A release by the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration

The 69th version of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration will go down as a success following a disappointing event in 2006 where no World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse was crowned for the first time in the show’s history.

The horses are the drawing card for Tennessee’s oldest continually running event and when the entry deadline passed on August 7th, 4,197 entries had been made prior to the show.

“After the events of last year, we expected our pre-entries to be down some,” said Celebration CEO and Show Chairman Ron Thomas. “The pre-entry total was down about nine percent, and frankly, many expected our entries to be down much more than that. Under the circumstances, we were very pleased.”

The total number of entries increases after the show’s preliminary classes are completed and championship entries are made. 2,152 different horses made a total of 4,744 entries, including championship entries. That represents a decrease of 237 over the total in 2006, just over one entry per class. The 2,152 different horses entered are 264 less than last year. Out of the total number of entries, 3,222 were actually presented in the showring, which is actually 147 more than showed in 2006 and one of the highest percentages of recent years.

“To me, that is one of the most telling statistics about our entries,” continued Thomas. “It’s very gratifying to see the number of horses that come through that entry gate go up…even though the total number of entries may be down a bit. It speaks loudly to the type of horses the trainers are presenting for inspection. All credit for this should go to the owners, trainers, and exhibitors in the walking horse industry. It’s their hard work and dedication to the breed that makes this world championship horse show what it is.”

The Celebration added several new measures to the event in 2007 designed to ensure the health and safety of the horses on the Grounds, the integrity of the show, and the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. This included the banning of syringes by anyone other than a licensed veterinarian, increased security and limiting access to the inspection area, and the use of several devices to detect improper shoeing and inflammation.

“After last year, we had to do some things to restore public confidence in our show and in our breed,” said Thomas. “These measures were put in place to make sure we had clean, sound horses in the ring and that is what we got. The DQP’s and VMO’s (inspectors) were tough but fair and our judging panel did their part to hold the line. We made a great deal of progress this year, but we must all continue to be vigilant to protect our biggest asset, which is this wonderful animal, the Tennessee Walking Horse.”

Getting that many horses to the showring in a timely fashion is not an easy job. The United States Department of Agriculture and National Horse Show Commission handle all inspections at the Celebration.

“There was a great cooperative spirit in the inspection area,” said NHSC DQP Director David Finger. “There trainers just a marvelous job with the horses they presented for inspection. It sends a great message when you have much tougher rules in place and your violations are cut in half.”

The success of the 2007 Celebration has not gone unnoticed by officials in state government.

“I applaud the efforts by the industry and show management that have gone into making this year’s National Celebration a success,” said Commissioner Ken Givens of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “This event means so much to our state, not only economically but in terms of image and respect for our whole equine industry. It’s good to see the progress that’s been made in ensuring the respectability of this magnificent horse, the industry and The Celebration.”

While no attendance records were broken in 2007, the numbers following the events of 2006 encouraged Celebration officials. A total of 143,522 fans streamed through the historic gates of the Celebration Grounds. The paid-attendance was also large with 216,253 tickets being sold for the ten nights of competition.

Weather can always have an effect on attendance at an outdoor event, such as The Celebration®. The opening night of the show saw temperatures at over 100-degrees at show time. A violent thunderstorm and torrential rain suspended the first Friday night performance with six classes remaining, all of which were made up. And steady rain on the first Saturday night held attendance numbers down somewhat.

Once the weather broke on Sunday, attendance picked back up to the levels of recent years. The Sunday night performance had the second-largest Sunday night attendance ever and the Monday night performance was the third-largest on record.

“Like our entries, we knew our attendance would be down a little this year. But with the product we saw in the ring this year, we certainly have something very good to work with,” Thomas said. “Our board, our staff, and I can’t thank the fans enough who came back in large numbers this year. It tells us that the product we’re presenting is what the public wants to see…beautiful and talented horses, great riders, and a terrific overall atmosphere.”

The show culminated with the crowning of “Master of Jazz” as the new World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse, owned by Lee Wall and Mike McGartland of Jackson, MS and Ft. Worth, TX. Master of Jazz gave trainer Jimmy McConnell his second World Grand Champion ride.

In addition to fifteen performances in the ring, The Celebration featured a gigantic trade fair, stable decorating contest, TWHBEA Clinics, the WHT Auxiliary Dog Show, Barbecue Cookout, and many other activities.

“It’s nice to be celebrating again at The Celebration,” remarked Thomas. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t be working hard every day to find ways to make the World’s Greatest Horse Show even better. We will.”