By Mark Davis

It’s a beautiful Wednesday morning in Shelbyville!  The sun’s shining bright and there’s a cool breeze blowing through Calsonic Arena as the big orange Kubota tractor makes the final preparations on the track getting ready for the first performance of the 73rd edition of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.  Yes, its horse show time and Celebration time in Tennessee!  Eleven classes highlight the morning performance schedule featuring the Model, Country Pleasure, Trail Pleasure, Lite Shod, Plantation Pleasure and Park Pleasure divisions, which should give just enough variety to make for an interesting morning of competition.

The judges for the 2011 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration include Jennifer Bingham of Shelbyville, Tenn., Jamie Bradshaw of Union Grove, Ala., Jamie Hankins of Paris, Ky., Ronnie Spears of Tullahoma, Tenn., and Jeff Willis of Shelbyville, Tenn. 

As always, promptly at 9 a.m., morning announcer Mark Farrar, Jr., called the first class of this year’s event to the ring, Model Pleasure Walking Mares.  All 12 of the expected entries made their way up to the Calsonic Arena track to line up and show their very best for the 2011 judging panel, all in hopes of taking home the first blue of the show.  Making that first trip to the winner’s circle, just as they did at the 2010 Celebration, was the duo of Hot Silk and Robert Nelms presenting for Carole Hargett of Shelbyville, Tenn.   This win marked the duo’s ninth win of the 2011 season.  Whimsical Jazz and Russell W. Keyser were reserve in the class for Bader, Keyser and Jack of Wemding, Germany, proving that our breed truly does have international appeal.  She’s Sweet Jazz and Leigh Bennett was third for Ashley Wadsworth of Hernando, Miss.   

Owner-Amateur English Trail Pleasure Walking Horses, class 2 on the morning schedule, was up next with 18 of the 22 with reservations making the gate call to work for Judge Jeff Willis and his panel.  Entries from 11 different states made up the group working for World Championship acclaim in the event.  Making the royal performance to ride down victory lane in the division was Gigi’s Majestic and owner/exhibitor Janet Howell taking honors back to Murfreesboro, Tenn.  This duo just claimed top honors this past weekend in their debut performance at the Spring Hill Lions Club Horse Show.  Miles Irby and Lightning Jazz collected the red streamers for Sally Paulson and Miles Irby of Salem, Oregon and Shelbyville, Tenn.  Good Til The Last Drop and Ashley Say rounded out the top three for Dawn and James Payne and Ashley Say of Graham, N.C. and Nashville, Tenn. 

The Lite-Shod entries took the track next for class 3, Amateur Owned and Trained Lite-Shod Walking Horses with 11 of the 12 expected making the call to show for their moment in the spotlight as Judge Jennifer Bingham called the gaits in the class.  Repeating on their 2010 win in the same division, Gen’s Million Dollar Baby & Jimmy Laughlin made the good ride to top the class for 4-J Land & Cattle Company of Waynesville, Mo.  Headed back Ohio way with reserve honors were Dust Bunny and owner/exhibitor Allison Thorson of Huron, Ohio.  Armed Scarlett Lady and Betty Laughlin pulled in for the golden ribbons for 4-J Land & Cattle Company of Waynesville, Mo.

The young riders made their first appearance at the 2011 Celebration in class 4, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Park Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings.  Two of the four entries expected made their way to the rail as Judge Jamie Bradshaw led the panel in the class.  JFK’s Fancy Lady Leslie and owner/exhibitor Jesse Laughlin of Waynesville, Mo., repeated on their 2010 win in the same division as well and did so in outstanding fashion and with a unanimous decision of the judging panel.  Pusher’s Candy Cane and Allison Hopkins were reserve for Alexandria H. Hopkins of Sneedville, Tenn.

The Park Pleasure entries were back for class 5, Owner-Amateur Riders on Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses, Four Years and Under.   Seven of the 10 on the official Celebration program made their way up from the warm up ring to work for acclaim in the division for Judge Jamie Hankins and his esteemed panel.  Anyone who’s been showing horses long knows that you can’t ever count out Darden Gladney and his many good horses and he proved that once again this morning after making a strong performance and gaining the approval of all five judges with Jose’s No Counting Me Out.  Bubbly and owner/exhibitor Jackie Osborne of Bowling Green, Ky., pulled into the reserve position.  Break Me Out and owner/exhibitor Lisa Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn., were third. 

Sixteen of the 17 with reservations made the call for class 6A, Owner-Amateur English Country Pleasure Walking Horses.  Judge Ronnie Spears served as Call Judge for this section of the always competitive class.  Riding to the winner’s circle in the split was the team of A Red Ruby and Liz Gassaway riding for Liz Gassaway and MacKenzie Morgan of Shelbyville, Tenn.  This team captured the win in the B division of this class in 2010 and had 2011 wins at the Mississippi Charity Horse Show, the Spring Fun Show and Lewisburg, Tenn.’s Marshall County Horse Show.   Taking the red streamers back to the Sunshine State were Jose’s Hannah Montana and Kasey Kesselring riding for the Kasey Kesselring Family of Montverde, Fla. and Shelbyville, Tenn.  Smooth Talker and Miles Irby picked up the yellow ribbon for Rachel Allen and Miles Irby of Pleasanton, Calif. and Shelbyville, Tenn.

The B division of class 6, Owner-Amateur English Country Pleasure Walking Horses brought 14 of the 16 expected to the ring to work for their chance at World Championship acclaim as Judge Jeff Willis led the panel in the section.  Designing a winning performance in the very good class and taking the win back to Eastern Kentucky were Delight Silver Design and Libby Stephens riding for the Van Stephens Family of Grayson, Ky.  This marked this team’s sixth win of the 2011 season with previous wins at Owingsville, Ky., Tollesboro, Ky., and  Greenup, Ky.  Another nice grey horse, Cha Cha Cha and Jordan Howell pulled into the second position for mom, Janet Howell of Murfreesboro, Tenn.  A Jazz Angel and owner/exhibitor Kathy Anderson of Shelbyville, Tenn., were third.

Back in the Trail Pleasure division, class 7 featured the Owner-Amateur English or Western Trail Pleasure Walking Horses, Two-Years-Old with 22 of the 24 on the official Lions Club program taking to the rail to work for their moment of Celebration acclaim.  Judge Jennifer Bingham served as Call Judge for the large, talented class.  Riding away with the divisional win was Extra’s Cashmere and Rhiannon Barker up for Chandler Farms, Barker and Morgan of Jackson, Miss. and Murfreesboro, Tenn.  This team made their debut to reserve honors at Lebanon, Tenn.’s  Betty Freeman Memorial Horse Show earlier this month.  The Karma Fairy and owner/exhibitor Liz Gassaway of Shelbyville, Tenn., were proud to pull into the second position.  Line Item Veto and Rachel Jernigan accepted the yellow streamers for Rachel Jernigan and Bo Teague of Murfreesboro and Shelbyville, Tenn.

The Plantation Pleasure division was up next on the schedule in class 8, Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, with three of the four with reservations making the call to work for Judge Jamie Bradshaw and his experienced panel.  Sherri Pollack and Hello I’m Johnny Cash made the impressive performance to top the division for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif. and Shelbyville, Tenn.  This duo had already had a good season out on the West Coast picking up wins at the California Celebration and the Desert Classic prior to heading to Middle Tennessee.  Headed back Louisiana way with reserve honors were Tijuana Tex and Darden Gladney riding for Gladney Farms of Homer, La.  Gen’s Double Action and Grandy Tuck were third riding for Rufus Dale of Canton, N.C.

Ten of the 12 entries expected were right on time for class 9, Owner-Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Park Pleasure Walking Mares, our first Novice event of the 2011 Celebration.  Of course, to show in the Novice division, neither the horse nor rider can have ever won a Celebration blue.  Judge Jamie Hankins served as Call Judge in the event.  Riding their way out of the Novice division at the 2011 Celebration with a unanimous decision of the judging panel was the duo of Jose’s Baby Doll & Lamar Penick riding for Lindsey Landrum and Doris Penick of Walterboro, S.C.   Picking up their second reserve of the morning performance was Bubbly & owner/exhibitor Jackie Osborne taking the honors home to Bowling Green, Ky.  Another Miss Scored and owner/exhibitor Angela Tuck of Reidsville, N.C. were third.

Rounding out the Wednesday morning performance was class 10, Lite-Shod Driving, 2 or 4 Wheel Vehicles, with two entries making the call.  Judge Ronnie Spears handled the duties as Call Judge on the final class of the performance.  Driving away with the final blue of the morning was Score’s Heartbreaker and owner/exhibitor Kathy Owen of Murfreesboro, Tenn.  Music City Jass and Wallace Brandon were reserve for Laura Brandon of Franklin, Tenn.

With Score’s Heartbreaker and Kathy Owen making that final victory pass, the opening performance of the 73rd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was in the record books.  The morning performances will continue in Calsonic Arena on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday mornings, starting promptly at 9 a.m. each day.  Of course, the action will head to the big oval starting Thursday evening promptly at 7 p.m.

There’s history in the making at the 73rd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and you don’t want to miss a minute!