Skip to content

Celebration 2004



by David L. Howard   

As you reflect back on this year’s Celebration, it is difficult to put into words the many special moments, memories and impressive statistics that go into this eleven day extravaganza. As usual, it was a tremendous success by almost any measure and The Celebration continues to rank as one of the premier horse events in the world. 

Statistically, the Celebration stands alone among horse shows. Paid attendance approached a quarter million people and actual attendance for ten nights totaled 162,176, an all time record. And bear in mind that admittance to the day sessions is free and those fans are not reflected in these numbers. 

While entries did not set a record, there were more than enough horses to satisfy even the most horse hungry fan. Entries totaled 5,358 with 2,610 different horses entering the ring 3,627 times. The quality of the horses was at an all time high with numerous classes featuring many multi time World Champions. Getting a ribbon at The Celebration has never been more demanding and winning a World Championship truly challenged the best horses and riders the breed has to offer. 

Horses and riders were riding for more than ribbons and honors as the total prize money and awards is approaching $700,000. The show attracted participants from 42 states and 3 foreign countries, further testimony to the tremendous national and international interest in the Tennessee Walking Horse and its World Championship Show. 

There are many other statistical measures of this year’s show’s success but we won’t recount them here. Suffice it to say, by any measure the 2004 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was one for the ages. 

The judging at our world championship is always a critical component and this year was no exception. It is a very difficult assignment and this year’s panel measured up quite well. Almost without exception, the best horse was crowned the winner but sometimes it was difficult to understand the divergence in the cards of the five men.  

Perhaps this is testimony to the judging system that overcomes really widespread opinions but it is also indicative that horses don’t necessarily make the same show or the same mistakes in front of every judge. There were numerous examples of horses having difficulty in front of one judge but otherwise making a winning show in front of others.  

To be perfectly candid, sometimes a judge makes a mistake or misses a horse, no one is perfect. But when analyzing a particular judge, focus on how he tied all ten places in all classes before forming an opinion. 

A look at some numbers bears this out. There were 51 unanimous ties this year versus 41 last year; winners with four first place votes totaled 43 this year and 52 last year and, finally, there were six winners with no first place ties this year and only one last year.  

The bottom line on a judging panel is did the best horses win …and that was certainly the case this year. 

Finally, what about Jimmy McConnell and The Black Night Shade, the 2004 World Grand Champions. I can think of no trainer more deserving of this honor and he did it the old fashioned way – he earned it! 

This horse has been with Jimmy as his trainer from day one and there have been many challenges along the way. Owners Tom and Judy Waite never lost faith in their horse or the program at Formac Stables. The disappointment of being reserve last year only made this group more committed and Night Shade has not tasted defeat since that night.  Jimmy was the winner of an equally special award that night as he was named Trainer of the Year by his fellow trainers, the highest individual honor a trainer can receive. One thing about Jimmy and Formac, if you have a horse there, he will be ridden and trained and he will be shown.   Indeed, good things do happen to good people!

More Stories

  • Obituary – Sam Hartsell

    Sam “Shot” Hartsell, age 74, of Newport, passed away Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Knoxville. He was preceded in death by his wife, Nan Hartsell and parents, Floyd and Viola McMahan Hartsell... Read More
  • WHOA announces International judging panel

    The Walking Horse Owners' is pleased to announce the three judges selected by current WHOA members. Charlie Brown, Shelli MeHaffey and Lonnie Messick will officiate the 40th Annual International Pleasure & Colt Championship.

    Read More
  • Savannah Lions Club adds classes

    The 52nd Annual Savannah Lions Club Show, scheduled for June 23 at 6:30 pm, has added two classes to their original schedule... Read More
  • Equine Obituary - Gen’s Armed & Dangerous

    The Report has recently learned of the passing of Gen’s Armed and Dangerous. The beautiful stallion was the 1994 Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion. Read More
  • Ohio Valley adds class

    Ohio Valley Walking Horse Association show, scheduled for June 23 in Stanford, Kentucky, has added a 4 and Under Trail Pleasure to their show.  Read More
  • Walking For Hope Show updates

    The Walking For Hope show, scheduled for June 16, has selected Chris Zahnd to judge this year’s event. Originally scheduled to start at 4:00, the show will start at 5:00 pm. Read More
  • WHOA Versatility revises class schedule

    The Walking Horse Owners Association has added 5 classes to its June 16 show scheduled at Tennessee Tech, Hyder-Burk Facility in Cookeville, TN. The show starts at 10 am and is a casual dress show (boots, long pants, shirts with a collar) and "Youth 11 and Under" are required to wear a safety helmet. Read More
  • Putnam Co. Fair selects judge

    The Putnam County Fair and Upper Cumberland Walking Horse Association are pleased to announce that Newton Parks of Murfreesboro, Tennessee will judge this year’s event... Read More
  • Wartrace selects judge

    The 112th Anniversary Wartrace Horse Show has selected John Fikes of Hamilton, Alabama to judge this year's event and has released their class schedule... Read More
  • Walking For The Children selects judge

    The Walking For The Children Show, scheduled for July 26, has selected Aaron Self of Murfreesboro, Tennessee to mark the cards for this year's event. Read More