by Mark Davis

The first Wednesday evening of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has become the traditional date for the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors Association's National Futurity, the industries' richest one night horse show. The show spotlights the industries Weanlings, Yearlings, Two-Year-Olds and Three-Year-Olds who are nominated to the TWHBEA's Futurity program.

As always, the 67th National Futurity was produced and managed by The Celebration and makes use of their officials including judges Rollie Beard of Lewisburg, Tenn., Stephen Brown of Yelm, Wash., Mack Motes of Eagleville, Tenn., Mike Sims of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Sam Sorrell of Lexington, Ky. Chip Walters of Murfreesboro, Tenn. did his usual outstanding job of handling the announcer's duties and Connie Dunlap of Murfreesboro, Tenn. entertained from the organ.

Holding with Celebration tradition, the American flag was presented by official flag horse Counterfeit Dollar with Bud Seaton in the irons. The invocation for the evening was presented by Stan Butt of Columbia, Tenn. followed by the stirring rendition of the National Anthem sung by Leah Boyd of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Opening the 13 class schedule was the TWHBEA Youth Medallion Championship. The Youth Medallion class was created five years ago to encourage youth riders to learn and become proficient at the canter. Riders showing in the Championship had to qualify by showing in at least one TWHBEA Youth Medallion Class during the 2005 season.

Thirteen of the 24 scheduled entries made the gate call as Judge Mike Sims called the gaits in the division. With an outstanding performance, the team of Watch For Glory and Erica Derickson captured the medal, the floral horseshoe and all the honors for the sister team of Erica and Maria Derickson of Wartrace, Tenn. In the reserve position was the dynamic duo of Grandy's Rhythm Lady and Hali Stokes for Tim and Bonnie Stokes of Franklin, Tenn. Stall Warning and owner/exhibitor Blake Everett of Belfast, Tenn. made a stellar performance to accept the yellow streamer.

With that, it was back to the purpose of the evening - highlighting the up and coming stars of our industry. Seven of the 11 nominated made the gate call for class 2, the Two-Year-Old Park Pleasure Stallions, Mares and Geldings with Judge Sam Sorrell leading the panel. Making the ride to the winner's circle with a unanimous decision of the judging panel was the team of Strictly A Winner and Manuel Rodriguez for Patricia Boiko of Orange, Calif. The reserve honors went to In Vogue, who had already captured a World Championship title during the morning performance in the Model Pleasure Mares division. Jay Laughlin was in the irons for Dr. Roger Richards of Hendersonville, Tenn. Savannah Lace and Donald Shubert were third in the event for John D. and Phillip W. Lay of Savannah, Tenn.

When you hear the "naaays" coming from the ring, it must be time for the Weanlings. Indeed it was as 16 of the 58 nominated made the gate call for class 3, the Weanling Fillies. Judge Rollie Beard served as call judge in the division. Heading to championship acclaim was Stormy's Silky Sue and Robert Nelms at the lead for J.T. and Martha Nelms of College Grove, Tenn. The attractive young filly, Rhinestone accepted the reserve honors for Scott Potter of Shelbyville, Tenn. Fame's Lady Lee accepted third for James C. Washburn of Fayetteville, Tenn.

Next up on the agenda was the Three-Year-Old Park Pleasure Stallions, Mares and Geldings. One of the three scheduled entries made the call as Judge Brown called the gaits. Capturing the win in the division was the duo of Beam's Motown Philly and Craig Swaggerty riding for A. Bruce & Nancy K. Lovato of West Jordan, Utah.

The Two-Year-Old Mares and Geldings were up next on the schedule with 17 of the 47 nominated hitting the track to work as Judge Motes called the gaits in the event. Riding to the victory in the talent laden division was Preakness and Joe Cotten for David Landrum of Franklin. Capturing a strong reserve was the team of She's Calamity Jane and Jimmy McConnell for Jim and Bonnie Gerhardt of Des Peres, Mo. Dangerous Gin and Joel Weaver accepted third for Jerry Laughlin - 4-J Land & Cattle Co. of Waynesville, Mo.

Back in the halter division, 25 of the 90 nominated made the gate for class 6, Yearling Fillies. Judge Mike Sims served as call judge in the division. It was turning out to be a big night for Robert Nelms and the Nelms Training Facility as they picked up their second win of the evening in the division as Nelms and 2004 TWHBEA National Futurity Weaning Filly and 2004 World Grand Champion Weanling A Jazz Attraction walked their way to the winner's circle with the approval of the crowd for Curt Washburn of Fayetteville, Tenn. Reserve honors in the event went to Honky Tonk Jessie and Allen Curtis for Dr. Roger Richards of Hendersonville, Tenn. Stone's Throw and Brian Wright took home the yellow streamer for Dr. Roger Richards of Hendersonville, Tenn. and Dr. George Wright of Mount Juliet, Tenn.

Returning to the under saddle events, the Two-Year-Old Lite Shod Pleasure division was up next on the schedule. Nineteen of the 25 nominated hit the track to work as Judge Sam Sorrell called the gaits. Making the National Futurity victory pass with a unanimous decision of the panel was the team of Muchacha Grande and Bobby Richards for Dr. Roger D. Richards of Hendersonville, Tenn. The duo preceded this with wins at Cornersville, Tenn. and Dickson, Tenn.'s Dickson County Horse Show. Reserve honors went to Dr. Judy Moore and Gold Coin in Dixie for Dr. Judy Moore and Ed Foust of Shelbyville, Tenn. Blue's Lady Pusher and owner/exhibitor Merrie Polch of Windsor, Ohio captured the third award.

Highlighting the performance horse division, class 8 brought the Three-Year-Old Mares and Geldings to the ring with six of the nine nominated making the ring to work for Judge Rollie Beard and staff. Riding to the top of the tough division was the 2004 TWHBEA National Futurity Two-Year-Old Mare Champion and 2004 World Champion Two-Year-Old Mare Sweepaway and Joe Cotten. Wins at Belfast, Tenn. and The Celebration's Spring Fun Show led up to this win, Cotten's second of the evening. Sweepaway is owned by Dr. Rafael and Pat Rigual of Oklahoma City, Okla. and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Receiving a cheer from the crowd, Jose's Switchblade captured the reserve title for Lesa Hessling of Pleasant Hill, Mo. Lone Commander and Bill Callaway rode to the third award for Lucy C. Blackmon of Rayle, Ga.

As Sweepaway and Joe Cotten were making their victory pass, one could already hear the hollers of more of our industry's babies meaning the Weanling Colts must be next on the agenda. Twenty-six of the 89 entries nominated made announcer Chip Walters gate call for Class 9 as Judge Stephen Brown led the panel. When all the cards were in, it seemed to all line up for the reigning Fayetteville, Tenn Blue Ribbon Horse Show champions I'm All Lined Up and Chris Richards to capture top honors in the division for Michael and Melissa McAlister of Fayetteville,Tenn. Taking home a popular reserve title were The Syndicate and Robert Nelms showing for Steve Heitmiller of Laguna Beach, Calif. Owner/exhibitor Kim Bailey of Lynchburg, Tenn. was all smiles as she accepted her yellow streamer for her youngster, John Madden.

Class 10 brought 10 of the 17 nominated to the ring for the Three-Year-Old Lite Shod Pleasure event. Judge Mack Motes served as call judge for the event. Returning to the winner's circle in the division was 2004 TWHBEA National Futurity Two-Year-Old Lite Shod champions, Rev's Super Speed and Howard Hamilton riding for Duane and Connie Ripple of Keosauqua, Iowa. This duo has dominated the Lite Shod division on the Mid-South circuit this season picking up wins at Holly Springs, Miss., Henderson, Tenn's Chester County Horse Show, Paris, Tenn.'s Optimist Club of Paris Horse Show, Brownsville, Tenn.'s Exchange Club Horse Show and Memphis, Tenn.'s Germantown Charity Horse Show. Reserve in the division went to The Texas Lexus and Jay Laughlin for 4-J Land and Cattle Company of Waynesville, Mo. Bluz LeDae and Kevin Marker accepted the third award for Bobby Richards of Franklin, Tenn.

The large National Futurity crowd still on hand started to really sit up and take notice as class 11, the Two-Year-Old Stallions took the track with 16 of the 45 nominated making the call under the watchful eye of Judge Mike Sims and his cohorts. It almost seemed that every spectator in attendance had their own favorite, but there could only be one champion. That champion would be the 2005 Mississippi State Charity and Celebration Spring Fun Show Two-Year-Old Stallion champion The Gold Pistol with Joe Cotten in the irons for Waterfall Farms of Shelbyville, Tenn. Riding to a popular reserve were Elmore and Rodney Dick for Rodger and Harolene Willis of Wartrace, Tenn. Gen On The Run and Justin Harris made a strong performance to capture the yellow streamer for Michael and Ty Hart of Corbin, Ky.

The final halter class of the evening, Yearling Colts, brought 23 of the 96 nominated to the track to work for National Futurity acclaim as Judge Sam Sorrell and staff closely evaluated their talent. When the work and the conformation judging was complete, announcer Chip Walters called the reigning Cornersville, Tenn. Yearling Colt champion and International Yearling Grand Championship team of Just A Jazzman and Robert Nelms to the winner's circle for owner Curt Washburn of Fayetteville, Tenn. Leading to a popular reserve in the division was Coach Johnny Majors and Nathan Mills at the lead for proud grandfather Hoyte Eakes of Donelson, Tenn. Accepting the third award was the Harlinsdale Farm entry of Power Force.

The crowd was once again on notice as the final class of the evening, the Three-Year-Old Stallions, took the track with 10 of the 24 nominated making the call to work for Judge Rollie Beard and the panel. When the work was complete it was the team of Jose Grande' and Bill Bobo taking the honors with a unanimous decision of the panel for owner Judy McDonald of Tullahoma, Tenn. This win marks Bobo's first performance of the year with the talented young stallion, but he has captured wins in the amateur division with Gail Walling at the National Trainers' Show, Murfreesboro, Tenn.'s Exchange Club Horse Show and Lewisburg, Tenn.'s Marshall County Horse Show. Reserve in the division was captured by Kid Callahan and Mike Thomas for Lloyd David Cassidy of Mt. Sterling, Ky. Another RPM and Chad Williams accepted the yellow streamer for Larry M. Grishom of Ooltewah, Tenn.

And, with that final victory pass by Jose Grande' and Bill Bobo, the 67th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association's National Futurity was in the record books, and what a night it was, proving that the future of our industry is indeed very bright.