by Mark McGee

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – It was time to get the 11-day party started as the 84th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration got underway promptly at 9 a.m. inside a pleasantly comfortable Calsonic Arena.

Seven of 10 entries answered the gate call from announcer Travis Olinger for the Model Mares class. Catherine Zeta-Jones with handler Robert Nelms was the star of the class with a first place for owner Ed Lukacevic from Crittendon, Kentucky. Catherine Zeta-Jones, sired by El Zorro’s Star, has shown six times in 2022 with six victories. She has won nine straight dating back to 2021 including this same world championship. Mystic Jazz and handler Laurie Toone played the right notes for reserve for owners Ronnie and Angela Rushing, while She’s Walkin’ On Fire was third with Claire Hankins directing for Bruce Vaughn.

Nine of the 11 entered teams took to the ring in the Owner-Amateur English Trail Pleasure class. Blacklist and owner-rider Sherry Kessler from Mount Juliet, Tennessee, unanimously won the title and the blue ribbon victory pass. Sired by Gen’s Black Gin, it was the seventh blue in eight classes this season for Blacklist, who also won this class. Self-Made Money walked out with a red ribbon with owner Jack Pirkle in the saddle, while Jose’s Grand Muchacha tied third for owner-rider Allison Thorson.

The Owner-Amateur Riders on English Lite Shod Walking Horses contenders were next on the list with all six of the eight registered teams. It was a three-peat and unanimous victory for Roscoe Jenkins and owner-rider Susan Coleman from Unionville, Tennessee. For the third year in a row, they walked out with top honors in the class. The popular team is undefeated in three classes this year, and since 2020 they are 11-for-11 in first place ties. Moonshine At Midnight was second with Darden Gladney aboard for Gladney Farms. Third place went to Two Gunns LLC with Blake Cammack riding for Champion Stables.

Three of the four entries in the Auxiliary Equitation Medal Class, Riders 12-14 Years entered the ring with two finishing. John Garrett Burton from Bowling Green, Kentucky tied first unanimously, with Kate Cowan, also of Bowling Green accepting the red streamer.

For the fourth year in a row GiGi’s Majestic lived up to his name capturing the Owner-Amateur English Country Pleasure title with Elysse Bradford was in the saddle. The victory came as a unanimous decision for The William Bradford Family of Dallas, Texas. Previously in 2022, GiGi’s Majestic has four blues in five shows. Line Item Veto, with Rachel Teague riding for The Bo Teague Family, received the red ribbon, with Granted Parole and owner-rider Keith Johnson walking to third place. Eight of the nine programmed entries made the gate call. 

Four of the nine scheduled entries made the gate call for the Elite Owner-Amateur Park Pleasure class. Entries might have been down, but it was a competitive group of riders and horses. Custom Chrome JB walked away with the blue with Jill Upchurch riding for Savannah Upchurch of Monticello, Kentucky. It was the second blue in five shows in 2022 for Custom Chrome JB. Boston Bay and Nancy Evans tied for second for owners Anne Evans and Jocelyn Laughlin. Jose’s No Counting Me Out, a classic horse, and Dr. John Gladney left with the yellow ribbon for Gladney Farms.

Next to Calsonic Arena were seven of the eight entered teams to ride for the Owner-Amateur Four-Year-Old Trail Pleasure world championship. It was the duo of Patti Pollack and Jose’s Twist Of Gin called from the lineup to claim the top award. Jose’s Twist Of Gin has won six blues in row this show season with Pollack aboard. The red streamers were presented to Shameless SF and co-owner Jordan Howell, while Into The Badlands and Chad Spencer were presented with the third place honor.

King Mojo had his mojo working with owner-rider Kathy Anderson from College Grove, Tennessee, in the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class. The duo walked to the world championship victory with a unanimous decision from the judging panel. Sired by Jazz King, King Mojo has blues in nine of 11 classes this year. Reserve was awarded to Lady James and owner Darren Gray, while owner Debbie Simons was in the irons aboard Daddy’s Home DH to claim third. Six of seven scheduled entries competed in the competitive class. 

Next up on the morning schedule was the Five & Under Park Pleasure contenders, which featured 11 of the 15 programmed entries working for the judging panel. This was the first class which is also a futurity nominated class. Chris Zahnd had My Maserati Alfieri were hitting on all gears for owner Karen Bean of Tomball, Texas, to walk to the blue ribbon victory. Sired by He’s Slim Shady, My Maserati Alfieri has four previous blues in six classes in 2022. Laurie Toone and A Stormy Night In Dixie were reserve, but were also the highest Futurity nominated entry, so aside from their second place Celebration finish, they also received the first place ribbon from the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association. Chrome Curb Appeal and Ryan Gannon closed out the third place spot for owners Rushing and Parks. 

The Owner-Amateur All Day Pleasure class was called to the ring for the second to last class of the first morning session with 12 of the 15 scheduled entries competing. Called to ride down victory lane for the second year in a row with a unanimous decision was the duo of IB Smokin Joe and Joel Johnson. Sired by Indigo Blue and owned by Tanner and Tucker Johnson from Shelbyville, Tennessee, IB Smokin Joe is three-for three in first place finishes in 2022 and was a perfect 10-for-10 in 2021. The reserve streamers in the tough class were presented to Miss Belle Starr W with owner Dr. Brittany Baum aboard. Rounding out the top three spots were Petal Pushin’ Jazz and owner-rider Lauren Hamilton.

There might have only been one entry in the Auxiliary Equitation Model Class for Riders 15-17 to close out Wednesday morning, but Riley Gregory of Franklin, Kentucky, elegantly put on a show for those in attendance to claim the world championship. She also earned this title in 2021 before going on to earn the Auxiliary Equitation World Grand Championship.