by Jennifer Styskal

The first day of the 71st annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration opened up with overcast skies and cool temperatures, which were a nice break from the typical Middle Tennessee heat. Right at 9 a.m. the Model Pleasure Walking Mares hit the ring with seven entries showing off their conformation and gait. After judges Rollie Beard, Jennifer Bingham, Jamie Bradshaw, Mike Carpenter and Sam Sorrell walked the line up, number 129 was called to step out first and receive the rewards. The black mare Perfect Cut Jewel and Jeff Givens walked away with the first blue of the week. Holly Thrasher is the proud owner of the mare who has already earned three blue ribbons this year. A Red Ruby and Laurie Toone carried out the red ribbon for owners Gassaway & Toone. A Red Ruby has already amassed an impressive 22 wins for the year.

Section A of the Owner-Amateur English Trail Pleasure Adult Riders entertained the crowd next with 16 entries making for a full class. Each entry put on a stellar performance, but when the class was over Liz Gassaway’s horse, Playin’ Hooky was named the champion. This team made their first 2009 show ring appearance this morning, continuing an undefeated season from 2008. Number 7 was called out of the line up for the reserve ribbon. Tim Brooks directed I’m Benny Too to the honors with six previous wins already under their belt.

Twelve entries hit the ring for the second section of the Owner-Amateur English Trail Pleasure Adult Riders division. Walking their way out of the ring after a nice ride was Lauren Hamilton on her I’m Rose Walker. Hamilton beamed all the way around the ring as she showed off her blue ribbon, adding to the previous nine won by I’m Rose Walker this year. She’s Pretty Jazzy and Paige Bennett teamed up to capture the reserve honors in a competitive class. Earlier in the year, Kaitlin Rippy helped show She’s Pretty Jazzy to add six wins to the mare’s resume.

The novice riders and horses made their show ring appearance in the Owner-Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Show Pleasure Walking Horses Section A. After a brief time out, the teams went back to work, each trying to impress the judges. Making the biggest impression to earn a unanimous decision was The American Choice. Linda Garrad and her flaxen mane and tail horse rode out of the novice division with a smile. They added this world championship to three other blue ribbons won this year. Proudly taking the reserve ribbon home was Janet Crunk and Jubilee’s Awesome Dream. This team had earned a blue at Spring Hill Lions Horse Show before coming to the Celebration.

Section B of the Owner–Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Show Pleasure Walking Horses had 17 entries who strutted their stuff for the judging panel. Godfather By Ultra Copy and Dr. Morna Conway were the first to be announced by Mark Farrar Jr. after the line up was judged. Giving a world champion smile, they walked to the winner’s circle. Godfather By Ultra Copy added this blue to top off a great season of nine previous victories. The sleek black Firey Generator carried Paula Sensing to the red ribbon after making a good show. Ross Campbell directed Firey Generator to two victories this season before Sensing took the reins for a reserve world championship.

Ten teams walked around Calsonic ring to earn a top spot in the Owner-Amateur & Trained Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite-Shod. Back number 1753 rode out from the line up first to accept the blue ribbon prize. The beautiful roan Gen’s Million Dollar Baby and Jimmy Laughlin teamed up to beat out the competition for 4-J Land & Cattle Co. Gen’s Million Dollar Baby showed just five classes earlier to earn a ribbon in the Model Pleasure Mares class. Push To Strike and Ralph Bowling collected the reserve honors in a solid performance, adding to their 2009 resume which already contains two blues.

The youth made their first appearance of the week in the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 12-17 Years on Plantation Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings, Lite-Shod. Topping a class of five entries with a unanimous decision, Double Java and Jacqueline Holtschult rode to the winner’s circle. This world championship capped off an undefeated season for this team. Picking up the red ribbon was the head-shaking grey Dusty Bunny and Allison Thorson. Dust Bunny has already earned 10 wins from across the country this year.

Decked out in silver and glitter, the Owner-Amateur Riders on Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses, Four Years & Under entries thrilled the crowd with their smooth gates and easy disposition. Aspen Exclusive caught the eye of the crowd as well as the judges to take away to the blue ribbon. Jamie Phillips was in the irons. Aspen Exclusive has already had a successful year with two other victories from Carolina shows. Overpass and Patti Pollack put on a good show to claim the reserve ribbon. Pollack’s coat nicely matched with her golden colored horse who has captured six blues this year.

The western horses continued to show off the versatility of the breed in the Western Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite-Shod (Canter). Four entries answered the gate call. Loping away with the world champion honors was Honor My Cash with Patrick Thomas in the saddle for Donnie and Debbie Parmer. This team captured their second world championship in as many years, continuing an undefeated season. Red Sunday’s Best and Laurie Toone picked up the red honors for Carrier & Toone. Winner of this class last year, Red Sunday’s Best added the reserve world championship to a resume that already included four blue ribbons.

A large class of 22 two-year-olds filed into the ring, all vying for the top spot on the judges’ cards in the Owner-Amateur English or Western Trail Pleasure, Two Years Old, Adult Riders. Even with 22 teams competing for the blue, the judges all agreed Bustline with Rhiannon Barker should go to the winner’s circle. This young horse already had a previous win on his record for Barker & Benjamin. The well-put together pair of Gigi’s Majestic and Jennifer McElroy were proud of their reserve ribbon in a very tough class. Gigi’s Majestic has claimed six victories for the partnership of Martin, Hankins & McElroy.

The crowd really got behind the group of six in the Owner-Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Park Pleasure Walking Mares. Walking away with all five of the judges’ votes was the pair of Girl’s Rule and Jason Morris for Gilmore & Morris. Morris smiled all the way down victory lane as Girl’s Rule carried out her second blue in as many classes this year. Williwakin claimed the second place honors with Sharon Higginbotham. They earned the reserve world championship in this class last year as well.

The large classes kept on coming with 20 in the English or Western Country Pleasure, Adult Riders class. This is the first time this division has been held at the Celebration. The first world champion of this division was the second win of the day for A Red Ruby with Liz Gassaway in the saddle. A Royal Attraction and Jackie Osborne bested a talented class to take home the reserve honors. A world champion last year, A Royal Attraction added a well-earned reserve to a resume of 10 wins in 12 showings.

Rounding out the first session of the 71st Celebration was the Plantation Pleasure Driving, Lite-Shod, 2 or 4 Wheel Vehicle with five entries. Driving away with the final blue of the afternoon was Major Orders with Patrick Thomas at the lines. Reserve in this class last year, Major Orders added this world championship to seven previous wins. Arm’s Scarlett O’Hara and Jeff Laughlin teamed up to take away the red ribbon. This busy mare also earned a third this morning with Stratton Weaver in the irons in the Owner-Amateur Youth 12-17 on Plantation Pleasure Lite-Shod Mares or Geldings.

Click here for a complete listing of Wednesday morning results.