By Friday evening, the 74th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration is well underway and going even better than anticipated.  There have already been three very successful morning performances and the Thursday evening performance provided all of the excitement and entertainment that one could ask for, and with the Youth 11 and Under Geldings, Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions, and Three-Year-Old Stallions on tonight’s schedule, it should be just as exciting.

The judges for the 74th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration include Jennifer Bingham of Shelbyville, Tenn. (Pleasure, Halter & Performance), Chris Bobo of Shelbyville, Tenn. (Pleasure, Halter & Performance), Nathan Clark of Arab, Ala., (Pleasure, Halter & Performance), Brent Grider of Columbia, Ky. (Performance & Halter), Carol Smithson of Clarksville, Tenn. (Pleasure), Connie Waldo of Naples, Fla. (Pleasure), and Joel Weaver of Shelbyville, Tenn. (Performance & Halter).

As always, promptly at 7 p.m., it’s time for the World’s Greatest Horse Show to get underway and for official flag horse, Counterfeit Dollar and Bud Seaton to make their way down the hill and begin the opening ceremonies.  The invocation for this evening was given by Bro. Geoff Giesman of the Fairlane Church of Christ of Shelbyville, Tenn., followed by the singing of the National Anthem by the Edgemont Baptist Quartet of Shelbyville, Tenn.

With the opening ceremonies complete, it was time to call the first class of the Friday evening performance, class 47, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Walking Geldings.  Fifteen of the 16 with reservations worked their way down the hill to make that memorable ride in the historic Celebration Arena as Judge Brent Grider called the gaits in the class.  Taking command of the very good class was the many time World Champion and World Grand Champion The American General and owner/exhibitor Sellars Veazey taking the honors back to their Tifton, Ga., home.  This duo had 2012 wins at Monroe, Ga., and Edison, Ga., and had a very good reserve at the Spring Fun Show. The Prime Suspect and Eli Davis pulled into the second position for Shamrock Farms of Shelbyville, Tenn.  Outrageous Attitude and Will Cole were third for Rhonda Cole of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The professionals were on track for class 48, Two-Year-Old Walking Geldings (Riders’ Cup) with 10 of the 14 expected answering the gate call to work as Judge Joel Weaver served as Call Judge for the event. Riding to the top of the class was Master Of Jazz Opus and Edgar Abernathy in the irons for Dr. Tommy and Pat Vinson of Columbus, Miss.  Mr. Onyx and Justin Harris were reserve for Oliver and Shortridge of Bowling Green, Ky. and Shelbyville, Tenn.  National Title and Gary Edwards collected the yellow streamers for Carson Wells of Kissimmee, Fla.

Class 49 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions with 10 of the 29 on the official Lions Club program beating the clock to work as Judge Jennifer Bingham led the judging panel in the class. Riding away with the blue with a unanimous decision of the panel was the reigning Four-Year-Old Amateur WGC He’s Vida Blue and Kay Green up for Dr. Jim and Kay Green of Meridian, Miss.  This win was preceded by 2012 wins at the Mississippi Charity Horse Show, the Gulf Coast Charity Horse Show and the Columbia Spring Jubilee.  I’m Wall Street and Clay Mills pulled in to accept the red streamers for Corbin Mills of Mt. Airy, N.C.  They Call Me Sampson and Karen Bean were third for Bill Bean of Tomball, Texas.

The Lite-Shod horses were up next on the schedule for class 50, Lite-Shod Walking Horses (Riders’ Cup) with nine of the 13 with reservations making the call to work for Judge Connie Waldo and her panel. Wearing the blue in the division was Catastrophic and owner/exhibitor Laurie Toone of Shelbyville, Tenn.  A Mountain Jazz and Jeff Laughlin was reserve for Joe Laughlin of Waynesville, Mo.  Simple Lee Dangerous and Chris Helton rounded out the top three in the class for Kara Graham and Alex Hopkins of Niota and Sneedville, Tenn.

One of the highlights of the evening was up next on the schedule with two sections of Three-Year-Old Stallions.  Up first was Class 51A, with 12 of the 25 working their way down the hill to work under the watchful eye of Judge Chris Bobo and his panel, and the Friday night crowd as well!  All the entries put on a great performance, as expected, and the crowd rewarded the entries with their cheers and applause.  However, when the work was complete, only one could be crowned World Champions in the division and that would be the reigning Two-Year-Old World Grand Champion, I Am Jose’ and Casey Wright in the irons for Billy and Debbie Woods of Lexington, Tenn.  The team captured this honor with a unanimous decision of the judging panel.  Street Jazz and Jimmy McConnell were reserve in the class for Rachel Castaldi of Skillman, N.J. Command On Parole and Winky Groover were third for Metcalf and Crawford of Bainbridge and Carrollton, Ga.

Between the splits of the Three-Year-Old Stallions, a break was taken for the newest addition to the Celebration schedule, Steppin’ In To Cash.  This promotion is sponsored by Shelbyville Area merchants and will be giving away $10,000 total, varying in amount each night, over the course of The Celebration.  All you have to do is register at the show or at area businesses and be present to win.  Tonight, $500.00 was given away, sponsored by L & M Awards of Shelbyville, to Hunter Henson of Gallatin, Tenn.  It’s interesting to note that Henson, his wife Katie and children, Evan and Emma were attending The Celebration tonight as guests of this reporter! One would think that this reporter could at least get a commission, right?  Oh well, on with the horse show!

Class 51B, featured 14 more outstanding Three-Year-Old Stallions that came to impress the Friday Night crowd and work under the watch Judge Nathan Clark and his cohorts.  It was another exciting class (won’t the Championship be exciting on Thursday night!), but again there could only be one winner and that winner was Jose It Ain’t So and Jonathan Watts up, 2012 champions at the Spring Fun Show, for Deborah Williams of Argyle, Texas.  Blue’s Master and Jimmy McConnell pulled into the second position for Mike and Lee McGartland of Ft. Worth, Texas.  He’s Unleashed and Larry Edwards picked up the yellow streamers for Herb Murrath of Stone Mountain, Ga.

Class 52 brought the Park Performance Walking Horses, Four-Years & Under (Riders’ Cup) to the historic big oval.  Twelve of the 21 expected made the gate call to work as Judge Brent Grider served as Call Judge in the class.  Capturing the win in the division was Ted Who and Knox Blackburn up for the Mike Walden family of Chattanooga, Tenn.  Antonio Banderas and Ryan Gannon were reserve for Hall and Hall of Smyrna, Tenn.  Landshark and Bruce Hankins rounded out the top three for Linda Jones and Haley Lane of Bainbridge, Ga.

The youth riders were back for class 53, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-14 Years on Walking Ponies.  Eight of the 13 with reservations worked down the hill to show for Judge Joel Weaver and his panel.  Of course, the young riders always get the crowd excited and this class was no exception with everyone in attendance cheering for their favorite. All of the young riders put on a great show, but only one could walk away with the blue.  That honor for the second consecutive year went to ACC and Jaclyn Compton riding for Rick Compton of North Tazewell, Va.  With this win, the duo retired the Midnight Sun-Mrs. G.M. Livingston Memorial Challenge Trophy and the William G. Davis Memorial Challenge Trophy.  Mark Zone and Lane Webb pulled into the second position in the class for Lane Webb and Lora Lawrence of Lewisburg and Jackson, Tenn.  He’s Hot As Fire and Nathan Oliver were third riding for Oliver and Salt Lick Farms of Bowling Green and Salt Lick, Ky.

Class 54 was the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, Classic Horses, 15 Years & Over.  Ten of the 15 expected made the call to work in this very special class as Judge Jennifer Bingham called the gaits.  Now, there were some very well-known names in this division and each of the top three were multi-titled World and World Grand Champions.  Riding away with the top honors in the event was Private Charter, a former 15.2 & Under WGC, and Mike Walden in the irons riding for the Mike Walden family of Chattanooga, Tenn.  Reserve honors in the class went to A Specialist, a many time Amateur Specialty WGC, and Gail Walling up for Judy McDonald of Tullahoma, Tenn.  I’m Packin’ A Pistol, a former Pony WGC, and Kenny Compton, were third for Rick Compton of North Tazewell, Va.  What a great class and what a great testament to our horses and our industry!

Class 55 brought the Elite Owner-Amateur Gentleman Riders on Walking Mares or Geldings to the historic big oval with 14 entries making the call to work for Judge Chris Bobo and his panel.  Causing trouble for his competition and riding away with the honors in the division were Trouble On The Line and Tom Morgan riding for Hannah McCurdy of Piedmont, Ala.  It’s interesting to note that this team was third in this class last year and won their first Celebration blue last year in the Novice Gentleman Riders on Novice Mares & Geldings division.  They picked up 2012 wins at Monroe, Ga., Edison, Ga., and Woodbury, Tenn. I’m Moonlighting and owner/exhibitor Robert Deutsch of Greensboro, N.C., was reserve.  I’m Stan The Man and Ben Brogdon was third for Ben and Dr. Lynda Brogdon of Tallahassee, Fla.

The Four-Year-Old Walking Geldings were up next on the schedule for class 56.  Eight of the 12 expected made the gate call to work and show all three gaits that the Tennessee Walking Horse is famous for, as Judge Nathan Clark called the gaits. Topping the division was Sir Skywatch and Charlie Green up for Joe and Ann Rich of Murfreesboro, Tenn.  This win was preceded by 2012 wins at the Bedford County Spring Festival Horse Show, the Petersburg Lions Club Horse Show and the Lawrenceburg Lions Club Horse Show.  Sox Appeal and Jeff Laughlin were second in the class for Rising Star Ranch of Shelbyville, Tenn.  Neon Bright’s Legacy and Philip Trimble rounded out the top of the class for Dr. W.H. Hill and Paige Edwards of Dawson, Ga.

Class 57 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses with eight of the 21 with reservations making the gate to work as Judge Jennifer Bingham led the panel in the class.  Walking away with the win was Tijuana Tex and Darden Gladney riding for Gladney Farms of Minden, La.  B B King’s Jazz and Mikki Eldridge were reserve riding for Stephens and Womack of Grayson, Ky.  Yao Ming and owner/exhibitor Nicole Coffey of Lewisburg, Tenn., rounded out the top three in the class.

The amateur riders made their final appearance of the night in class 58, Owner-Amateur Lady Riders on Walking Mares. Thirteen of the 18 on the official Lions Club program worked down the hill to show for Call Judge Brent Grider and his cohorts.  Rolling their way to the winner’s circle tonight was Rosetta Stone and Patty Marek up for Marek and Smith of Shelbyville, Tenn.  This team was champions in 2012 at the Bedford County Spring Festival and the Wartrace Horse Show.  My First Dollar and owner/exhibitor George-Ann Pratt of Shawnee Mission, Kansas, were reserve in the section.  Jose Bonita and MaryBeth Blessing were third for What A Blessing Farm of Bristol, Tenn.

The final class of the Friday evening performance was class 59, Show Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings (Riders’ Cup). Sixteen entries made the gate call for the final class of the night as Judge Joel Weaver called the gaits.  When the work was complete, organist Larry Bright began playing his signature tune “Just The Way You Are” that he traditionally uses to close out performances, meaning it really was complete for another night, just as soon as the judging was complete.  When that was complete, Bobby Sands called the duo of Limestone Lucy and Knox Blackburn to the winner’s circle for Steve Heitmiller of Laguna Beach, Calif.  Turnbow and Brad Davis were reserve for Womack and Sims of Murfreesboro, Tenn. A Line Dancer and Bill Callaway were third for S & S Enterprises of Huntsville, Ala.

And, with the final words from official announcer Bobby Sands, the Friday Evening performance of the 74th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was complete at 11:15 p.m.  It was another very exciting night and tomorrow evening promises more of the same with the Two-Year-Old Walking Mares, Three-Year-Old Walking Mares, the Yearling World Grand Championship and the Aged Stallions on the evening’s schedule. Make sure you’re in Shelbyville seeing history being made at the 74th Celebration.