By Mark Davis

It’s Wednesday morning in Shelbyville and even a little rain couldn’t dampen the spirits as 66th edition of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration got under way in the dry confines of The Celebration’s Calsonic Arena.

Wayne Abee of Shelbyville, Tenn.; Bob Cherry of Centerville, Tenn; Joe Fleming of Shelbyville, Tenn; Tommy Loid of Bowling Green, Ky., and Huck Moss of Trenton, S.C., made up the five-judge panel marking the cards for this year’s event.

As always, the first class on the twelve class schedule was the Model Pleasure Walking Mares. Twelve of the fourteen entries made the call and presented their entries for the careful consideration of the panel. When the cards were marked, the first blue of the 2004 Celebration went to the 2003 Reserve World Champion in this division, Honkey Tonk Tessie. This young mare was presented by Tommy Howell for Dr. Roger Richards of Hendersonville, Tenn. Howell won the division at last years show with the perennial champion A Very Special Lady. Moving into the reserve position, after receiving the yellow ribbon at the 2003 Celebration, was the team of Royal’s Vanity Fair and Laurie Toone for Darwin and Linda James of Broken Arrow, Okla. Sundrop’s Honeybee and Karen McGee took the third award for David Mesimer of Concord, NC.

After the printing of the program, the decision was made that the second class on the schedule, Amateur English Trail Pleasure, Riders 18 and Over, should be split. Nineteen entries made the gate for the A division with Judge Bob Cherry serving as call. Making the world championship victory pass in this division was the team of Kid Rock and Sue Dean for Sue and Jayme Morgan Dean of Bell Buckle, Tenn. Laura Brandon rode to the reserve honors with one of her latest selections, High Tide Surfin’ for Hickory Hill Farm of Franklin, Tenn. Tried and True and Shayna Shaw rode to the third award for Bill Marzinzik of Saugus, Calif.

Nineteen entries made the call for the B division. Due to the late split, Judge Cherry called the gaits in this division as well. The Lady Of The Ritz and owner/exhibitor Deborah Williams carried the world championship honors back to their hometown, Argyle, Texas. Your Wish Is My Command and Kathy Anderson had their wish come true as they made a strong performance to take the red ribbon, moving up from third in the division in 2003, for John and Kathy Anderson of Jacksonville, Fla. and Shelbyville, Tenn. The third place ribbon was awarded to He’s A Wrangler and Maggie Moore for Harvey and Maggie Moore of Orange, Calif.

Thirty-one of the 39 teams hit the track in section A of the Novice Show Pleasure Walking Horse, Amateur Novice Riders. Judge Joe Fleming served as call judge for the division. None of these sensational teams had ever worn that Celebration blue, so the competition was extra tough. After the entries worked hard for the panel with the roar of the crowd to keep them going strong, the judges made the decision that extra work was needed to determine who would wear that Celebration blue for the first time today.

Thirteen entries were asked to remain for additional work. Just as the entries took the rail for the workout, entry 587, Ironworks Tin Man and Grant Jones suffered the slight misfortune of a cast shoe and required a time out. However, Celebration farrier Louie Staton was able to replace the shoe rather quickly and the team was able to return to competition and complete the class. In the end, Gen’s Blazing King and owner/exhibitor Andrea Zahnd of Trinity, Ala. made the ride to the winner’s circle and out of the novice division with a big smile on her face. Jazz’s Steppin Wulfe and Stacy Avery took the reserve tie for James Nichols of Oxford, Miss. Proving the cast shoe didn’t hurt their performance, Ironworks Tin Man and Grant Jones rode to the yellow ribbon for the second year in a row for Ray Jones Trucking of Greenville, Ky.

In the B division of the Novice Show Pleasure, Novice Amateur Riders class, 31 was the number again, out of the 36 entered with Judge Loid taking his turn as call. Again, with the large number of entries, additional work was needed and 12 were asked to stay for the workout. Air Command and Koda Downs rode their way out of the Novice division and carried the World Championship honors back to the Magnolia state for Randy Downs of Rienzi, Miss. Owner/exhibitor Ashley Compton of Murfreesboro, Tenn. and Coin’s Black Stroke will get to make another ride in this division as they made a great show to capture the reserve title for the second consecutive year. Magic Of The Night and owner/exhibitor Marion Wright carried the yellow streamer home to Jackson, Tenn.

In the lite-shod division, 10 out of the 15 entries in the program took to the ring with Judge Moss calling the gaits in the Amateur Owned and Trained Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite Shod class in hopes of riding away with that coveted Celebration blue. Only one team could be chosen for that honor, however, and the team of Wired 440 and owner/exhibitor Mike Conley of Clintwood, Va. proved very hard to beat and captured the title with the first unanimous decision of the show. Recent International champion Armed Lady From Dixie and Wayne Westbrook accepted the reserve honors for Robert Westbrook of Flower Mound, Texas. Last year’s champion in the division, Armed With Beauty and rider Terry Vaught captured third for Terry and Linda Vaught of Watertown, Tenn.

In the Park Pleasure Walking Horse, Riders 18 and over class, 19 out of 27 entries answered the gate call. Wayne Abee was given the responsibility of call judge. The Park Pleasure divisions additional action caught the attention of the Wednesday morning crowd each cheering for their favorite. One entry, Gen’s Major Coin and Ramsey Bullington, really caught attention. This showing, according to owners Robert and Wanda Pollack, marked Ramsey’s first show in the Pleasure division at the Celebration . Maybe its beginners luck, but this first performance turned into a winning performance for the team as they captured the World title for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif. After capturing numerous blues on the Middle Tennessee show circuit, Metro Grand and Chris Messick captured the reserve honors for Wayne Hall of Fairview, Tenn. Current International champion Pride’s Commander Jake and Wallace Brandon, another popular competitor, captured third for Rhonda Martocci of Franklin, Tenn.

The Amateur Owned and Trained entries took the ring again next, this time in the Park Pleasure division. Fourteen out of 16 entries entered took the ring in this division for teams with no professional training within the past 90 days. Bob Cherry served as call judge for this event. Royal’s China Doll, a past World Champion, demonstrated her winning ways again to take the title for rider Vance Walls and owner the Vance Walls family of Bainbridge, Ohio. The Cash Collector and Amanda Dickerson have been collecting the blues on the North Carolina circuit all season and made another outstanding show to receive the reserve title for the Sunset Farm of Fuquay-Varina, NC. Another Carolina competitor, Brandon Helms took third with Miss Silver Satin for Wayne Helms of Stanfield, NC.

The young riders made their first showing of the Celebration next with the Plantation Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings, Lite Shod, Riders 12-17 taking the ring. Judge Fleming called the gaits for the 16 entries who hit the ring out of the 18 in the program. Causing a “buzz” throughout the arena, Maria Derickson and multi-titled champion The Buzz captured the world title for Kelly Meazell of Longview, Texas. Jared Carrier and Silver’s Spinal Tap made a strong show to take home the reserve honors in the division for the Chip Carrier family of Franklin, Ky. All Night and Bethany Martocci received the third award for Rhonda Martocci of Franklin, Tenn.

The western division made its first appearance of the 2004 Celebration next as ten competitors, out of the 14 entered, hit the ring in the Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses, Amateur Riders (Canter) division. Under the watchful eye of Judge Tommy Loid and his cohorts, these teams displayed exactly what makes a western horse. When it came time for the cards to be marked, the judges picked a true western competitor if there ever was one, multi-titled World Champion Strike It Rich and Joe Dixon making the winning ride for Randall and Gloria Dixon’s Red Eagle Farm of Dacula, Geo. and Shelbyville, Tenn. Reserve in the division went to Bad News Gold Hard Cash and Jim Heiting for Jim and Cindi Heiting and Riverside’s Summit Ranch of Riverside, Calif. Rodney Dangerfield and Miles Irby were third for Landon Head of Jigger, La.

It was western again in the next class, the Western Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite Shod (canter) and 13 out of 15 made the gate call to work for Celebration honors in the division. Another multi-titled World Champion and current divisional World Grand Champion Genius’s Dixie Chick and trainer Trish Wooten rode to the winner’s circle for Stonegait Farms of Orange, Calif. The colorful entry, Calvin Klein’s Mystery and Josh Coble rode to the reserve honors for Sims and Jackie McKnight of Mason, Tenn. All Night repeated his strong Celebration performances taking home the yellow streamer with Bobby Richards, after an earlier showing to the yellow streamer with Bethany Martocci.

Back in the English attire, the Novice Park Pleasure Walking Mares, Amateur Novice Riders hit the track with 17 out of the 21 entered beating the clock to compete for their first Celebration blue. Judge Wayne Abee called the gaits in the division. Nancy Lovato definitely learned that winning a Celebration blue was no scary proposition as she and A Night Mare made the winning pass and rode out of the Novice division for owner Joshua Backus of Heber City, Utah. Reserve went to She’s A Kennedy and Sue Stillwell for Tom and Sue Stillwell of Independence, Iowa. Collecting the yellow streamer was Pusher’s Curtain Call and Clanton BuBose for Clanton and Sandra DuBose of Vernon, Ala.

The Plantation Pleasure Driving, Lite Shod, 2 or 4 Wheel Vehicle marked the final class of the morning performance. All 12 of the competitors entered in the division made the gate call to be considered by call Judge Bob Cherry and the judging staff. Taking home World Championship honors for the second consecutive year was the team of Trashadeous and Jimmy Civils of Petersburg, Tenn. Matching her 2003 performance, Regal’s Lady of Royalty and Benny Johnson drove to the reserve honors for Samantha Green of Shelbyville, Tenn. Magic Illusionist and Jeff Givens captured third for Cheryl Reidy of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

And with that, the first performance of the 66th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was complete. On Thursday evening, classes will debut in the Main arena highlighted by crowd favorites from the Youth 11 and Under division, Three Year Old Walking Mares, Four Year Old Amateur Stallions, Two Year Old Amateur Stallions and much more. You don’t want to miss it!