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

  • Equine Obituary - A Strong Need For Cash

    The Report has recently learned of the passing of world grand champion A Strong Need For Cash. The bay pony was owned and loved by Jim and Jeannie Roberts... Read More
  • SCWHA Championship selects judging panel

    The South Carolina Walking Horse Association Championship, slotted for October 27-28, 2017, has selected Mike Conley, Newton Parks and Jackie Barron to mark the cards for this year's event. The show will be held at T. Ed Garrison Arena in Clemson, South Carolina... Read More
  • Sarah re-enters show scene

    She’s baaaack — back in the saddle, that is. Sarah (Coffee) Burks has re-entered the walking horse industry after a 34 year-absence — in a big way. After her three-decade hiatus, she has purchased four horses in the past month. Read More
  • Walking For Angels adds class

    The Walking For Angels show, scheduled November 11, 2017, has added a class to their original schedule. Class 24A will be Amateur Canter.  Read More
  • The National results available online

    Complete results from The National are available for viewing online; however, they will not be printed in the October 23, 2017 edition of The Walking Horse Report. Read More
  • Regional Leaders Visit Horse Country

    Members of the Gattis Regional Leadership group, which represents 13 counties in South Central Tennessee, toured Bedford County Oct. 12 and 13. Gattis aims toward helping leaders of these counties learn from and work with each other, as well as further develop their skills as leaders... Read More
  • Obituary - Eula Mae Maack

    Long time walking horse enthusiast, Eula Mae Maack, age 77, passed away at her home in Goodson on October 16, 2017... Read More
  • Equine Obituary - Silverado Spirit

    World Grand Champion, Silverado Spirit was laid to rest earlier this week. The great show mare was most recently shown by Harper Grider of Columbia, Kentucky. She and Harper won the Youth 11 & Under Mare class in 2015 and were reserve world champions in 2016 in that division.  Read More
  • Obituary - Judith Anne "Judy" Rockhold

    Mrs. Judith Anne' "Judy" Rockhold, age 83, of Naples, Florida, (formerly, Shelbyville, Tennessee) passed from this life on Friday, September 22, 2017. Judy was avid Horsewoman and active in the Walking Horse Industry several years ago... Read More
  • Walking For Angels releases class schedule

    The Walking For Angels Show, scheduled for November 11, 2017, has released their class schedule. The show will be held in Calsonic arena with Johnny Puckett serving as the judge for this year's event.  Read More