By Mark McGee

It was an historic Wednesday night at Calsonic Arena as the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitor’s Association became a part of the 84th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration for the first time.
Bryan Nerren of the International House of Prayer gave the invocation with his wife, Rhonda, singing the National Anthem. Ronnie Spears returned this year to ride the white flag horse sponsored by The Tommy Grider Family, while Brian Peery’s organ music gave its usual festive mood to the evening.

All 15 entries answered the gate call by announcer Mark Farrar as the Weanling Colts National Futurity opened the 12-class schedule. A Code Blue was the appropriate name as the colt won the class receiving both Celebration and Futurity ribbons with Amanda Wright handling for The George Wright Family from Mount Juliet, Tennessee. It was the first show of the year for A Code Blue sired by Master Of Jazz. Here Comes Charlie, with handler Robert Nelms, was reserve for Lisa Teel, while Claire Hankins guided Fire’M Up, Charlie to third for owner Bruce Vaughn. Both were sired by Walk Time Charlie.

The Owner-Amateur Riders on Two-Year-Old Trail Pleasure Walking Horses, Optional Tack also included Futurity nominated two-and-three-year-old all-day pleasure mares, geldings and stallions in the class. Imagine Dragons was ridden to a unanimous first place tie by Jordan Howell for South Ridge Farms and The Jordan Howell Family of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She’s Venomous was reserve for owner-rider Kelly Querrey, with Patti Pollack and Fendi carrying home a yellow ribbon. Fifteen of the 21 scheduled entries entered the ring. 

All 10 programmed entries were ready for the Weanling Fillies National Futurity. Charlene Darling, sired by Walk Time Charlie, was first with Robert Nelms guiding the filly for owners Teel and Washburn of Fayetteville, Tennessee. It was the third blue out of four shows for Charlene Darling in 2022. Second place honors were captured by La Diamante and handler Karen Harden for Dale Steinmetz. Picking up the yellow streamer was Lady Omavol and handler Rachel Dorris for Ricky and Lisa Atnip.

Papacito, with Chris Zahnd in the saddle won the Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses title for owner Karen Bean of Tomball, Texas. It was the second unanimous decision of the evening by the five-judge panel. Papacito, sired by Jose’ Jose’ has three first place ties in five classes this year and a repeat of this same win last year. The rest of the ties were a repeat of 2021 with A Titleist Masterpiece earning the second place spot with Patrick Thomas on board for Champion Stables and Armed But Kid’N in third with Jeff Laughlin riding for owner Sister Milligan. Three of the six scheduled entries competed in the class.

The hopes and dreams of The George Wright Family of Mount Juliet, Tennessee, were fulfilled when handler Amanda Wright guided My Hopes And Dreams to the blue in the Yearling Fillies National Futurity. It was the debut show in 2022 for My Hopes And Dreams, and the second blue ribbon of the night for The George Wright Family. A Thousand Wishes took reserve with Leighanne Tibbs at the lead for owner Dr. Leslie Collins. She’s Gin’s Black Onyx and handler Robert Nelms walked away with the yellow ribbon for PMN Investors. Eight entries competed, one more than the seven on the program entry sheet.

Checkpoint Charlie SF and Jared Carrier rode to the blue for owners Tamara Hader, Jared Carrier and Harper Grider in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Flat Shod Walking Horses, Canter, Optional Tack class, repeating their performance from 2021. Checkpoint Charlie, sired by Walk Time Charlie, is undefeated in eight classes in 2022 and has won 17 straight blues dating back to 2021. Second place was awarded to Australian Gold and owner-rider Allison Thorson Newman, while GiGi’s Lunch Money was called for the yellow streamer for owner-rider Maddie McMorrow. Five of the six entries made the gate call.

Next on the list was the Owner-Amateur Riders on Two & Three-Year-Old All Day Pleasure Walking Horses class  with 14 of the 18 scheduled entries taking to the ring. Honors Valentine, with Jackie Dean aboard for owner Mariella Fugger of Perry, Georgia, walked out with the first place tie in the competitive class. Also included in the class were Futurity nominated two-and-three-year-old all day pleasure mares, geldings and stallions. Sired by Honors, Honors Valentine has four blues in six shows in 2022. Light Up The Knight was reserve with co-owner Jennifer Bingham riding for co-owner Marilyn Carter. As the highest tie among Futurity nominated entries, Light Up The Knight also earned a blue ribbon from the TWHBEA. Mr. Fahrenheit and owner-rider Lauren Hamilton walked out with a yellow ribbon. 

Hey Charlene and Amanda Manis tied first for the second year in a row in the Amateur Owned & Trained Country Pleasure Walking Horses, Optional Tack class for owners Holt and Manis from Shelbyville, Tennessee, and Naples, Florida. Hey Charlene, sired by Walk Time Charlie, has blues in three of four classes this year. Allison Thorson Newman directed Fuego to reserve, while Diamond At The Ritz received a yellow ribbon with co-owner Kimberly Walden in the saddle for co-owner Abi Smith. Eight of the nine scheduled entries made the gate call.
Tee Martin and handler Robert Nelms were the unanimous choice of the judging panel in the Yearling Colts National Futurity. Tee Martin is undefeated in three classes this year. The defending Weanling World Grand Champion, sired by Lester H. Burns, is owned by Teel, Pittman and Washburn of Fayetteville, Tennessee and Shelbyville, Tennessee. Tee Martin won all five of his classes in 2021. Churchill Downs and handler Bobby LeCompt were second for Ella Kline. 

Kiss This Girl was ridden to top honors by Jonathan Baskin in the Two-Year-Old Lite-Shod Walking Horses, Optional Tack class for owner Nic Linder from Smithville, Tennessee. The class also included Futurity nominated two-year-old lite-shod mares, geldings and stallions. They have won two blues in four classes in 2022. Both Kiss This Girl, sired by I Am Jose’, and second place winner Topless with Laurie Toone aboard for owners Michelle Gaines and Angie Chapman, were Futurity nominated and received ribbons from the TWHBEA. Charlie’s Stylish Miss and Russell Keyser tied third for owners Keyser and Ashbrook. Three of eight programmed entries rode in the class. 

The Tiger Lily and Hannah Myatt took first place for owners South Ridge Farms and The Jordan Howell Family from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in the Three-Year-Old Trail Pleasure Walking Horses, Optional Tack class. Also included were Futurity nominated three-year-old trail pleasure mares, geldings and stallions. The Tiger Lily, sired by A Greater Generator, is undefeated in five classes in 2022. Just A Steel Magnolia carried a red ribbon home with Joe Lester riding for Carroll Hutto and Bob Lawrence. It’s Machine Gun Kelly was third with Jessica Mast in the saddle for owners Scott and Renee Stasiewicz. Seven of the 10 programmed entries competed in the class.

In the English Lite-Shod Walking Horses class, the last of the evening, seven of nine entries answered the gate call. Heading out of the ring with the blue ribbon in the class for the third year in a row was Moonshine At Midnight with Patrick Thomas in the irons for Gladney Farms of Homer, Louisiana. They were a unanimous selection of the judging panel. Sired by Midnight At The Ritz, Moonshine At Midnight has seven blues in nine classes this year. She’s Charlie’s Girl and Chris Zahnd were reserve for owner Anne Evans. It was a repeat of their finish in the class in 2021. Coachman was third with Jonathan Baskin riding for Chandler and Smith.