By Sara Watts and Sarah Smith

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – As the year draws to a close, walking horse enthusiasts travel from near and far to mix and mingle at the annual Walking Horse Trainers' Association Banquet. The weekend of December 13th and 14th marked that time of year again to reflect on the past year, make plans for the next year and celebrate top horses and individuals. For the second year in a row, Cool Springs Marriott in Franklin, Tennessee hosted the WHTA meetings and banquet. 

A silent auction was held and offered well over 100 different items for those in attendance to bid on. Some of the available items were vacation packages, many different stud fees, jewelry, clothes, a variety of gift baskets and a full color ad in the Walking Horse Report; just to name a few.

Prior to dinner Herbert Derickson gave the invocation, while Jeff Speaks spoke and introduced the three FAST videos.

Mark Farrar once again was happy to serve as emcee for the night and handle all the announcing duties, and in his usual fashion, he kept the crowd fully entertained. Starting out the evening, Farrar took a moment to recognize several organizations that play major roles in the walking horse industry, as well as a few individuals that helped make this weekend fun and successful. 

The Living Legend Lifetime Achievement Awards were next. This year three very deserving individuals were honored by Bill Cantrell and Wayne Dean. Ronal and Judy Young were called to the stage to accept their awards, while Joe Martin was presented with his award via Facebook Live.

The 2019 Scholarship winners were acknowledged next. Presentations of the scholarships were made at the Celebration. In their ninth year as scholarship sponsors, the Glenn C. Dowell Jr. family awarded scholarships to Molly Alyssa Thompson and John Dalton Puckett.

Bill Cantrell and Rodney Dick were called to the stage next so Dick could be presented with his green blazer in recognition of his world grand championship win with I'm Mayhem. The blazer is is embroidered with the Celebration logo and the year 2019. The blazer is donated by Frank and Shirley Neal in honor of 1992 World Grand Champion Dark Spirit’s Rebel. This tradition was started in 1995.

Next up it was time to recognize the National Trainers’ Show Grand Champion. Hayden Burks came to the stage to accept the award. Tyler Baucom directed The Darkest Hour to the victory to become the 51st Trainers’ Show champion for owner Teresa Kincaid.

The Performance Trainer of the Year award went to Philip Trimble, while the Pleasure Trainer of the Year award went to Jeff Laughlin. Both of these gentlemen had previously accepted their awards during the last Saturday night of the Celebration. Tonight they were presented with a ring and belt buckle.

Scott and Cruz Shepard from Marsha's on the Square has been a valuable supporter of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association. Again, this year, the trainer of the World Grand Championship was presented with a beautiful, custom saddle-riding suit. Rodney Dick was happy to accept this gift. 

The Youth Council awards were the first honors presented for the evening by Julie Graham and Candy Green.

Both Jayden Jackson and Emma Wright were recognized for their world grand championship wins at this year’s Celebration. Cohen Abernathy was called to the stage to be presented with the Youth Council Member of the Year honor.  

In an effort to get trainers to send in their horse of the year ballots and also attend the banquet, the WHTA offered $500 to the trainer that did both. Jackie Byrom was the lucky trainer selected from the drawing.

WHTA Horse of the Year Recipients

Assistant Performance Trainer of the Year
Hayden Burks

Assistant Pleasure Trainer of the Year
Bailey Momb

Groom of the Year
Carlos Fernandez

Youth of the Year
Claudia Gribble

Amateur of the Year
Posthumously – Kathy Zeis
Best One-Night Show
Money Tree Classic

Best Multi-Night Show
North Carolina Championship

Lead Line
Winner – Little Sista and Walker Williams
Reserve – My Little Red Wagon and Alexis Cofer

Amateur Two-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Oh Susannah
Reserve – Wilma LJ 

Winner – Backroads
Reserve – Time For Honors

Amateur Two-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Smoky Mountain Strong
Reserve – Mountain Voodoo

Winner – A Mission Impossible
Reserve – I’m Unforgettable

Two-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Bingo In Dixie
Reserve – Charlie’s Ritzy Lady

Lite-Shod Specialty
Winner – Big Time Bandit
Reserve – Miss Dixie Flyer

Two-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Mr. Magnifico
Reserve – TUA MCF

Youth Show Pleasure
Winner – Godfather By Ultra Copy
Reserve – Benelli

Youth Pony
Winner – The Country Lineman
Reserve – Anthony Davis

Trail Pleasure
Winner – Machete
Reserve – Etta James By TJB

Adult Pony
Winner – Mr. Trump
Reserve – Big Blue Nation

Country Pleasure
Winner – Slingblade
Reserve – Line Item Veto

Winner – We Will Rock You
Reserve – A Strong Statement

Amateur Three-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Honor My Country
Reserve – America Strong

Elite (50 & Over)
Winner – Mr. Heisman
Reserve – Unreal

Amateur Three-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – As I Am
Reserve – The Night King

Western Lite-Shod
Winner – Big Time Bandit
Reserve – Miss Dixie Flyer

Three-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Me And Pocahontas
Reserve – She’s Charismastic

Western Park Pleasure
Winner – A Titleist Masterpiece
Reserve – Lined Up At The Ritz

Three-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Jose’ Revival
Reserve – Starpower CC

Fine Harness
Winner – In Ted’s Image
Reserve – Kudos For Cash

Winner (tie) – Caroline Chrome and Promise Keeper
Reserve – Mystic Jazz

Ladies Amateur Specialty
Winner – She’s Limitless
Reserve – Gin Toddy

Men’s Amateur Specialty
Winner – A King Thing
Reserve – I’m Biscayne Bay

Amateur Canter
Winner – Led Zeppelin
Reserve – The Mason Dixie Line

Amateur Four-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – A Sunday Rose
Reserve – He’s Remington

Amateur Four-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – I Am Mighty Jose’
Reserve – Playing Gin

Amateur Park Pleasure
Winner – I Walk The Walk
Reserve – Lined Up At The Ritz

Amateur Lite-Shod
Winner – Big Time Bandit
Reserve – La Patrona

Four-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Gotcha Jose’
Reserve – Beiga Cheval

Professional Park Pleasure
Winner – Dose’
Reserve – A Dangerous Deal

Four-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Minor Ordeal
Reserve – Gin’s Shadow

Five & Under Country Pleasure
Winner – Hashtag
Reserve – He’s High Maintenance

Amateur Park Performance
Winner – Do Right
Reserve – A Touche’

Amateur Show Pleasure
Winner – He’s Starbucks
Reserve – I’m Moonlighting

Five & Under Trail Pleasure
Winner – Blacklist
Reserve – I’m Thunderstruck NDR

Professional Park Performance
Winner – I’m A Proud American
Reserve – So Real

All Day Pleasure
Winner – Petal Pushin’ Jazz
Reserve – IB Smokin Joe

Amateur Five-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Von Miller
Reserve – Knock Down Drag Out

Juvenile 11 & Under
Winner – Extra Special Jose’
Reserve (tie) – Kinfoke and Memphis Raines

Professional Show Pleasure
Winner – Entitlement
Reserve – He’s Primetime

Amateur Five-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Nip Of Gin
Reserve – Walk With Me WTC

Amateur 15.2 & Under Mare or Gelding
Winner – Boure’
Reserve – Be My Baby

Youth 12-17
Winner – The Dixie Label
Reserve – Miss Ebony Rose

Amateur 15.2 & Under Stallion
Winner – Marty McFly
Reserve – He’s Made In The USA

Amateur Specialty
Winner – Deal Me Aces
Reserve – Zeta

15.2 & Under Mare or Gelding
Winner – Pappy Van Winkle
Reserve – Boure’

15.2 & Under Stallion
Winner – I’m Pushin N Line
Reserve (tie) – He’s Made In The USA and Samsung

15.2 & Over Mare or Gelding
Winner – Country And Famous
Reserve – Manning

15.2 & Over Stallion
Winner – I’m Mayhem
Reserve – Master’s Razzel And Jazz