It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This!

Trainers’ Show Hosts 886 Entries


by Jeffrey Howard


            SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – We’re back! The National Walking Horse Trainers’ Show enjoyed its best show in recent memory and served as a notice to everyone in attendance that this is going to be a great year for the Tennessee Walking Horse. Summing up the intense competition was Show Manager Benny Johnson, who has served in this capacity for 35 years. “The more they (trainers) show their horses against each other, the better the show will be and the better the year will be.”

            With the previous years’ industry conflict over, this year the unity between industry groups was evident with the attitude surrounding the show. For the first time since 1983 the USDA did not attend the show to assist with the inspection process. Johnson addressed the condition of the horses. “The trainers had their horses in good shape, brought the numbers and we had a great show.” Show Co-Manager Buist Carr said, “We need to commend the trainers for how they presented their horses. This show is a tribute to the hard work they have put in to presenting good horses.”

            As for the inspection by NHSC DQPs, it couldn’t have gone much better. All in all, 851 horses were inspected and only two pre-show violations were handed out by the DQPs. David Finger, who is head of the DQP program, summed up the inspection. “It was just an unbelievable job by the trainers. No time since I have been involved with the walking horse have I seen them in better shape. No question we were prepared for any scrutiny by any group. I asked my DQPs when there were minimal violations if they were checking them thoroughly or letting some slide, to which they replied absolutely not, they are just this good.”

            It should also be noted that for the first time in Trainers’ Show history veterinarians and DQPs were patrolling the grounds during every performance to further enhance the inspection process. Finger summed up this year’s show by saying, “It was an amazing turnaround from last year’s Trainers’ Show. Great performances, great horses and great compliance.”

            The competition was fierce during the entire show as some of the best horses in the industry came out to perform. No class was more evident of this than the Championship Stake class on Saturday night. In a rare occurrence the judges agreed unanimously on the top three places in the class. Rowdy Rev and Bill Bobo captured the roses for Harlinsdale Farm, He’s A Weekend Warrior and Joe Cotten were reserve for Jones and McLaughlin and Gen On The Run and Justin Harris were third for Michael and Ty Hart.

            Bobo and Rowdy Rev put on a performance that had everyone talking. You can bet this team will be a contender that last Saturday night of August. However, Benny Johnson summed it up best when describing the outstanding competition. “Any horse that was top three in any class will be a contender come Celebration and that might be top five in some of the classes we had.”

            Bobo talked about his stud after the show. “It was like another day at the office for him. He is good everyday and loves what he does. He has gotten bigger and stronger. We want to dedicate this win to Bill Harlin who was unable to be here because of recent surgery. He was thrilled when we called and said this was going to get him out of the house.” Bobo’s son, Chris, summed up the championship performance. “I have always believed in the talent and heart of Rowdy Rev and know and believe in the talent and heart of my dad.”

            Bill Callaway came out of the gates fast at this year’s show winning both the Two-Year-Old Stallion class and Two-Year-Old Mare & Gelding class. Callaway directed Encore’s Pandemonium to the stud class win for Bill Hill and took Black Jack Fantasy to the mare class win for The Stables at Alpha Place. “It was unbelievable,” said Callaway. “I feel very fortunate to show these two great horses, but to win on both, it was just more than I could have imagined.”

            This year’s show like past years had two three-year-old classes. Winning the first of the two were Electric Gold and Mickey McCormick for Michael and Becky Coleman. Taking top honors in the Three-Year-Old Classic class were Lebron James and Joel Weaver for Brett and Lisa Jones.

            The Four-Year-Old Open class was one that again featured intense competition between two of the industry’s brightest stars. Jimmy McConnell directed Cadillac’s Bum to a crowd-pleasing first place performance for owner Pam Betts. Finishing in a reserve tie were Ozone’s Cut Above All and John Allan Callaway for Mark and Sharon Thomas. “We want to come out early and make a good performance and set the tone for the year and I think we did just that,” said Mark Thomas of his horse’s performance.

            The amateur competition was just as competitive if not more so during the week. Several top performances were made during the week and no one had the kind of week that Clay Mills had. He won four blue ribbons during the week and guided both of his new horses to blues: Wall Street in the Amateur Three-Year-Old Stallions and Tommy Lee Jones in the Amateur Two-Year-Old Stallions. Mills took Royal Luck and I’m The Gambler to blues as well during the week.

            First wins were also in order during the week. Virginia Stewart took her new horse, The Golden Sovereign, to the blue in the Francis C. Gentry Ladies Specialty Championship class. Stewart purchased the horse this winter from Keith McSwain. “I am thrilled beyond words. I was scared to death because I felt so much pressure to do well with such a great horse. It was a great thrill to do it for the horse and for David (Landrum), because I know this win meant a lot to him,” Stewart said.

            Debbie Eichler decided to get the year off to a quick start as well, winning two blues the first night. Eichler directed 2005 World Grand Champion Main Power to her first win with him in the Amateur Adult Pony class. Her second win of the night was aboard Jazz After Hours in the Amateur Three-Year-Old Mare & Gelding class. “I am thrilled and humbled by these wins,” Eichler said. “I am so happy for Frank (Eichler). He has always supported me and I am glad to win for him.”

            The juvenile division also saw Lilly Waites take her new horse, Prime Poison, to the blue in the Youth Ponies class. Waites said after her performance, “This is my biggest accomplishment, it was a great feeling. I have been that person who came out of the ring without a ribbon, so to be the one that got called out first was a thrill. I want to thank Mrs. Brenda Carlon for her help as well as Rising Star and the Callaways.”

            Another first for the show this year was the WHTA Past Presidents’ class. This class offered a couple notable past presidents who showed off their skills. Jimmy McConnell took first in the class with BeeBee King for Bob and Mary Medina and David Landrum took home reserve with Brother Splash for Evergreen Walking Horse Farms.

            As is also tradition, the Walking Horse Report dedicated their Year in Walking Horses book to its recipients during the Trainers’ Show. The youth honoree was Samantha Green, Jim and Lisa Baum were recognized as the owners, Bill Bobo as trainer, I’m Packin’ A Pistol as the performance horse, Drop The Hammer as the pleasure horse and Gen’s Armed And Dangerous as the stallion. All of these recipients have been key to the success of the Tennessee Walking Horse.

            To conclude what all described as a great Trainers’ Show, Link Webb, WHTA President said, “It was a great show. The horses were presented in the manner we want and that is what allowed us to have a great show.” He continued, “Everybody tried hard, from the trainers to the DQPs to the owners, and what came from that was a great show.”