Copyright WHR 2007


            Celebration CEO Ron Thomas announced that the judging panel for the 69th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has been selected.  The group includes Mike Carpenter of Franklin, TN, Allen Forman of Thomson, GA, Justin Jenne’ of Shelbyville, TN, Sam Sorrell of Lexington, KY, and Ronnie Spears of Tullahoma, TN.

            “There’s no doubt that this is as highly-qualified a panel as we could hope to put together,” said Celebration CEO and Show Manager, Ron Thomas. “We feel very honored that each has agreed to serve as a judge during our show.”

            While the group can easily be considered one of the most experienced in Celebration history, one of the judges will be making his first appearance in center ring.

            Carpenter is the most experienced judge in Celebration history as he makes his 11th appearance on the panel.  His first appearance came in 1988 and was last in center ring in 2003.

Sorrell was on the Celebration panel in 2005.  This will be his second Celebration to judge.

Spears, a current active trainer and rider of 1974 World Grand Champion Another Masterpiece and 1990 WGC The Pushover, will be part of the panel for the third time.

Forman and Jenne’ will be the “rookies” of the group, but experienced judges nonetheless.  Allen was part of the judging panel during the 2006 Celebration Spring Fun Show while it will be Jenne’s very first time to adjudicate either event.

“We always try to put together a diverse group of judges for our show,” said Thomas. “We always like to bring new judges into the mix and let them work with those who have been under the glare of the spotlight before.  Mike Carpenter is an elite judge…one of the best in our industry.  Ronnie is right there as well.  The experience that he and Mike have together will pay dividends for this panel.  Sam has been there before and did a solid job for us.  Although Allen will be a first-timer to center ring at The Celebration, his work at the Fun Show caught the eye of the Judges Committee.  The same can be said for Justin.  He’s gotten high marks from virtually every show he’s ever done.  All of these guys have judged some of the biggest shows in the country and should be able to handle the demands of our event with no problems whatsoever.” 

            The Celebration Judges Committee selects the panel. Boards of Directors of five different groups are written for their opinion. The TWHNC Judges Committee studies the responses carefully before making their decision. Many factors are looked at, including past experience, their ability to evaluate padded and pleasure horses alike, and the geographic makeup of the panel.  The response rate of the groups polled was (overall) not as high as show officials had hoped.


            “We want the input of the groups within the industry to help us make the most informed decision possible,” relayed Thomas. “While we are frustrated with the overall lack of responses we received, we continue to need the input of the other organizations to put the best possible panel together…a panel that our world championship horse show deserves. With that in mind, I’m very comfortable with the group that was selected. They all have a grasp of the enormity of the show and how each and every class should be handled.”

            Thomas reported that four of the five judges selected were in the top-ten vote getters from the responses received. That list includes (alphabetically),

                        Rollie Beard

                        Scott Benham

                        Mike Carpenter

                        Nathan Clark

                        Allen Forman

                        Jamie Hankins

                        Tommy Howell

                        Ty Irby

                        Sam Sorrell

                        Ronnie Spears

            The show manager of The Celebration said a clean bill of health in regards to the Horse Protection Act was an important factor in the selection process this year.

            “Our judging panel represents The Celebration and can affect its reputation and stature,” said Thomas.  “At this particular time in our industry’s history, it is extremely important that we put a panel together that knows the importance of clean, sound horses and can back it up with their record in the ring.”

            The 69th Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration runs August 22-September 1 at the historic Celebration Grounds in Shelbyville.  For more information on this year’s show, call (931) 684-5915 or go the Celebration’s official website at