by Jeffrey Howard

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – As has been and will continue to be the tradition at the University of Tennessee Homecoming game, a Tennessee Walking Horse performs just before kickoff. Taking the honors at this year’s homecoming game were 2008 World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse Santana’s El Nino and Link Webb. The duo hit Knoxville Thursday night, Nov. 6, 2008, and enjoyed a weekend of festivities hosted by David Howard and the University of Tennessee Veterinarian School.

Dr. John Henton, recently named to the National Horse Show Commission CEO Search Committee, hosted owners Michael and Ann Jones along with Webb and Santana’s El Nino. A lunch was provided before the Friday afternoon practice session and breakfast was provided Saturday morning before El Nino’s performance in front of nearly 100,000 spectators at Neyland Stadium.

The football hasn’t been good in Knoxville this year but Webb and Santana’s El Nino put on a great show before the Tennessee–Wyoming kickoff. Much to the delight of the crowd, on the reverse Webb took off his traditional hat and donned a coonskin cap worn by the Tennessee Davy Crockett mascot during UT sporting events. Webb knew his surroundings as he wore a bright orange shirt along with a University of Tennessee tie and sunglasses.

After his performance, Webb, along with his wife, Rhea Ellen Webb, and owners Michael and Ann Jones, joined Howard in his suite to enjoy lunch and the football game. The night before, the party had attended the University of Tennessee basketball exhibition game with Howard.

"We are proud to have Link and El Nino exhibit and show the great talents of the Tennessee Walking Horse in front of such a large audience," said Howard. "Tennessee athletics and Tennessee Walking Horses are such a large part of my life and it is a pleasure to have both of them on display each year at the homecoming game."

"I appreciate the honor of being asked to perform at UT’s homecoming game. It is one of the highlights of being crowned the World Grand Champion to be able to exhibit this great horse in front of 100,000 people," said Webb. Michael and Ann Jones have now seen their champion exhibit at two collegiate football games (Santana’s El Nino earlier performed at the Middle Tennessee State University football game) as well as at horse shows and schools in Shelbyville. El Nino has proven to be a great ambassador for the Tennessee Walking Horse after his spotlight ride at the 2008 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.