By Melissa R. Stevens

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. - A light crowd gathered at Calsonic Arena Wednesday morning, August 20 for the start of the 65th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. The crowd may have been small, but they were loud and never once hesitated to cheer for their favorite. The five-judge panel of Gene "Smokey" Carswell, Jamie Hankins, Laura Brandon, Mike Carpenter and Paul Watlington had a tough job of tying the winners in this group of competitors.

Fourteen of the 18 registered entries entered the ring for Model Pleasure Walking Mares competition. After long deliberation and careful consideration, A Very Special Lady with handler Tommy Howell for owner Kathline Copps of Knoxville, Tenn., was awarded the first blue of the 2003 Celebration. Honkey Tonk Tessie came in a close reserve and was met with great approval from the crowd. She is owned by Roger Richards and Allen Curtis of Hendersonville, Tenn. The third place ribbon was awarded to Royal's Vanity Fair with Jeff Givens for Darwin and Linda James of Broken Arrow, Okla.

Only 26 of the 40 entries originally registered made the gate call to perform for the judges in Section A of the Amateur English Trail Pleasure class for riders 18 and over. The call judge for this spilt was Gene "Smokey" Carswell. Pride's Smart Alex with rider Rhonda Martocci for Rhonda and Bethany Martocci of Franklin, Tenn., garnered the first place award. Obsessed With Silver and rider/owner Kathy Owen of Double Springs Farm located in Murfreesboro, Tenn., rode hard for the second place ribbon. She's Legal Tender with Charlene Cook for Central Georgia Equine rode to the third place award.

In Section B of the Amateur English Trail Pleasure class for riders 18 and over, a group of 29 talented entries made the call. Forty-two entries were registered. Jamie Hankins took on the responsibility of being the call judge for this class. Two horses had thrown shoes early in the class delaying the action for a short time. When the action resumed, 13 entries were called for an additional workout with all others being excused. Riding to the blue in this class was He's A Wrangler ridden by Maggie Moore for Harvie and Maggie Moore of Orange, Calif. Gem Sweep with owner/rider Pamela Schoenster of Oakland, Calif., was awarded reserve. Rounding out the top three was Your Wish Is My Command ridden by Kathy Anderson for John and Kathy Anderson of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Shelbyville, Tenn., respectively.

The next class, Novice Show Pleasure Walking Horses with Amateur Novice Riders, was also split into two sections. Twenty-two spectacular entries of the 30 originally registered entries made their way to the ring for competition for Section A. The call judge for the class was Paul Watlington. None of the riders in this class have ever won a blue ribbon at The Celebration, so the tension was thick as the competition began. The roar of the crowd as everyone gave support to their favorite team drown out the voice of the announcer. Who would have guessed that such a small crowd could yell so loud? When the final line-up was called, a calm fell over the crowd in anticipation of the winner being announced. In the end, 1-800 Collect and Joe Clift were called to make the victory pass in Section A for Saundra Pippin of Savannah, Ga. Malaya Jester rode He Dances With Wolves to the reserve tie for owner Jerry Jester of Yadkinville, N.C. Ultra's Prime Mover and Sabrina Young were awarded the third place tie for Rodney and Sabrina Young of Mt. Sterling, Ky.

Twenty-nine of 30 registered entries made the gate call for Section B of the Novice Show Pleasure Walking Horses class for amateur novice riders. The call judge was Laura Brandon. The crowd was equally as supportive for this group of competitors. Six entries were originally called in for an additional workout with six more being added after another few trips around the ring. Dangerous Intent and Barb Corbett for Ridgemont Farms in Blacksburg, Va., were selected to make the victory pass in Section B. Coin's Black Stroke and owner/rider Ashley Compton were a close reserve. Ironwork's Tinman and Grant Jones for Ray Jones Trucking of Greenville, Ky., were chosen to wear the third place ribbon.

Ten of the 13 registered entries made their way to the ring for the first canter class of the day, the Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses, for amateur riders class. The call judge was Mike Carpenter. A fairly lengthy time out was called shortly after the class began so that Double Your Money's shoe could be repaired. When the action resumed, Joe Dixon and Strike It Rich struck it blue for owners Randall and Gloria Dixon of Red Eagle Farms in Dacula, Ga. Double Your Money came back from a thrown show to tie reserve with Elizabeth Ottman for Dwight and Elizabeth Ottman of Owensboro, Ky. Gen's Magic Marker and owner/rider Cindy Sullivan made an impression on the judges for the third place tie.

In the lite-shod division, 16 out of 17 registered entries took to the ring in hopes of riding out with the blue in the Amateur Owned and Trained Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses class. Only one team could be chosen for that honor, however, and Armed With Beauty and Terry Vaught was the team to beat. The Buzz and Blake Cammack riding for Mr. and Mrs. Vance Maxwell of Longview, Texas, were reserve. Rounding out the top three was the duo of Armed Lady From Dixie and Wayne Westbrook for owner Robert Westbrook of Flower Mound, Texas. Gene "Smokey" Carswell was the call judge.

In the Park Pleasure Walking Horses for riders 18 and over class, 14 out of 22 registered entries answered the gate call. Jamie Hankins was given the responsibility of call judge. The crowd really got behind their favorites in this class. Fully Armed and Howard Hamilton were called to the winner's circle for Randall and Gloria Dixon of Red Eagle Farm located in Dacula, Ga. The team of Paris Rain and Jeff Givens took reserve for Darwin and Linda James of Broken Arrow, Okla. Dragonfire and Jamey Thompson lit up the ring to win third for Noel and Roberta Williams of Tucson, Ariz.

Twelve of 15 entries took to the ring in the class for Amateur Owned and Trained Park Pleasure Walking Horses with no professional training in the past 90 days. Paul Watlington was the call judge for this class. It's Up In Arms and owner/exhibitor Darden Gladney of Homer, La., left nothing up in arms for the blue in this class. Jubilee's Pushover and Terry Vaught fought hard for the reserve tie for Terry and Linda Vaught of Watertown, Tenn. He's Pushin Time and Kathy Jamison were awarded the third place tie.

Laura Brandon was the call judge in a large class of 30 out of 40 registered entries in the Amateur English Trail Pleasure for riders 18 and over. This was the second of the canter classes for the day. With such a large class, it was necessary to call an additional workout for 14 of the entries so the judges could make their final decision. To Die For! and Nancy Yonko were called to receive the first place tie for Janis Brown of Sherwood, Md. Hit & Run and Donna Rodriguez for the Tony Rodriguez family hit the bullseye and ran away with the red ribbon. K.C. Hensley and Sparkling Generator gave a shining performance to round out the top three spots.

Mike Carpenter stepped up to the plate as the call judge in the Western Plantation Pleasure Lite-Shod Canter class. Twelve of the 13 registered entries answered the gate call for this class. A time out was called so that Fiddlin At Sunrise owned by Kevin Smith of Yorktown, Ind., could have a shoe repaired. After a lengthy delay, the class was called to order and Genius's Dixie Chick and Trish Wooten for Stone Gait Farms of Orange, Calif., was called to make the victory pass. Fiddlin At Sunrise and Mike Anasis made an amazing come back after their shoe mishap early in the class to win reserve. A Common Denominator and Laurie Toone for Doug Toone of Spangle, Wash., rounded out the top three positions.

Seventeen out of the 19 registered entries answered the call for the Novice Park Pleasure Walking Mares class for amateur riders. Gene Carswell was the call judge for this large class. In the first unanimous tie of the 65th Celebration, Captive Heart and Bridget Rush for Del and Bridget Rush of Oxford, Ala., captured the hearts and votes of all five Celebration judges. JFK's Cash Back and Clanton DuBose garnered the reserve tie. Time At The Ritz and Jay Laughlin for 4-J Land and Cattle, Company of Waynesville, Mo., showed off their stylish moves for the yellow ribbon.

The Plantation Pleasure Driving class for lite-shod horses pulling vehicles with two or four wheels was the final class for Wednesday's day session. Nine talented teams out of the original 11 entered made their way to the ring for competition. Jamie Hankins again took on the responsibility of call judge. Trashadeous and Mike Civils for Jimmy Civils of Frisco, Texas, were honored with the blue ribbon. Benny Johnson drove Regal's Lady Of Royalty to the reserve ribbon for Bob Medina of Skillman, N.J. Image od 24KT and Craig Swaggerty were solid gold as they received the third place tie for Enchanted Gait Stables located in Saratoga Springs, Utah.

The end of the first day session of the 65th Tennessee National Walking Horse Celebration left spectators and exhibitors alike chomping at the bit for the next day's competition.