by Mark Davis

After a late evening on Thursday night, that ran 20 minutes or so into Friday morning, the fans were on hand early as the cool breeze blew through the historic Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration main arena getting ready for the evening’s performance. Fourteen classes made up the schedule, highlighted by the Youth 11 & Under on Walking Geldings, Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions, Three-Year-Old Walking Stallions and Four-Year-Old Walking Geldings.

Marking the cards for this evening, and every performance of the 71st annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration were 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 the Rev. Mark F. Ashley, pastor of New Hope Chapel of Shelbyville, Tenn., followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Stephen Smith of Murfreesboro, Tenn. 
As official flag horse Counterfeit Dollar and Bud Seaton headed back up the hill, it was time to call the first class of the evening, class 49A, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Walking Geldings down to the big oval. Ten of the 14 expected made the gate call to work hard for Judge Jennifer Bingham, her staff and the Friday night crowd. Jessie Laughlin and Too Tall Jones proved they were just the right size to make the victory pass in the section for Jessie Laughlin and Horses To Go, LLC of Waynesville, Mo., and and Rockwall, Texas. This team had ridden to a win earlier this year at the Parker’s Crossroads Horse Show.  Bold Stroke’s Attraction and owner/exhibitor Hailey Puckett of Wartrace, Tenn., were reserve, with Outrageous Attitude and Will Cole pulling into the third spot for proud mom, Rhonda Cole of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Class 49B, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Walking Geldings hit the track with 10 of the 13 programmed entries making the call. Judge Jamie Bradshaw led the panel in the class. Giving just that extra little push, the team of Kentucky Push’s Pride and owner/exhibitor Dylan Young of Mt. Sterling, Ky., put on a performance that had the crowd cheering all the way around as they rode to the winner’s circle.  This team’s had a very good season on the Kentucky circuit picking up wins at the Morehead Spring Show, Carter County Shrine Show, Bourbon County Fair Horse Show and reserves at the Derby Classic, North Middletown, Ky., and Danville, Ky. Another Kentucky duo, Nathan Oliver and Major Player had the approval of the crowd as well as they pulled into the second position for Taylor Oliver of Bowling Green, Ky. STS and Alex Blackburn collected the yellow streamers for Corlew and Blackburn of Adams and Franklin, Tenn.


The professional trainers made their first appearance of the night in class 50, Two-Year-Old Walking Geldings. Thirteen of the 30 with reservations worked to the rail under the watchful eye of Judge Mike Carpenter and his cohorts. They had their sights set high, but proved to come through as 9 In The Sky and Wayne Jones, 2009 champions at the Tony Rice Horse Show, were called to the winner’s circle for Corri Knudson of Roanoke Rapids, N.C. Chad Williams and Bacardi And Me pulled into the second spot for Don and Lucky Collins of Bell Buckle, Tenn. American Heart Throb and Jimmy McConnell rounded out the top three for The Tommy Grider Family of Columbia, Ky.

Class 51 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions. Fourteen of the 40 on the books beat the time clock and made it down the hill to work as Judge Sam Sorrell called the gaits in the class. Knocking it out of the park to make that sentimental journey down victory lane with a unanimous decision of the panel was DiMaggio and owner/exhibitor Alexandria Holland taking the win home to Decatur, Ala. This win was preceded by wins at the Grinder’s Switch Horse Show and PC Splash Horse Show.  Another Alabama duo, On The Line and Suzanne Moore stopped in for the red streamers for Bud Moore of Catherine, Ala. The hometown duo of Jazzed Up and Brenda Bramlett were third for Bramlett and Wilson of Shelbyville, Tenn.


The trainers were back for class 52A, Three-Year-Old Walking Stallions, and the large Friday night crowd in attendance was more than ready to see what excitement this half of the class would hold. Twenty-five of the 44 on the books made the gate call and announcer Bobby Sands let the exhibitors know early on that a workout would be required to properly tie the class. Judge Rollie Beard served as Call Judge for the section. After the first work was complete, 15 were asked to remain for additional work to determine who would capture the title of World Champion Three-Year-Old Stallion. Breaking out with an outstanding performance capturing the approval of all five judges were Folsom Prison Blues and Rodney Dick riding for their moment in the spotlight for Judy McDonald of Tullahoma, Tenn. This win was preceded with wins at the Columbia Spring Jubilee and Red Carpet Show of the South. George W. McClintock and Link Webb pulled into the second position for Holland, Kilgore and Lovett of Decatur, Tuscaloosa and Mobile, Ala. Dark & Shady and Jimmy McConnell stopped in for the yellow ribbons riding for the Molly Walters family of Southlake, Texas.

Class 52 B, Three-Year-Old Stallions brought 23 more outstanding entries to the track and with a quick look around the ring, it appeared that this section would be just as exciting as the previous one. Judge Jennifer Bingham called the gaits in this division. Putting on the stellar performance to capture the win in the section was He’s Slim Shady with Jimmy McConnell up riding the entry sired by 2004 WGC The Black Night Shade, who of course was trained and campaigned by McConnell as well. Shady and McConnell were 2009 winners at the Mid South Horse Show and Marshall County Horse Show. This black stallion is owned by Mike and Lee McGartland of Ft. Worth, Texas. Another Night Shade get, Lethal Nightshade and Mac Benham were reserve for Phyllis Langley of Sand Point, Idaho. Strait Line Cash and Philip Trimble rounded out the top three for the Richard Justice family of Pinson, Ala.


Adding a little variety to the evening, the Park Performance horses were up next on the schedule for class 53, Park Performance Walking Horses, Four Years & Under with 16 of the 20 with reservations making the call to work for Judge Jamie Bradshaw and his panel. Riding to the top of the class was Last Dollar and Tim Smith, 2009 champions at the WHAA Charity Horse Show, for Beverly McNeill of Andalusia, Ala. Another Alabama entry, Gangster’s Hit Man and Nathan Clark were second for Clark Farms of Arab, Ala.  Headed back out west with third were Prodigy and Sherri Pollack riding for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif., and Shelbyville, Tenn.

The young riders were back for class 54, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-14 Years on Walking Ponies. Nine of the 27 expected worked down from Calsonic Arena to show their very best for the Friday night crowd and the judging panel, who was led in the event by Judge Mike Carpenter. Intimidating the competition with an outstanding performance was Silver Dollar Intimidator and Trey Blackburn riding for Amy Blackburn of Arab, Ala. This win tallied number four for 2009 with previous wins coming at Reeltown, Ala., the Alabama Ladies Auxiliary Horse Show and the Arab Parks and Recreation Horse Show. Headed back to the Buckeye State, Ritz Tornado and Meghan Davis accepted the red ribbon for Mike and Beth Davis of Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m Major Payne and WhitLei Green was third for Keisha Ashe of Asheville, N.C.

Class 55 brought a very special group of horses to the ring, the Classic Horses, those 15 years or older and this class featured those horses with the Owner-Amateur riders. Nine of the 13 expected made their way to the historic big oval to show everyone that their entry still has it, even at age 15 plus! Judge Sam Sorrell served as Call Judge for the class. Pushing their way to the win tonight was Elvis Pusher and Clay Sanderson who was presenting for John Furline of Athens, Ala. Silver Design and Alex Way were reserve for Ellison, Way and Allred of Thorsby and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Jamestown, Tenn. Walking All Over and owner/exhibitor Stacey Blackburn of Franklin, Tenn., rounded out the top three positions.

Elite Owner-Amateur Gentleman Riders on Walking Mares or Geldings were up next, class 56 on the evening’s schedule with nine of the 20 programmed entries taking the rail to work as Judge Rollie Beard called the gaits in the class. Topping the division for the second consecutive year was High Jacked and Dr. Jim Baum riding proudly for Lisa Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn. With the win, the team retired the David Bledsoe, Sr. Memorial Challenge Trophy, the Ed Turrentine Memorial Challenge Trophy and the Robert Thomas, Sr. and Robert M. Thomas, Jr. Memorial Challenge Trophy. Brigand and owner/exhibitor Jeff Smith took the reserve honors back home to Greer, S.C. Matador and Tim Brooks were third for Tim and Terry Brooks of Hot Springs, Ark.


The trainers returned the big oval for class 57, Four-Year-Old Geldings (Canter). Seven of the 14 with reservations beat the clock to work for that coveted Celebration blue in the division. Judge Jennifer Bingham served as Call Judge in the class. Walking that winning line in the event was The Lineman and Chad Williams riding for Jeanette Warr of Phenix City, Ala. This team has already had a successful 2009 with wins at the Petersburg Lions Club Horse Show, National Trainers’ Show, Bedford County FFA Horse Show and PC Splash Horse Show. Alabama trainer Jerry Collier and Hytone On Line pulled into the second position for Harold Malone of Tuscumbia, Ala. Headed up to the Bluegrass State, Bob McQuerry and Super’s Survivor accepted the golden streamers for Peggy Caldwell of Danville, Ky.

Headed into the Pleasure division, class 58 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses. Judge Jamie Bradshaw led the panel in the event that drew 12 of the 24 programmed entries to the big oval. Making the stellar performance and capturing the win were Yao Ming and owner/exhibitor Nicole Coffey of Lewisburg, Tenn. He’s On Georgia Time and Kelly Gordon pulled in for second for Stonegait Farms of Orange, Calif. BB King’s Jazz and owner/exhibitor Jeanne Patterson of Gulf Hammock, Fla., were third.

Owner-Amateur Lady Riders on Walking Mares were up next for class 59 with 16 of the 22 teams expected making the call to work the gaits under the watch of Judge Mike Carpenter and his panel. Topping this class for the second consecutive year, were My First Dollar and George-Ann Pratt riding for Don Pratt of Shawnee Mission, Kansas. With this win, they retired the My Jackie O Memorial Challenge Trophy. Bo’s Shania Rose and Brenda Carlon were reserve for Dr. Harv Carlon of Lowell, Mi., and Flat Creek, Tenn. Ms. Jose Walks and Sister Milligan of Panama City, Fla., rounded out the top three in the class.

The final class of the evening performance, class 60, featured the Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite-Shod, Riders 18 & Over. Seven of the 20 on the books made the late night ride under the watchful eye of Call Judge Sam Sorrell and his cohorts. Picking up her second blue of the day, Elegance Of Design teamed up this time with trainer Mark Lambert to top this division for Kasidy R. Petty of Riverton, Utah. The earlier win came with Nancy Lovato in the Owner/Amateur 50 & Over Lite-Shod Class during the Friday Morning session. Double Java and Scott Benham were reserve for the Mike Chiappari family of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Bell Buckle, Tenn. Major Orders and Patrick Thomas were third for Brenda Gey of Montverde, Fla.

With that final picture and final victory pass complete; the first Friday night of the 71st annual Celebration was in the record books and another successful night it proved to be with 180 entries showing in 14 classes of competition.

The excitement will certainly pick up even more over the next several days as we will get our first glimpse of the Aged Stallions on Saturday night, the Four-Year-Old Stallions and Aged Mares on Sunday night and the Two-Year Old Stallions (three sections strong!) and 15.2 & Under Stallions on Monday night.

Ah, yes, The Celebration excitement certainly is hard to beat. 

Click here for a complete results of Friday evening's classes.