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Celebration Panel Includes Veterans and Newcomers



Meeting the wants and needs of its customers is considered good business sense. The judges committee of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration feels it met the wants and needs of its customers when it hired four of the top-five recommended judges from six different groups that were polled for their opinion.

Each year, letters are mailed to board members of the following organizations: National Horse Show Commission, Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association, Walking Horse Owners' Association, and the Walking Horse Trainers' Association. In addition, members of the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration Advisory Board and the Celebration's Young Trainers group are polled as to who they feel should judge The Celebration.

When the letters came back from the aforementioned groups, the following individuals received the most votes (in descending order of number of votes): Mike Carpenter, Jamie Hankins, Robin Edwards, Paul Watlington, Gene "Smokey" Carswell, Rollie Beard, Eddie Tuck, Jerry Woodlee, Brian Martin, and Wayne Dean.

Carpenter, Hankins, Watlington and Carswell join showing veteran Laura Brandon to make up the panel...a panel that has 12 previous Celebration judging stints to its credit.

"We feel we were able to put together (what I think will be) one of the best panels to ever judge the Celebration," said Celebration CEO Ron Thomas. "We received quality information and recommendations from the groups we polled. We just did not get nearly the amount of responses we would have hoped."

Out of the six groups, 115 individuals received a letter asking for their recommendation on the judging panel. Of those 115 letters, only 34 replied; or 29 percent. That is opposed to 65 percent response rate (51 to 78) from the same groups prior to the 2002 Celebration.

"Having such a low percentage of respondents is very disappointing," said Thomas. "You would think that anybody and everybody who has an opportunity to take part in such a poll for the world championship horse show of our breed would do so. The question we ask ourselves is 'what message are they sending us' when they don't respond?"

"We're not sure if it is a vote of confidence in the way we've selected judges throughout the years or whether it's the old political cop-out that their vote wouldn't mean anything anyway or simply a lack of interest," continued Thomas. "I think the Celebration board and judges committee has left no shadow of a doubt that they listen to the movers and shakers of this industry when it comes to this very critical and sensitive decision each and every year."

The most important factor when naming a judging panel for The Celebration or an officiating crew for any sporting event is to name the very best individuals available. In the Celebration's case, other factors are taken into account as well. These factors are looked at then putting together a good mix of people on the panel. Those factors can include geography, background in the industry, judging experience, the overall synergy of the group, ad intangibles.

"It's really no different from watching the NCAA Final Four or the NFL Playoffs," said Thomas. "If you're watching a college basketball game and John Clougherty's on the floor, you know that game will be very well officiated. The same goes for the NFL. If Jerry Markbright was on the crew, you knew it was a big game and it would also be officiated very well. They put their best officials in the biggest games. In our case, we want the best officials for the biggest game in the walking horse industry - The Celebration."

"There is no question that there are individuals in our industry who are regarded as, hands down, the very best judges available. Bottom line - the best judges in the industry should judge the best horses in the industry at the biggest and best horse show in the industry...and that's what we think we have put together again this year," Thomas remarked.

Carpenter leads this year's panel with seven previous Celebrations to his credit while Hankins has made three previous appearances while Carswell has judged the big show twice. Brandon and Watlington will be making their first-ever appearance on the judging panel after many years of showing at the Celebration.

The Celebration kicks off with day classes and the TWHBEA National Futurity on Wednesday, August 20 and will come to a close on Saturday, August 30. In between, over 5,000 entries will become part of the 65th renewl of the World's Greatest Horse Show.

For more information on The Celebration, log onto their website at www.twhnc.com or call 931-684-5915.

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