by Mark Davis

It’s the final Thursday night at the 71st annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and that means it’s time for championship competition to get underway. Ah, yes, the very best of the best will be riding for the roses starting tonight. This evening, ten sets of roses will be handed out in the Trail Pleasure, Lite-Shod, Show Pleasure, Youth and 15.2 & Under divisions, leading up to the final class and highlight of the evening, the Three-Year-Old Walking Horse World Grand Championship. What a great night it will certainly be!

The judging panel for the 2009 Celebration included Rollie Beard of Lewisburg, Tenn., Jennifer Bingham of Shelbyville, Tenn., Jamie Bradshaw of Union Grove, Ala., Mike Carpenter of Franklin, Tenn., and Sam Sorrell of Flemingsburg, Ky.

The invocation for the evening was given by Bro. Geoff Geisman of Fairlane Church of Christ, Shelbyville, Tenn., followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Sammy Day of Bell Buckle, Tenn.

Up first on the Championship schedule for the evening was class 138, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-17 Years on Walking Ponies World Grand Championship. All thirteen of the duos with reservations made their way down to the historic big oval to work for the tri-colors as Judge Sam Sorrell called the gaits in the class. Making that treasured spotlight ride in the division was He’s Extraordinary and Ashley Diamond Pollack riding high for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif. This duo qualified for this championship by taking the win in the Youth 15-17 preliminary on Sunday night. Rudy Rudiger and Alexandria Holland were reserve for the Children of Neal and Sherry Holland of Decatur, Ala. Silver Design and Alex Way rounded out the top three for Ellison, Way and Allred of Thorsby and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Jamestown, Tenn.

Four of the seven expected worked to the track to work for the roses in class 139, Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite-Shod, World Grand Championship (Canter). Judge Rollie Beard led the judging panel in the class. Riding to the winner’s circle with a unanimous decision of the panel was the 2008 winner in the division, Honor My Cash and Patrick Thomas riding for Donnie and Debbie Parmer of Elizabethtown, Pa. With this win, the duo retired the Steve Merrill and Edgar Hodge Challenge Trophy and the TWHBEA Challenge Trophy. Major Orders and Brock Tillman pulled in for the red streamers for Brenda Gey of Montverde, Fla. Ring The Man and Webby Burch were third for the Burch Farm of College Grove, Tenn.

The trainers were back for class 140, 15.2 & Under Walking Horse World Grand Championship. Four of the eight entries that called ahead worked down from Calsonic Arena to work for Judge Jennifer Bingham and her staff. Riding to the win with the approval of the Thursday night crowd was Jimmy McConnell and He’s Dr. Cash, reserve World Champions in the 15.2 & Under Gelding preliminary, riding for Larry and Farrah McAlexander of Oxford, Miss. Texas Joe Black and Justin Harris rode into the second position for Steve & Kathy Zeis of Douglasville, Ga., and Shelbyville, Tenn. Holyfield and Link Webb captured the golden streamers for Bob Hill of Albemarle, N.C.

Class 141 featured the Elite Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses World Grand Championship. Eleven of the 14 on the books worked down and found their spot on the rail to work for their chance at World Grand Championship acclaim. After making an extraordinary performance to the win in the Stallion preliminary on Monday evening, Star and Wilsene Moody brought the crowd to their feet once again to capture the roses and make that sentimental journey down victory lane as the crowd rewarded her with a standing ovation. This team garnered this with a unanimous decision of the panel. Palm Beach Ritz and owner/exhibitor Sandra Johnson of Atlanta, Ga., and Shelbyville, Tenn., rode to the popular reserve. Command & Control and Sheryl Crawford were third for Crawford Colts of Carrollton, Ga.


The young riders were up for their moment in the spotlight in class 142, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Walking Mare or Geldings World Grand Championship. Sixteen of the 19 expected beat the clock to work towards their ride with the roses as Judge Mike Carpenter served as Call Judge in the class. Repeating on their win in the 11 & Under Mare preliminary, Moonstruck Dollar and Lake Weaver rode to the top of the division to capture the tri colors with a unanimous decision of the panel riding for Brenda Little and Lake Weaver of Spring Grove, Pa., and Shelbyville, Tenn. Headed back Kentucky way, The White Mask and Alana Copas pulled in for the reserve honors for Karen Bethel and Alana Copas of Monticello, Ky. Too Tall Jones and Jesse Laughlin were third for Jesse Laughlin and Horses To Go, LLC of Waynesville, Mo., and Dallas, Texas.


The Trail Pleasure entries were up next on the schedule for class 143, Owner-Amateur English Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. Thirteen of the 14 on the books worked to the track to show for Judge Sam Sorrell and his staff. Repeating their 2008 win in the division, Playin’ Hooky and owner/exhibitor Liz Gassaway of Shelbyville, Tenn., picked up another set of roses with a unanimous decision of the panel and retired the Sabra Smith Memorial Challenge Trophy with the win. I’m Rose Walker and owner/exhibitor Lauren Hamilton of Murfreesboro and Cedar Grove, Tenn., pulled in to the second award. She’s Pretty Jazzy and Paige Bennett rounded out the top three Paige Bennett and Kaitlyn Rippy of Alvaton, Ky., and Greenbriar, Tenn.

Remaining in the Amateur division, class 144 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Show Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship. In the largest class of the night thus far, 23 of the 29 with reservations made it through the historic gates to work for all the glory in the talent heavy division. Judge Rollie Beard served as Call Judge in the class. Topping the extra large division with a stellar performance was the cool team of Be Cool and Spud Warr, World Champions in the Gentleman’s Show Pleasure preliminary on Monday Night, riding for Jeanette Warr of Phenix City, Ala. Coin’s Black Stroke and Jean O’ Brien were reserve for Reggie Pimental of Bell Buckle, Tenn. The American Choice and Dr. Linda Garrard of Shelbyville, Tenn., were third.

Western Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite-Shod, World Grand Championship (Canter), class 145, was up next on the schedule with one of the three on the schedule making the call to work for Judge Jennifer Bingham and her panel. Making the exhibition performance and capturing the win in the division was Red Sunday’s Best and Laurie Toone riding for Carrier and Toone of Franklin, Ky., and Bell Buckle, Tenn.

Class 146, Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, 15.2 & Under, World Grand Championship featured five of the nine programmed entries making their way down the hill to show off their very best for Judge Jamie Bradshaw and his staff. Capturing the win in this division was certainly a “Rocky Mountain High” for Lucky Collins and Rocky Mountain Sky as they rode away with the roses for Don and Lucky Collins of Bell Buckle, Tenn. Don Julio and Allie Napier were the popular reserve champions riding for the Tim Napier family of Union, Ky. Shock N Yall and owner/exhibitor Charles Stivers of Manchester, Ky., rounded out the top three.

Now, for the highlight of the evening, class 147 featured the final class of the evening, the Three-Year-Old Walking Horse World Grand Championship. Sixteen of the eighteen with reservations made their way down to the track as organist Larry Bright played the “Flat Walk Boogie” and announcer Bobby Sands encouraged the crowd to get all fired up for the class that was working to the track. Judge Mike Carpenter served as Call Judge in the final class of the evening. Capturing that final set of roses on the Thursday night performance and riding under the spotlight were Folsom Prison Blues and Rodney Dick riding for Judy McDonald of Tullahoma, Tenn. This duo claimed the Three-Year-Old Stallion, Div. A World Championship earlier in the week. Paroled In Texas and John Allan Callaway were second riding for the Coggin and Whittenburg families of Murfreesboro, Tenn. He’s A Jazz Thing and Derek Monahan were a very popular third riding for Ricky Frazier of Randleman, N.C.


Yes, yes. What an exciting night it has been! Make plans to be back in Shelbyville tomorrow night for twelve more exciting classes of Championship competition highlighted by the Youth Riders 12-17 World Grand Championship, the Amateur Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship and the Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship. It promises to be another great night that will not be one to miss!