By Sadie Fowler | Photos by Shane Shiflet

Making a drastic shift in the morning classes from earlier in the show, the final morning session of the 81st annual Celebration was cool if not chilly with rain continuing from where the show left off Sunday night — although nowhere near as drastic. Thankfully, there was cover inside the Calsonic Arena so for those watching and the exhibitors riding, the setting could not have been more comfortable or ideal. 

Ten classes on the final morning session’s agenda moved swiftly and carried on the momentum the show has had thus far, marked by truly tough classes and all the other extra pleasantries for which the world championship horse show is known. In other words, so far it’s just been a good show with lots of high notes and very few matters about which anyone could complain. 

The first of 10 classes Monday featured 13 solid entries all vying for that Celebration blue, no easy task indeed. Many entries within the class hold world records and their riders have been around the block a time or two, so the class carried on with the show’s theme that showmanship matters almost as much as talent. In this class, the winning entry is one many horse enthusiasts have known and loved for many years. Godfather By Ultra Copy, a classic horse like no other, has carried several riders to winning rides of their life and this morning he did that for his newest partner, Alex Luttrell, who took over the reins from her mom, Courtney, last year and has come a longway. A seasoned showman who’s all business in the show ring every time she enters, Counti Green had last year’s winner Cinco De Mayo in good order as well but slipped into the reserve position. 

Eleven entries graced the presence of the Monday morning Celebration in the next class, the Amateur Owned and Trained English Trail Pleasure class with one of the winningest walking horses of all time once again earning the special win. At 14-years-old and still magnificently moving about the ring as though she were a fresh filly, Suiza astonishingly captured her 27th world title with Allison Thorson enjoying every bit of the sweet victory on her beloved equine friend. New to the top ranks in the class with a reputation for being extraordinarily competitive, The Red Light District and Ashlyn Avent secured their reserve world championship, making their hometown of Shelbyville, Tennessee proud. 

There may have only been three contenders in the adult equitation class but all three were mighty and it was a class that had the judges looking hard at every detail to determine the winner. All three riders demonstrated polished, poised and near-perfect precision on the rail portion of the classes, clearly pointing to their years of practice as equestrians. If anyone had to guess, it’d be fair to assume it all came down to the workout each rider performed, which included dropping their stirrups and later performing a circle at the canter before returning down the other rail and into the lineup. Hailing all the way from out west and representing skilled equitation instructor Nicole Carswell, Sarah Huffman Caudill might have been considered a dark horse going into the class but she proved Colorado strong as she walked away with her first Celebration blue. Another interesting face to the Celebration, Morgan Wolin, a seasoned rider with excellent form in the walking horse breed and beyond, accepted reserve honors in the class. 

Lucky number seven seemed to be the number of the morning with several classes featuring seven entries including the Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Lite-Shod class with A Big Reputation living up to her name and making Shelbyville, Tennessee proud, with Perry Walden in the saddle. Also representing the Volunteer State with great pride, Lexie Stinnett piloted Baymax B to reserve for Graham, Jones and Stinnett.

The Weanling Colts of 2019 were on centerstage next with each of the seven babies looking fresh and excited as they strutted their stuff while entertaining the crowd. No stranger to the winner’s circle in the in-hand division, Amanda Wright has turned out a lot of Celebration winners over the years and today she had Backroads in fine order to secure the blue. Another passionate lady as it relates to the young stars of the industry, Lynn Womack handled Chattahoochie Charlie with care and grace and proudly accepted reserve for owners Bobby and Freda Jones. 
Once again, seven entries teamed up for the Amateur Novice English Trail Pleasure class where Miss Movin’ On and Jeanette Kuszylk moved the ring to perfection and walked away winners, representing the Sunshine State. Jack Heffington rode I’m Big Bad John KW to the reserve ribbon for Jacquelyn Elliott Way. 

Seven again and definitely lucky for those at the Calsonic Monday morning with the opportunity to watch the next class, the Western Park Pleasure class, in which each entry worked the ring with bling, blitz and beauty. But the real treat was seeing the legendary Howard Hamilton in a rare Celebration performance, this time with A Titleist Masterpiece for Champion Stables. Hamilton has made countless winning rides over his long career, and it was cool to see him smiling while riding down victory lane as if it were the first time he’d done so. A master at his trade, Hamilton would be a tough one for anyone to beat, but Jeff Laughlin made his best attempt and pushed the winners hard as he secured a well-respected reserve with Armed But KidN, who has had very solid Celebration, making owner Sister Milligan proud. 

Amanda Manis wore a pretty smile and had a pretty ride out of the Calsonic Arena after besting a field of three with Kick Start Jazz in the Amateur Owned and Trained Lite-Shod class in which Ronnie Rushing rode The Million Dollar Answer for the reserve prize.

Seven fillies representing the foals of 2019 emerged into the ring next and making her royalties known for the natural star she is in the show ring, I Am The Queen earned top honors with Jackson Latham handling for Casey and Freddie Todd. The silver lining for the reserve handler, Robert Nelms was perhaps that he got to catch his breath as a result of not walking another contender down victory lane, as he’s already done that a lot this week. Still, he had the charismatic filly I’m Lisa Marie turning heads when they walked away wearing red. 

The young equitation stars closed out the Monday morning session with a capable field of seven giving it their best shot. Jayden Jackson is no stranger to victory lane and she wrapped up what has been an astounding week in the Calsonic as the world champion with Ani Drane demonstrating grace and style as she walked away with a respectable reserve world championship.