by Mark McGee | photos by Shane Shiflet

What a time to be young, whether a rider or a horse, on Friday morning at Cooper Steel Arena, there were six classes for youth riders and handlers, and four classes for yearlings on the 12-class schedule for the 85th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

I’m Modelo opened the morning with a blue ribbon for handler Leighanne Tibbs and owner Dawn Dill from Dexter, Kentucky in the Model Pleasure Geldings class. It was their third blue in three classes this year. Reserve was Promise Keeper and handler Robert Nelms for Lisa Teel. Time For Honors tied third with Valton Rummage guiding for Marielle Fugger. All seven programmed entries answered the gate call from announcer Travis Olinger. Leah Boyd was the call judge.

It’s A Knight To Remember was ridden to his second blue at the Celebration this year in the Owner-Amateur Novice Youth Country Pleasure class. Co-owner Corbin Parker was in the saddle for co-owners Jeff and Lisa Fisher from Franklin, Kentucky. Lisa rode A Knight To Remember to top honors in the Owner-Amateur Novice Country Pleasure class Thursday morning. A Knight To Remember has 14 blues, four in a row, in 16 classes. Bombay Sapphire PVF shined in second place for co-owner and rider Finley New and co-owner Kelly Queerey. He’s Some Kinda Dangerous walked out with a yellow ribbon with co-owner  Emma Wood riding for co-owner Harry Hicklin. Fourteen of 16 listed entries competed with Nathan Clark calling the class. 

Ten of the 14 expected entries were next to the ring for the Yearling Fillies or Geldings class that was called to order by David Sisk. It was Josephine’s Time as the filly lived up to her name taking the top honors. Robert Nelms was the handler for Joe Link from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. The team remained undefeated in five classes in 2023. The red streamer went to Sophisticated Honors with Jaron Dotson at the lead for owner Barron Witherspoon. Strut and handler Karen McGee Harnden tied third for Charles Gleghorn.  

It was the second blue ribbon ride of the Celebration for Skip The Line in the Owner-Amateur Novice All Day Pleasure Walking, Div. A class. Caroline Elliott Allen was in the saddle for Kimberly and Perry Walden of Shelbyville,  Tennessee. Kimberly rode Skip The Line to the winner’s circle in the Owner-Amateur Two & Three-Year-Old All Day Pleasure class Wednesday night. Skip The Line has three blues in seven classes this summer. Manifest tied second with Tracie Fuller riding for co-owners Bruce and Lee Sinden. Lazaro LB placed third with Kyle Insell in the irons for the Jacobs and Insell partnership. Fifteen of 17 planned entries competed, with Kenny Smith serving as the call judge. 

Fire’M Up Charlie was led to top honors in the Yearling Colts class by Claire Hankins for Bruce Vaughn of Valley City, Ohio. It was their third blue in five classes in 2023. The Reckoning WTC and Robert Nelms walked out with a red streamer for Joe Link, while Sunset Boulevard W placed third with Amanda Wright. Nine of 11 expected entries were in the ring for call judge Leah Boyd. 

The Owner-Amateur Novice All Day Pleasure, Div. B contenders were next to the ring with just two of the scheduled 16 entries. Derek Bonner called the gaits in the class. Overknight Success proved to be a morning success for owner-rider Kelli Harvey of Franklin, Kentucky. It was the sixth blue for Overknight Success this summer. Second was Wicked After Midnight and Kelly Querrey. The yellow streamer went to Cash’s June Lady with Mya Hall riding for Bruce Vaughn. 

Scarlett O’Hara LLC will never be hungry for a Celebration blue ribbon again after she and co-owner Harper Grider from Columbia, Kentucky, tied first in the Owner-Amateur Youth 12-17 Western Country Pleasure class. Co-owned by Brandon Tate of Athens, Alabama, the mare has three blues in six classes in 2023. Shameless SF and Abi Smith tied second for Janet Howell. Sabotage left with a yellow streamer with Kylie Duvall riding for Stooksberry and Duvall. Twelve of 13 scheduled entries made the gate. Nathan Clark was the call judge.  

It was Josephine’s Time for the second time Friday morning. This time it was a first in the Yearling Youth Handlers 12-17 class with Peyton Nelms leading for Joe Link of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Josephine’s Time remains unbeaten in six classes this summer. Jeffery On The Run was reserve with Georgia Hazelwood handling for Tamara Webb. Sophisticated Honors was led to third by Isaac Witherspoon for Barron Witherspoon. Eight entries were in the ring, one more than listed in the program. David Sisk called the class. 

Coachman and owner-rider Zach Daniel won top honors in the Owner-Amateur Youth Lite-Shod class. It was the second win of the Celebration for Coachman who was ridden to blue ribbon honors Thursday night by Patrick Thomas in the Lite-Shod English class. Coachman has three blues in four classes. I’m Majestic rode out with a red streamer with co-owner Hensley Hammond of China Grove, North Carolina, riding for co-owner Dr. Karen Baum. Hello I’m Johnny Cash proudly accepted the yellow ribbon with Brentnee Adams on board. Three of five listed entries made the ring for call judge Kenny Smith. 

Luciano and Caroline Sells rode to the Owner-Amateur Youth 12-17 Western Trail Pleasure world championship title. Owned by John and Tara Sells of Pikeville, Tennessee, Luciano also won the class in 2021. He is four-for-four in wins this season. Checkpoint Charlie was reserve with co-owner Harper Grider riding for co-owners Sean and Tamara Hader, as well as Jared Carrier. Labeled A Parolee tied third with owner-rider Eliza DeKleyn. It was perfect attendance with all seven program entries participating. Derek Bonner called the class. 

Leah Boyd took on the call judge duties in the next class that brought 12 of the 15 scheduled entries to the ring. Sunset Boulevard W and owner-handler Amanda Wright of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, were ready for their closeup with a win in the Owner-Amateur Yearlings class. It was their fourth blue in six classes this show season. Walk Time Master and Amanda Nelms were second for Rocky Bowden, while Me And Mrs Honors captured third place honors with Kelly Richards Ward at the lead for Bobby Jones and Roger Richards. 

The final class of the Friday morning session saw all 19 horse and rider team make their way to Cooper Steel Arena for a chance at a Celebration blue ribbon. Owner-rider Harper Grider of Columbia, Kentucky, was in the saddle aboard Betrayal for the win in the Owner-Amateur Youth 12-17 All Day Pleasure class. Betrayal is undefeated with six wins this year. IB Smokin Joe picked up the red ribbon with co-owner Tanner Johnson riding for co-owner Tucker Johnson. A Major Jose walked out with the third place award with co-owner Emma Wood aboard for co-owners Cameron and Courtney Williford.