By K.C. Hensley

I have enjoyed everyone’s comments about my new column, Getting To Know. I wanted this column to help introduce people to the walking horse industry or give acknowledgement to those who have been involved for awhile. If you know someone who would make a great feature or if you have comments please e-mail me at

UNION CITY, Tenn. - We all know him; we all love him; he is The Black Night Shade. If there was ever a Cinderella story that swept us off our feet, it is the story of The Black Night Shade.

He was destined for a championship life from the beginning. Mack Chandler of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., made plans to breed his mare Final’s Call Girl to the sought after breeding stallion Poison. This truly proved to be an outstanding cross. Poison's pedigree has over four world grand champions already. Night Shade's dam, Final's Call Girl has strong bloodlines as well. She was sired by Pride's Final Edition. The Black Night Shade would be the last colt she would have the opportunity to produce, however, because shortly after giving birth to him, Final's Call Girl succumbed to colic.

In the beginning Night Shade would only drink goat's milk, Chandler said. Knowing that the colt would need special attention and care after the death of his mother, Chandler brought him to Bobby Mulvey and Judy Stephens in Shelbyville, Tenn., when he was only a day old. Mulvey and Stephens operate Special Care located behind Oakwood Farm.

They had to bottle feed Night Shade every hour for the first two weeks that he was there. His time was increased gradually until he six weeks old and he was able to be fed about every four hours.

Mulvey and Stephens were the ones who came up with his name. "We were going through a medical book looking under poison, because he is sired by Poison," said Stephens. Finally, they came up with The Black Night Shade, which is a poison found in mushrooms.

Jose' Canizalez, who works for Special Care, was the first one to be on Night Shade's back. Stephens said, "There wasn't a mean bone in his body." Mulvey was the second one to ride The Black Night Shade. "He is such a natural horse," said Stephens. He has a good shot to win it and we'll be the loudest ones in the crowd," Stephens said.

Night Shade now makes his home at Formac Stables, where he has been since he was 18 months old. Jimmy McConnell is the owner and trainer of Formac Stables located in Union City, Tenn. McConnell said that Night Shade showed him something special after only 30 days of work. “He has a lot of natural ability," said McConnell.

During his early years he was very willing when asked to work. And now that he is an aged horse, going into his fifth year of showing, he doesn't get excessive work or even get worked everyday.

Night Shade was brought to McConnell in December of 1999 as a yearling, and was sold to Tom Waite by the first of February. "They are without hesitation, ideal customers," McConnell said about the purchase.

Tom and Judy Waite reside in Milton, Fla. Tom first fell in love with the Tennessee Walking Horse several years before The Black Night Shade came along. While going through his college years at Middle Tennesse State University, Tom took an Agriculture class and an Equitation class. During the Equitation class, he was first introduced to the smooth gait of the walking horse.

Though the Waites had been partners with other owners of colts at Formac Stables, The Black Night Shade was the first show horse they had ever owned by themselves.

Jimmy McConnell was the first and only person to ever show The Black Night Shade. Their partnership has proven itself many times over, and they have become a force to be reckoned with. Night Shade and McConnell's debut show was at the Cotton Classic in Collierville, Tenn. They finished in blue ribbon style and were crowned the two-year-old open champions. This was the first of many victories for the team.

In 2001 as Night Shade began his three-year-old season he grew stronger and began to gain endurance and stamina. His resume also got more impressive as the awards mounted including the Fred T. Fowler Memorial Three-Year-Old Open and the Three-Year-Old Stallion title from Wartrace. He finished out the season claiming his first world championship in the three-year-old stallion division.

Night Shade's four-year-old year was his first year of stake competitions. McConnell and Night Shade claimed their first victory at the Gulf Coast Charity Celebration in Panama City, Fla. Their next stake win would be a "hometown blue" in Germantown, Tenn. They ended the 2002 season with a total of five stake wins!

During the 2003 show season, Jimmy McConnell, The Black Night Shade and the Waites made their goal quite clear. They wanted to win the world grand championship. That goal was almost a reality that same year. McConnell and Night Shade were crowned the world champions in the aged stallions division, and also claimed reserve world grand championship honors. Not only did The Black Night Shade claim his second world championship in 2003, he also had his best year ever claiming eight stake championships.

McConnell said one of his most memorable moments was winning that world championship with The Black Night Shade. “Going from one that you started to one that could win the big stake makes it that much more special," he said.

Through all his shows, one thing about The Black Night Shade has remained the same; he is strong and exciting.

2004 holds the future for The Black Night Shade. With plans already in the works to make appearances at the Trainers’ Show and the Gulf Coast Celebration, 2004 is sure to be another year filled with excitement. It has been a stairstep ladder to the top for this great team. All signs point to "yes" for their final goal to become a reality. World grand champions have qualities that not every horse possesses. The Black Night Shade is one such horse. He has the pedigree, the stamina, a talented trainer and owners with a goal.