by Mark McGee | photos by Shane Shiflet

It was competition for all ages from six to 70 Friday night in “The Big Oval” at the 85th Annual Tennessee Walking  Horse National Celebration with 14 classes.

Dan Reed of New Vision Baptist Church in Unionville, Tennessee, gave the invocation. Celebration Judge Leah Boyd did double duty with a powerfully impressive rendition of the “National Anthem”.

Ronnie Spears and flag horse White Diamond  Dollar presented the Stars and Stripes under the spotlight to open the festivities. There was a special flavor to the music as organist J. Brantley was challenged  by ring announcer Mark Farrar to play certain country selections as part of the “Western Night” celebration.

Six of nine programmed entries answered the gate call to open the evening competition with David Sisk calling the Owner-Amateur Lady Drivers, Fine Harness class. American Titleist was driven to first place by Marla Lovett for Lovett and Beard of Mobile, Alabama, and Lewisburg, Tennessee. It was their third blue in a row in five classes this summer. I’m Ole Red tied for the red ribbon with co-owner Carol Missildine driving for co-owner Russell Enterprises. LT Horatio Cane and Alex Blackburn placed third for Stacy Blackburn. 

The Master Of Ceremonies and Fount Darnell were a unanimous first in the Western Lite-Shod class for owners Darnell and Moran of Christiana and Unionville, Tennessee. Hello I’m Johnny Cash, a classic horse, was reserve with Jeana Kayle aboard for Thomas, Tackett, Adams and Macey. Only two of eight entries competed for call judge Kenny Smith.

For the second year in a row, I Am Bold And Spicy Jose’ and Taylor Baucom took top honors in the 15.2 & Under Mares & Geldings class for Connie Hess of Maryville, Tennessee. The team was the unanimous selection of the five-judge panel. I Am Bold And Spicy Jose’ has three blues in five shows this summer. Derek Bonner was the call judge with 11 of 23 listed entries participating. Honor And Obey and R.M. Kellett walked away with a red streamer for owners Mr. and Mrs. Howard Eastridge. Hey Here I Am was ridden to third by Scott Beaty for Joe Bertram.

Repeat victories continued in the Owner-Amateur Park Performance Mares & Geldings class. Do Right walked right with Dr. Jim Baum in the saddle for Lisa Baum of Shelbyville, Tennessee. They also teamed up to win the class in 2022 and 2020. This season they are three-for-three in blues for the season. Go Peyton Go scored a reserve award with co-owner Jim Bowman riding for co-owner Jackie Barron. On Maximum Security, a class horse, and Dr. Steve Powers tied third for Doug Powers. Fourteen of 20 expected horse and rider teams worked with Leah Boyd directing as the call judge.

Nathan Clark called the gaits in a highly competitive Owner-Amateur Youth 6-11 on Geldings class. Cole Haan and rider Ally Jo Jacobs shined brightest for The Jake Jacobs Family from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with a unanimous first place ride. They have won five blues in seven classes this year. With seven of 10 planned entries competing, It’s The Medalist, a classic horse, was ridden to second by co-owner Eli Cunningham for co-owner James Wilson. The Megalodon and owner-rider Wylder Way took home a yellow ribbon.

With six of 15 expected rider and horse teams making the gate call in the Owner-Amateur English Park Pleasure class, Title Line was selected as the unanimous blue-ribbon winner for owner-rider Abby Farmer of Nickelsville, Virginia. It was their second blue in three shows in 2023. I Walk The Walk and co-owner Carol Missildine walked to reserve for co-owner Denny Russell. Olympic Aftershock won the bronze in third place for owner-rider Kelly Clark. David Sisk directed the gaits.

Good Samaritan and co-owner Pam Russell rode to the winner’s circle as the unanimous selection in the Owner-Amateur 70 & Over class. They have three blues in five shows this summer. Six of 22 programmed entries worked for call judge Kenny Smith. Dixie White Socks was second for owner-rider Dr. Linda Garrard. The yellow streamer was presented to A King Thing for owner-rider Bob Adcock.

Owner-rider Sadie Fowler Parsons of Nashville, Tennessee, is no longer a novice after guiding Dim The Lights to the blue in the Owner-Amateur Novice Ladies on Mares & Geldings, Div. A class. Co-owned with Rod Parsons, Dim The Lights has five blues in eight classes this show season. Jake Ryan tied second with owner-rider Beth Alagna. Lane View’s Master, a classic horse, placed third with Patti Reynolds in the saddle for Greg and Kali Lovett. Fifteen of 21 listed entries competed with 14 staying for final judging. Derek Bonner called the class.

Half of the 22 horse and rider teams expected in the Three-Year-Old Stallions, Div. A class found their way to “The Big Oval” with Nathan Clark calling the gaits. Honky Tonk and John Allan Callaway were the blue ribbon pick for Alan Riddley of Kings Mountain, North Carolina. They have two wins in three classes in 2023. Hotty Toddy Gosh A’Mighty tied reserve with Sam Martin in the irons for Greg Kiser. I’m Choobacca and Jimmy McConnell were third for Beverly Sherman. 

It wasn’t enough for Marla Lovett to open the show with a first-place ride in the Owner-Amateur Ladies  Fine Harness class, she also rode her way out of the novice division in the Owner-Amateur Novice Ladies on Mares & Geldings, Div. B class with I’m Deuce, a classic horse. Co-owned by Rick Lovett of Mobile, Alabama, it was the second blue in as many classes for I’m Deuce this summer. Where’s My Cash and co-owner-rider Kendra White walked out with a red streamer for co-owner Bobby White. Bella’s Wicked Cash was ridden to third by Susan Erwin for Presley Erwin. Leah Boyd was the call judge with 14 of 21 programmed entries competing.  

Big John Coffey, “like the drink, only not spelled the same” took top honors in the Three-Year-Old Walking Stallions, Div. B class for The Kyle Insell Family from Shelbyville, Tennessee. It was the third blue in a row for the team in five classes this show season. David Sisk was the call judge for the 14 of 22 expected entries. I’m Classic Rock and Lake Weaver played the right notes for a second place finish for owners Bobby and John Silver. Jimmy McConnell and A’Mighty Gin tied third for Mike Floyd.

Call judge Kenny Smith called the gaits for 13 of 21 entries in the Owner-Amateur Ladies Show Pleasure class. Kong dominated the competition with owner-rider Allyson Armstrong of Hickory, North Carolina, earning the first tie unanimously. It was the third blue in as many classes this year for Kong. Escapee and co-owner Jennifer Pendleton placed reserve for co-owner Samantha Green. He’s Primetime and co-owner-rider Kasie Caldwell Sanderson rode out with a yellow ribbon for co-owner Coy Sanderson.

Master’s Cool Jazz and owner-rider Glenda Nichols of Ozark, Missouri, lost their novice status with a blue ribbon performance in the Owner-Amateur Novice Ladies on Stallions class. An Apocalypse and owner-rider Tina Moss rode out with a red streamer. Charleston JDC tied third for co-owner Malaya Jester riding for co-owner Chad Adams. Derek Bonner called the class with 10 of 15 programmed entries making it to “The Big Oval”.

Leah Boyd called the gaits for nine of 17 entries to close out the night with the Owner-Amateur Ladies Mares taking to the ring. Harley Quinn and owner-rider Beth Collins of Staunton, Virginia, rode to the winner’s circle to claim the top honors. It was their third blue in five classes this summer. Me And Pocahontas placed reserve for owner-rider Allyson Armstrong, while Charlie’s Perfect Angel and owner-rider Tara Rhoades were third.