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Up Close and Personal with James & Betty Corlew



She said it was his kind voice. He insisted it was her striking beauty. The sparks that started this everlasting love have kept the flame kindled since. James and Betty Corlew met while Betty was looking for a job in the car business. Betty was inquiring about a job at the James Corlew Chevrolet/ Cadillac/Olds. Mistakenly, the secretary gave Betty Mr. Corlew’s home telephone number. To both of their surprises, they talked over the phone for three weeks and agreed to meet. They met and within three months, they were married. June 30, 2003 will mark their thirteenth year together.

It was a classic story of country girl meets city boy and converts him. Betty was raised on a farm and rode some of her father’s horses. James, on the other hand, was born and raised in the city, Nashville, Tennessee to be exact. “I like the country. I wouldn’t go back and live in the city, so close to everyone around you,” stated Mr. Corlew. Bowtie Acres is the name of the couple’s plot of land in Adams, Tennessee on 52 rolling acres with the barn just outside their back door. On their farm, three dogs and nine cats run freely, enjoying the countryside. When asked ‘if you were to be reincarnated, who or what would you come back as?’ Betty quickly retorted, “A Corlew animal! We adopt cats and dogs, so that’s definitely what I would come back as.”

What started as 6 stalls and trail horses has turned into 30 stalls and professional training facility. From their two-year-old prospects to their World Grand Champion, Pushover’s Citation, Bowtie Stables is home to champions and newly appointed trainer, Lee Upton. James Corlew stated, “We’re very positive about [Lee’s] his position here. We feel that he will be a wonderful asset to us.”

And how does Lee Upton feel about the Corlews? “Mrs. Betty and Mr. Corlew, through the time that I was at Link’s [Webb Stables] and the time I’ve been here, have been really enthused about their horses and the walking horse industry as a whole. They’re really big hearted, down home folks,” Upton said warmly.

The Corlews own a Chevrolet dealership in Clarksville, Tennessee and a Ford dealership in Columbia, South Carolina, along with several small leasing companies. James is “intelligent, he should have been a lawyer” according to Betty. She helps out with the books of the leasing companies, but “leaves the dealership to James”.

The Corlews became involved first with the Racking Horse industry. In 1996, the couple purchased a gelding named I’m A Jammin’, for their son John to exhibit in the juvenile class. That first step led to the employment of a professional trainer for Bowtie Stables in January of 1997. Betty and John went on to win several Racking World Championships. John later captured a Racking World Grand Championship aboard Prime Suspect C.

As for the Walking Horse industry, Betty and James Corlew purchased their first walking horse through Knox Blackburn in the spring of 1997. A horse by the name of Ebony’s Bad Bubba. Betty’s first time in the show ring aboard a walking horse was at Nolensville, Tennessee, in 1997 on “Bubba”. Her first blue also came that same night in Middle Tennessee with Bubba in the Amateur Specialty class under the direction of Bowtie Stables.

The Corlews attended their first Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in 1994. Masquerading was Betty’s favorite World Grand Champion. James can’t quite make up his mind. He says he hasn’t seen enough World Grand Championship classes to really know who his favorite would be.

He Keeps On Giving is another Corlew-owned champion. His sire is 2000 World Grand Champion, Cash For Keeps. He Keeps On Giving won his first World Championship in 2001 in the Fine Harness division with B.A. Dorsey at the whip. Beth Young has also successfully exhibited the sorrel stallion in the Walking Horse Trainers’ Ladies Auxiliary classes. In 2002 alone, Beth and Keeps captured eight blue ribbons including wins at the Spring Fun Show and Wartrace, Tennessee. Keeps was named the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association Ladies Auxiliary High Point winner in 2002, as well as the Walking Horse Report Readers’ Poll Ladies Auxiliary Horse of the Year.

But the blues don’t stop there. Pushover’s Citation has proved himself a champion in the show ring. The black gelding was purchased from Jeffcoat Stables in the fall of 1999. In 2000, “Citation” carried Betty to blue ribbon acclaim at several shows in the Open Amateur Specialty division. The Tony Rice Horse Show and Winchester, Tennessee proved to be two successful stops for the team under the Bowtie Stables banner.

Pushover’s Citation was campaigned by Miles Irby in the Pony class throughout the 2001 season. Under the direction of B.A. Dorsey, and with the support of his dad, Ty Irby, and the Corlews, Miles went on to win several Pony titles. The Money Tree Classic, the Children’s Classic, Fayetteville, and Lynchburg, Tennessee were all blue ribbon stops for the team. Bigger things were definitely in store for this unstoppable pair.

At the 2001 edition of the Celebration, Miles Irby directed Citation to the Owner/Amateur Youth Riders 12-17 on Ponies, Specialty World Championship. Four days later Citation and Irby made the ride under the spotlight in the Youth Pony Specialty World Grand Championship much to the delight of the Irbys and the Corlews. Citation was also awarded the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association Pony of the Year award in 2001. Ty Irby spoke of James and Betty, “they are great friends...a wonderful couple...they are truly dedicated to the Walking Horse industry.”

Betty exhibited Citation throughout the southern show circuit in the 2002 season claiming a Winchester blue and International Fall Grand Championship title aboard the black gelding.

I’m All Fired Up has certainly established himself as a surefire champion. Sired by Gen’s Armed And Dangerous, “Fired Up”, as he is so fondly called, made his presence known as a two-year-old in 2000. Tim Gray started the winning streak with Fired Up, claiming the Two-Year-Old Stallion division at the Spring Fun Show. Gray also went on to claim the Manchester and Woodbury two-year-old stallion classes.

The decision was made for the two-year-old talent to be moved to David Landrum Stables. This flashy black stallion claimed blues with Chad Way in the irons at Belfast, Tennessee and the Dixie Jubilee. Way and Fired Up also claimed the Two-Year-Old Stallions, Div A World Championship title in 2000 and placed third in the Two-Year-Old stake.

Spring of 2001 found Fired Up and Way back in the winner’s circle in the Three-Year-Old Stallion division at such shows as the Spring Fun Show and the Tony Rice horse show. Fired Up was moved back to Bowtie Stables in the fall of 2001.

2002 confirmed what Fired Up was all about. After the absence of a trainer at Bowtie Stables, the decision was made to move four of their show horses to Link Webb at Webb Stables in Lewisburg, Tennessee. With Four-Year-Old Amateur wins at the Spring Fun Show, the World Cup, and the Columbia Spring Jubilee, Fired Up was ready for the big oval that was just a short time away. Link Webb showed the stallion at the Land O The Sky Festival to capture another title. Betty finished up the summer seasons with a win at Lewisburg.

Oh but what was waiting for Betty and Fired Up? Roses, roses, roses! On the first Thursday evening of the 2002 Celebration, Fired Up and Betty took the Owner/Amateur Four-Year-Old Stallions, Div A World Championship title unanimously. August 31, 2002 marked the night that the dynamic duo made the coveted spotlight ride, complete with roses to become the Four-Year-Old Amateur World Grand Champions. This was Betty’s first ride to the roses.

I’m All Fired Up was also named as the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association Four-Year-Old Amateur Horse of the Year and the Walking Horse Report Readers’ Poll Four-Year-Old Amateur Horse of the Year in 2002.

Highway Robbery was added to the Corlew’s show string in the fall of 2001. Highway was purchased from Dr. Jim and Lisa Baum and moved to Bowtie Stables. Out of eight shows under the direction of Bowtie Stables and then Webb Stables, Betty and Highway landed eight blues in the Amateur Two-Year-Old Stallion ranks including wins at the Spring Fun Show, Columbia Spring Jubilee, and the International Grand Championships.

On the same night that Betty captured her Four-Year-Old Amateur Stallion World Championship, Highway carried Betty to the Two-Year-Old Amateur Stallions, Div A World Championship. The pair placed fourth in the stake class. Highway Robbery was voted the 2002 Two-Year-Old Amateur Stallion Reserve Horse of the Year for the Walking Horse Report Readers’ Poll. The black stallion was also the WHTA Two-Year-Old Amateur Reserve Horse of the Year.

With all of their champions talked of, let’s get back to the people behind them...

WHR: How did it feel when you won your first World Grand Championship?

Betty Corlew: I cannot explain to you how I felt. I mean, I have never had such an adrenaline rush. I didn’t want to embarrass Link by crying and I was trying not to cry...trying to hold back emotions. And I was so happy for James, and of course, John, my son, went through my head, he had wanted this so badly too. I had a million things going through my head, but it was just a feeling I had never felt before. It was fun, I was smiling, trying to hold back tears. I was trying to hold my composure. I didn’t want to embarrass little Link. It was truly a great feeling, even when I watch the tape now, I still get goose bumps. I still remember that feeling and that ride. Fired Up did everything I asked him to do. Little Link, bless his heart, I love him to death, would keep telling me, “talk to him Betty.” So, when I got off the horse I said, “Link, I’ve told him every secret I’ve ever had! I couldn’t think of anything else to talk to him about!” Link just started laughing.

WHR: So, it’s safe to say that this was your proudest moment in the Walking Horse industry?

B.C. : Yes. I’ve never been in the spotlight of anything. I’ve never really won anything like that.

WHR: James, what do you consider your proudest moment in the industry?

James Corlew: First would be I’m All Fired Up and Betty winning the 2002 World Grand Championship in the Four-Year-Old Amateur Stallion class. Second, Betty’s wins in the same night, in the Two-Year-Old Amateur Stallion and Four-Year-Old Amateur Stallion World Championships at the 2002 Celebration. And, Betty’s selection as the Walking Horse Report’s 2002 Amateur Exhibitor of the Year, rates right up there also.

WHR: Of all the trainers out there, which trainer do you most admire?

B.C.: Well, I gotta be honest. We’ve watched Link over the years and we’ve always liked the way he put his horses in the ring. So I guess Link would be my number one. And of course, where he took us plays a part too, but we liked him before we even put horses with him.

And little Knox, I’ve always admired him. I know Knox, and I would never, ever hesitate to go purchase another horse from him. We bought [Ebony’s Bad] Bubba through him. Bubba was everything Knox told us. He panned out very well for us. Knox was truly honest and upfront with everything. I’d go shopping at his barn any day!

J.C.: Link Webb. He was our first choice in trainers to move four of our show horses to in July 2002 in preparation for the 2002 Celebration. He exceeded our expectations in his knowledge, in his professionalism, in his character, and in his integrity.

WHR: When and/or where are you the happiest?

B.C.: At the barn. I laugh, cut up with those boys all the time. I’m happy down there. When you see them everyday and you’re with them everyday, you get close to them. I’m happy at home too. I’m really a homebody. It’s nice to go to horse shows and see everybody on the weekends too.

J.C.: Watching Betty exhibit our horses in the horse shows, especially the Celebration. I’m as elated when she wins a blue as she is. These times take me away from the daily concerns of my automobile dealerships and allow a form of relaxation.

WHR: Who and/or what is the greatest love of your life?

B.C.: I would have to say the greatest love of my life was my son, John, and James, he’s my main squeeze! He’s such a good person. James was good to my son, he’s good to me, spoils me, he’s just a super person. He would do anything in the world for anybody that he can...And of course the what is right out my back door. I just love the horses and the animals.

J.C.: Betty...She came into my life at a time when I had become stagnant in my personal and business life. She brought joy and happiness back, and challenged me to rebuild my lost drive in life, as well as accept the challenge only a nine year old stepson can bring.

Outside Betty and our horses, it has to be my automobile dealerships, Chevrolet-Cadillac-Oldsmobile in Clarksville, Tennessee and Ford in Columbia, South Carolina.

WHR: Do you have any other interests or hobbies?

B.C.: No, not really! I love Court TV!! Between the horses and showing, we don’t have time for much else.

J.C.: I used to play golf, before some surgery slowed down that interest in the early nineties. Now, outside my dealership activities and the horses, there is not a lot of time for hobbies.

WHR: What is your greatest fear?

B.C. : Falling off in the ring! I’ve always been scared of falling off, that would be so embarrassing...

J.C.: Betty and/or my children being kidnapped or harmed in any way.

WHR: What are your goals as far as Walking Horses are concerned?

J.C.: I would be less than frank if I did not admit that a win in the World Grand Championship is an objective for Betty and I, and Bowtie Stables. I want Bowtie Stables and our staff to develop into a very professional training and breeding facility, recognized for its character and integrity within the walking horse industry. Betty and I want to be an asset to this business and a contributor to its success.

WHR: As far as the show horses you own, who is your favorite?

B.C.: Fired Up is wonderful and a lot of fun to ride. Highway, he just, whatever I ask him to do bless his heart, he does it. He’s got just a great personality!

J.C.: Highway has been very good to Betty...but I would have to say Fired Up.

WHR: What is something that people don’t know about you all that you would like them to know?

J.C.: “We’re just average people from a small community who, though we are fairly newcomers to this business, love the Tennessee Walking Horse breed, and want to be part of its continual growth.”

B.C.: “We’re just us. We’re laid back people. I mean, no doubt, everybody wants to win, but I go in and I like to ride and make a good ride, you know if we win, it’s ok and if we don’t we’re happy too.”

More than likely, you’ll see the Corlews together at shows across the south for many years to come, James with their beloved little Yorkshire Terrier, Betsy, cradled in his arms and Betty dressed to nines and ready to show or holding a blue ribbon from the class she just won!

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