May. He says that he likes judging because it gives him an opportunity to show his knowledge of the Tennessee Walking Horse.

As with every other aspect of his life, John Allan wants to take his judging to the highest level. He hopes to one day have the opportunity to judge the Celebration, and he certainly has the personal respect necessary for that job. Long-time customer Carolyn Miller says, “Of course I have an enormous respect for his training technique, and for him as a person...He wears many honorable character badges - patience, energy, dignity, kindness and wisdom.”

For John Allan, there has been no shortage of mentors and advisors throughout his life, but there is no doubt that the biggest influence on his life has been his dad, Allan.

Gary Edwards says, “The best thing that ever happened to him is having his dad there for him everyday. Under Allan’s watchful eye, he’s been able to develop his skills without making any major mistakes, and most people don’t know how important that really is.”

The two have a mutual respect for one another that most fathers and sons would envy. This is the key to their success. Although for some people working with family can be difficult, the Callaways see it as a blessing. John Allan says, “The best thing about working with family is that there’s not any jealousy. We all just seem to work together.”

Allan summed it up by saying, “At this stage of my life, to be able to work everyday with my two sons...life just couldn’t be any better.”

Along with Bill, they are the core of one of the leading training operations in the country. As a team, they have been responsible for numerous World Champions over the past few years including the 2001 World Grand Champion, Pride’s Jubilee Encore. John Allan recalls this experience as his favorite horse related memory, but not because of what it meant to him personally. He says, “It’s the happiest I’ve ever been for Dad. It’s what he’s worked for all his life, and I’m just glad I got to be a part of it.”

This is a classic example of John Allan’s personality. Although he has accomplished so much, he remains grounded and humble when he talks about himself and his horses, if you can even get him to do so. He has not let success go to his head, and he is usually the first person to share any praise he receives.

When talking about his World Championship ride aboard Five Star Ritz he freely admits, “I showed the horse because Justin (Jenne’) was busy getting another horse ready for the next class. He and Bill (Callaway) were really the ones that worked him, spent the time with him and got him ready to win.”

If the saying, “behind every good man there is a good woman,” is to be believed, then there is no wonder why John Allan is so successful. He is fortunate enough to have been blessed twice in this regard.

His mom, Karen, has played a vital role in contributing to the person he has become. Her constant support and unwavering strength are the foundations on which her family is built. Her influence on her son comes to life in his finest qualities, honesty and integrity.

He says, “Mom taught me a lot. She taught me to always be honest and that the most important thing in life is family. But most of all, I know she will always be there for me, no matter what.”

Two years ago John Allan married the woman he describes as “the love of my life.” He and the former Jada Plemmons of Knoxville, Tenn., met in a place familiar to them both, a horse show. With the encouragement of mutual friends, they gradually got acquainted with one another over a period of time and developed a deep friendship before they ever had their first date. But after that first date, they have been together ever since.

She plays an important role in John Allan’s life. He says, “She’s my number one supporter, well other than Nana (Allan’s mother, Helen Callaway).” I guess that means he has been blessed with three women to always stand behind him.

Together they share a mutual love of horses. Jada has been showing, mostly in East Tennessee, since she was six. When asked what they most enjoy about the horse business, it comes as no surprise that they both replied, “the people.” Jada says, “I love the social aspects of the business. We get to spend all of our weekends with friends and family.”

Recently, Jada has been spending all of her weekdays within the horse business as well. She is the office manager at Middle Tennessee’s newest breeding facility, The Pinnacle. She says that her love of mares and colts initially led her to the job, but that she is finding the breeding aspect of the job very interesting.

She says, “I believe that we have a good line-up of stallions to offer, and I hope to be a part of passing along their qualities to the next generation. That’s my goal, to help produce better quality horses.”

Outside of horses, John Allan’s greatest love is hunting. He spends as much time as possible, almost every weekend, hunting whatever is in season. He says, “It’s relaxing. I just enjoy going out and spending time with my friends. It’s a great way to get away and not worry about the horses. I tend to take them home with me when things aren’t right.”

But, for someone who takes his work so seriously, he possesses the unique ability to always enjoy what he is doing. He consistently finds ways to inject some humor into almost everything he does. Jada remembers, “One night he showed in a mule class and wore a huge sombrero and a poncho. He loved every minute of it.”

His mom recalls another of his antics while posing for a candid photo after a win. “He’s the only person I know that would turn the trophy upside down and wear it on his head for a picture. With him, you just never know what to expect next,” says Karen.

As far as his goals for the future, they are just as simple and straight forward as he is. He does not have many specific goals, other than winning a championship class at the Celebration. “I just want to be the best trainer in the business. If it can be done, I want to be able to do it.” He adds, “I just hope I can be as successful as Dad has been, and have a barn full of great horses and customers like we do now. That’s all I really want.”

If heart is what makes a top show horse, then the same must be true for a great trainer. Anyone who knows John Allan will certainly testify that there is no doubt he will be exactly where he wants to be in 20 or 30 years - training horses with his own sons right by his side.

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