by Mark McGee | Photos by Shane Shiflet 

The old saying is “red skies at night, sailor’s delight.” Tuesday night at the 85th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration with 13 classes scheduled to compete, that red sky, an indication of fair weather, was almost completely obscured by dark gray rain clouds. Fortunately, all the rains never arrived with a full moon prevailing.
Ring announcer Mark Farrar welcomed fans to “The Big Oval”. Ronnie Spears directed flag horse White Diamond Dollar as they presented the Stars and Stripes. Dan Asche of First Christian Church in Shelbyville, Tennessee, gave the invocation, followed by a note-perfect a cappella version of the National Anthem by Cameron Roberts from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

J. Brantley cranked up the organ to bring the English Park Pleasure class into “The Big Oval” to start the night. Four of the 13 expected entries competed under the direction of call judge David Sisk. He’s A Dixieland Delight and Jeff Laughlin made the first victory ride of the night for owner Vickie Penick from Walterboro, South Carolina. It was their third blue in four classes this summer. They also won the class in 2022. Jose’s No Counting Me Out, a classic horse, was reserve with Patrick Thomas in the irons for Gladney Farms. Chrome Curb Appeal was third with Ryan Gannon in the saddle for Rushing and Parks.

Milagro’s Command and owner-rider Karen Gaither from Liberty Township, Ohio, took the blue ribbon as the unanimous choice of the five-judge panel in Division A of the Owner-Amateur Four-Year-Old Mares & Geldings class. The duo has four blues in five classes, with three of them being in a row. Simply Country and Stephanie White tied second for owner Toni White. Happy Face was third for owner-rider Kathy Hollin. Kenny Smith was the call judge with 10 of 18 programmed entries making an appearance. 

Call judge Leah Boyd welcomed 13 of the 17 planned entries in the Two-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class. Jalapeño added some heat on the way to the unanimous top honors with Joe Lester aboard for Kimberly and Perry Walden of Shelbyville, Tennessee. They are two-for-two this show season, with their previous win being the coveted International Maiden Grand Championship. Cha Cha Ching SF and Hannah Myatt rode to a second place ribbon for owner Janet Howell. Dead Beat Daddy was the third tie with Jessica Mast in the saddle for Dennis and Suzy Hills. Dead Beat Daddy was also the top Futurity nominated award winner.

Ultra Grey Pistol was the first place tie in Division B of the Owner-Amateur Four-Year-Old Mares & Geldings class. Elese Lewis was in the saddle for the Kilburn and Lewis partnership of Salt Lick, Kentucky. This was their third win in as many classes in 2023. I’m A Pistol Annie and Alex Blackburn took home a red streamer for Stacy Blackburn. Riding to third place was I Am The Lady and Courtney Luttrell for Alex Luttrell. Derek Bonner called the gaits with 13 of the 19 scheduled entries making the gate call. 

The spin of the wheel in center ring landed on Nathan Clark as the call judge for the Park Performance class. Ten of 27 original entries competed. Wanted THF and Patrick Thomas found their way to the winner’s circle for owners Manis and Pope from Shelbyville, Tennessee, and Taylorsville, North Carolina. They have teamed for three blues in three shows this summer. I’m A Proud American, a classic horse, and Michal Wright rode out with a red streamer for Bill Williams. Waiting On Parole placed third Amber Zahnd in the saddle for Annie Hunt. 

They Call Me Samson, a classic horse, earned a blue ribbon with Link Webb in the irons for Boston Kate Tillman of Shelbyville, Tennessee, in the Show Pleasure Mares & Geldings class. Walkin’ Chick walked to reserve with Mickey McCormick riding for Nora Alexander, while Acclaim and Winky Grover rode out with the yellow streamer for Carolyn Rutner. Eight of 24 programmed entries rode in the class with David Sisk serving as the call judge.

Nine of 39 expected entries worked under the direction of David Sisk, the call judge for the Owner-Amateur 15.2 & Under Mares & Geldings class. For the second year in a row, Punisher and Ashley Rea rode to the blue for Barbara Smith of Columbus, Mississippi. I’m Bold And Spicy Jose’, with Lindsay Hess Price in the saddle for Connie Hess, was the second place tie. Command On Parole owner-rider Sheryl Crawford were third.

The Honor Code and John Allan Callaway claimed the blue ribbon unanimously for owner Lisa Baum of Shelbyville, Tennessee, in the Show Pleasure Stallions class. It was their fourth win of the season and they extended their string of blue ribbons to 12 in a row dating back to 2021. They rode to the Show Pleasure World Grand Champion in 2022. YS Fly Like An Eagle and Lake Weaver were reserve for Ben Moss and Ron Carney. Charlie Danger and Ryan Blackburn took away a yellow streamer for Ginger Williams. Derek Bonner called the gaits with 10 of 17 programmed entries performing. 

Fourteen of 24 scheduled entries competed in Division A of the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old Stallions class with Leah Boyd on the call. Slim And Hot, with owner Robert Deutsch from Greensboro, North Carolina, rode to the winner’s circle. It  was their fourth blue in six classes this summer. In D’s Honor and Khloe McSwain won a red streamer for Keith and Dan McSwain, while My Addiction and Howard Eastridge finished third for Mr. and Mrs. Howard Eastridge. 

For the third year in a row, Blacklist and Carrie Martin DeJarnette won the Trail Pleasure class. This time it was for new owner Jane Pirolo who rode Blacklist to top honors Wednesday morning in the Owner-Amateur English Trail Pleasure class. It was the seventh blue in 10 classes in 2023 for Blacklist, and the fifth in a row. I’m Thunderstruck N.D.R. and David Mast walked out with a second place ribbon for Wayne and Debbie Simons. King Mojo was the third place tie with Hannah Myatt riding for Kathy Anderson. Six of 10 entries were in “The Big Oval” for call judge David Sisk. 

The spin of the wheel landed on Nathan Clark as call judge for the 14 of 24 listed entries in Division B of the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old Stallions class. Co-owner Carol Missildine was aboard Big Henry for the unanimous top honors for co-owner Russell Enterprises from Smithfield, North Carolina. It was the third blue in four classes for Big Henry this show season. The Honorable One and owner-rider Stacy Blackburn received a red streamer. Jura THF and co-owner Nathan Oliver placed third for co-owner Darrell Oliver.

Joe Pa and Tanner Burks rode away with the blue ribbon for Shane Porterfield from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. in the Young Trainers on Stallions class. Warbird and Ryan Blackburn captured the reserve honor for Ginger Williams. He’s A Top Gun and Tyler Baucom were awarded third for Carolyn Evans. Kenny Smith made the calls as half of 18 programmed entries performed. 

Six of nine entries closed out the night in the Owner-Amateur Stallions (Canter) class with Derek Bonner serving as the call judge. A Big Honor earned a blue ribbon honor with co-owner Dr. David Bullock from Vernon, Kentucky, riding for Dwight Hopper of Corbin, Kentucky. It was the third blue in four classes in 2023 for A Big Honor. I’m Jordan won a red streamer with Kenny Compton riding for Della Compton, while He’s Whiskey Cavalier and Kim Butler were the third place tie for co-owner Bryson Price.