By Mark Davis

What a great time to be at a horse show and what better place to be at a great horse show than Shelbyville, Tenn., the ten nights prior to Labor Day weekend!  It appears that Mother Nature may just be smiling down on us as the hot sun that we experienced last year over the first few days of the show has turned into clouds and a cool breeze tonight with only a slight chance of showers late.  Hopefully, the weatherman was correct and the showers will hold off until after we get our first look at the Aged Stallions tonight and after the street party, which will be held once again in the old warm up ring after the show.

As in most years, tonight’s crowd will be excited to take that first look at the World Grand Championship contenders and get an idea of what next Saturday’s class will look like.  Will it be the favorites remaining at the top of the splits or will we have a surprise or two, it certainly will be exciting to see.

As the time drew ever closer to 7pm, official flag horse Counterfeit Dollar and Bud Seaton appeared at the entry gate and promptly at 7pm, the gate swung open and the horse show was underway.

The invocation for the evening will be given by Steve Murphree, pastor of the Midland Heights Baptist Church of Shelbyville, Tenn., followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Rochelle Smith of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The officials for the 70th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration include Rollie Beard of Lewisburg, Tenn, Nathan Clark of Arab, Ala., Jamie Hankins of Paris, Ky., Tommy Howell of Shelbyville, Tenn., and Mack Motes of Eagleville, Tenn. 

The first class of the evening, class 70A, Owner-Amateur Novice Lady Riders on Novice Walking Mares or Geldings.  It featured 21 of the 37 expected making their way down the hill to get their chance to work for the big Saturday night crowd in hopes of making their way out of the big ring tonight with that very first, very coveted Celebration blue.  Judge Jamie Hankins served as Call Judge for the first event of the evening.  Riding right out of the novice division tonight was the big walking Kat Man Dude and Carla Brown riding high for Ashtyn Claire Brown of Columbia, Tenn.  This duo had 2008 wins at Cleveland, Tenn.’s Children’s Miracle Network Horse Show, Mt. Pleasant, Tenn.’s Lions Club Horse Show and Fayetteville, Tenn.’s Blue Ribbon Horse Show.  Remaining a novice for another day and riding into the second position was Jazz Man’s Echo and Kelly Stewart-Lokey up for J & M Farms of Baileyton, Ala.  Ritz Custom Made and Debbie Flack was third for Jim and Debbie Flack of Tallahassee, Fla, and Shelbyville, Tenn.

Carla Brown and Kat Man Dude claimed the first blue ribbon of the evening as the were crowned WC Owner-Amateur Novice Lady Riders on Novice Walking Mares or Geldings.

Class 70B brought 18 of the 36 with reservations for the remaining split of the Owner/Amateur Novice Lady Riders on Novice Walking Mares or Geldings.  Judge Tommy Howell led the panel in the event.  Making that first sentimental journey down victory lane in this event, after registering a successful 2008 with wins at the Alabama Ladies Auxiliary Horse Show, Cullman, Ala.’s Fairview Lions Club Show, Columbiana, Ala.’s Shelby County Horse Show, Arab, Ala. and Decatur, Ala.’s WHAA Charity Horse Show, was A Dangerous Man and owner/exhibitor Donna Ingle Hill of Troy, Mo. and  Cleveland, Ala.  Grand Sweepstakes and Lorie Riddley pulled in to accept reserve for Alan and Lorie Riddley of Cherryville, N.C.  Jennifer Brooks and High Society Woman garnered the yellow streamers for Alan May of Appling, Ga.

Young Trainers, 35 Years and Under, on Walking Horses, 15.2 and Under, class 71, was up next on the schedule with nine of the 24 on the program making their way down to the track to work as Judge Mack Motes called the gaits in the section.  Knocking it out of the park to pick up the win in the event was Brooks Robinson and Brandon Stout riding for Linda Hackel Brown of Bell Buckle, Tenn.  Shock’N Y’all and Sam McLaughlin were a popular reserve for The Stables at Alpha Place of Lititz, Pa.  Gwain Wilson and I’m All Fired Up rounded out the top three for Betty Corlew of Adams and Shelbyville, Tenn.

Adding a little variety to the evening, class 72 brought the Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses (Canter) to the track with nine of the 17 programmed entries walking down the hill to show off for the large Saturday night crowd.  Judge Rollie Beard called the gaits for the class.  Topping the event was the reigning Western WGC Dragonfire and Jamey Thompson for Jim Heiting of Riverside, Calif.  Armed And Trigger Happy and Patrick Thomas were a very popular reserve for Debbie and Jim Nichols of New Market, Tenn.  Armed Red Baron and Howard Hamilton were third for Joe Dixon of Dacula, Ga.

During a quick break in the action, 2007 World Grand Champion Master Of Jazz and Jimmy McConnell came down to put on an exhibition for the Saturday evening crowd and have his number, 1950, officially retired from use at The Celebration.

Class 73 brought the Owner-Amateur Novice Youth Riders 12-17 Years on Novice Walking Mares or Geldings to the ring with 22 of the 33 expected to the historic oval, once again looking for that chance at their very first Celebration blue under the watchful eye of Judge Nathan Clark and his cohorts.  Riding away with the win and taking the honors home to historic East Tennessee was the duo of Sweepstakes Pzazz and owner/exhibitor Summer Brooks of Rogersville, Tenn.  The Dance Hall Doctor and Lilly Waites pulled in to accept the red ribbon and remain a novice for another day for Andrew Waites of Hattiesburg, Miss.  Heart Attack’s Fastbeat and owner/exhibitor Danielle Ricker of Greeneville, Tenn., was third.

The professional trainers were back in the big oval for class 74A, Two-Year-Old Walking Mares as 23 of the 46 signed in made the gate call to work as Judge Jamie Hankins called the gaits for the section.  Dealing the winning hand tonight and impressing all five judges and the crowd were Cashs Blackjack Fantasy with Bill Callaway in the irons for The Stables At Alpha Place Lititz, Pa.  This win capped off an outstanding 2008 season for this young mare going undefeated with wins at the National Trainers’ Show, the Gulf Coast Charity Celebration, the Columbia Spring Jubilee and the Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show.  I’m A Lipstick Lady and Tim Smith were in the second position for Juanita Thigpen of Lawrenceburg, Tenn.  Justin Harris and Dangerous Dollar collected the yellow streamers for Richard and Gail Greer and Norma Bledsoe-Beal of Lenoir, N.C. and Shelbyville, Tenn.

Bill Callaway and Cashs Blackjack Fantasy were the Division A winners of the Two-Year-Old Walking Mares for the Bob Adcock family.

Class 74B, Two-Year-Old Walking Mares featured 22 of the 46 on the books beating the official Celebration time clock to have their chance to work for the judging panel, led in the section by Call Judge Tommy Howell.  Well, it would be all Callaway in the Two-Year-Old Mare division as Paroled In Texas and John Allan Callaway topped this division, after picking up wins at Columbia, Tenn.’s Grinders’ Switch Classic and the Spring Fun Show, for the Coggin and Whittenburg families of Murfreesboro, Tenn.  Jose’s Delightful Pusher and Gary Edwards were reserve for Jim and Judy Leek of Cedar Creek, Texas.  Envious and Philip Trimble were third for Barrow and Carla Brown and Clay Sanderson of Columbia, Tenn.

The amateur riders were back 17 strong for class 75, Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Ponies, Stallions.  Judge Mack Motes led the panel in this event.  Racing their way to the big win in the outstanding division was the team of The Indy 500 and Sue Ann Dowell, champions in 2008 at the Columbia Spring Jubilee and the Money Tree Classic,  riding proudly towards the checkered flag for Jo Ann Dowell of Canton, Ohio.  This team picked up the win with a unanimous decision of the judging panel.  I’m Packin' A Pistol and owner/exhibitor Charlene Gibson pulled in for the second award taking the honors home to Sykesville, Md.  Main Power and Debbie Eichler garnered the golden streamers for Rising Star Ranch of Shelbyville, Tenn.

The Indy 500 carried Sue Ann Dowell for a World Championship victory lap.

Up next, it was time to hand out the first set of roses of the 70th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in class 76, the Yearling World Grand Championship.  Eleven teams made the gate call to work for that chance to walk in that hallowed spotlight before the extra large Saturday night crowd.  Judge Rollie Beard served as Call Judge in the event.  Making memorable spotlight walk was Devious Don and Chris Richards, World Champions earlier today in the Yearling Colt division, for Lisa Bowman Anderson of Greeneville, Tenn.  Major General’s Magic Miss and Nathan Mills were reserve for Hoyte Eakes of Nashville, Tenn.  Robert Nelms and Center Of The Storm were third for Bob Neal of Shelbyville, Tenn.

The amateur riders were up next on the schedule for class 77, Owner-Amateur Novice Gentleman Riders on Novice Walking Stallions.  Twenty-nine of the 40 programmed entries made the walk down the hill to work for their very first shot at the Celebration silver as Judge Nathan Clark called the gaits in the section.  The panel determined that a workout would be required to make the final decision in the class and they asked 14 of the original 29 to stay on for that workout.  Will he walk? Oh, yes he will!  At least if your talking about Will-E-Walk.  This entry made an outstanding performance to top the section with Harry York up for Harry and Trudy York of Thompson Station, Tenn.  Smoke N Cash MM and owner/exhibitor Charles Stivers of Manchester, Ky., accepted the reserve honors, while Above The Line and owner/exhibitor Brad Spivey of Morristown, Tenn., was third.

Ah, yes, then it was the time that everyone had been waiting for, time to take a look at those Aged Stallions.  Class 78A featured nine of the 18 programmed entries coming to show off as Judge Jamie Hankins served as Call Judge for the section.  Indeed, indeed, the class was just as exciting as it was promised to be, but who would the judges deem to be at the top of the class?  When the cards were all in, it was Jose’s Intimidator and Jamie Bradshaw, 2008 champions at the Alabama Ladies Auxiliary Horse Show, the Gallatin Lions Club Horse Show, the Columbia Spring Jubilee and the Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show, called to the winner’s circle with a loud round of applause from the crowd riding for Randall Ferguson of Union Grove, Ala.  A very popular reserve was the WGC Santana’s El Nino and Link Webb in the irons for Michael and Ann Jones of Lafayette, Ga.  Gen On The Run and Justin Harris gathered up the golden streamers for Michael Hart of Corbin, Ky., and Beech Grove, Tenn.

Jose's Intimidator and Jaime Bradshaw topped a great class of horses and were named the Aged Stallion Division A winners.

But, wait, there was still another section of Aged Stallions to check out and as good as the first half was, who would want to miss the second.  Class 78B brought in five of the 17 on the books making their way down the hill as Judge Tommy Howell called the gaits for the section.  Topping the group was the team of Rowdy Rev and Bill Bobo, 2008 champions at the National Trainers’ Show and the Spring Fun Show riding hard and coming on very strong for Bill Harlin of Franklin, Tenn.  Pulling in for the second award was Private Charter and Knox Blackburn riding hard for Eva Eddleman of Chattanooga, Tenn.  Moab and Steve Hankins were third for Della Gaye Compton of North Tazewell, Va.

Rowdy Rev and Bill Bobo claimed the last blue ribbon of the night and were named the Aged Stallion Division B champions.

Now that all the work was complete and another successful evening of the 2008 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was in the record books, it was time to head out back to the warm up ring to check out the street party and it’s great entertainment.  Remember, the parties at the old warm up ring will continue next Thursday, Friday and Saturday night for two hours after the horse show.

Sunday evening’s schedule is always exciting with the Four-Year-Old Stallions and the Aged Walking Mares highlighting the schedule.  Make plans to be back in Shelbyville and be part of the 70th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.