By Mark McGee

Pressure is a privilege

The legendary tennis great Billie Jean King often said it. Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Allan Callaway, a dyed-in-the-wool University of Georgia sports fan prefers to credit the quote to Bulldogs’ football coach Kirby Smart.

No matter who says it, the meaning is the same. If a person is feeling pressure, it is because there is an opportunity to do something special and extraordinary.

John Allan Callaway, one of Allan’s sons, did something both special and extraordinary in the final class of the final Saturday night of the 84th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration aboard Justified Honors.
“A man came up to me during the summer and asked me if I was going to show Justified Honors again,” John Allan said. “I told him I didn’t know.

“He told me there were a lot of people who would like to be in my position. I had never really thought about it that way.”

That was the man’s way of telling John Allan pressure is privilege.

“John Allan handled the pressure very well,” Allan said. “He is laid back. But I would say there was more pressure on him than on any rider who has every ridden in that ring.”

For the second year in a row, John Allan rode Justified Honors to a unanimous decision of the five-judge panel to wear the floral horseshoe and make the spotlight ride as the World Grand Champion. Having rode Master’s Razzle And Jazz to the title in 2020, he became the first trainer to win three years in a row on two different horses at The Celebration and only the third trainer to win three years in a row. Casey Wright rode I Am Jose’ to the World Grand Championship back-to-back-to-back in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Steve Hill rode Talk Of The Town to the title in 1951, ’52 and ’53. 

John Allan is only the eighth trainer in the history of The Celebration to win back-to-back world titles and only the third to do it on two different horses. Sam Paschal rode Ebony Masterpiece to the title in 1962 and followed with Sun’s Delight D. Ramsey Bullington was aboard Pride’s Final Edition in 1985 and returned in 1986 to win the floral horseshoe and tri-colored ribbon with Pride’s Jubilee Star.

After making outstanding performances in exhibitions during the summer, walking horse fans were clamoring for John Allan to bring Justified Honors back for another championship ride. In 2021, Justified Honors made history by winning the big stake as a four-year-old. I Am Jose’ and Casey Wright did it in 2013. Sun’s Delight D. and Sam Paschal were the first to do it in 1963. Betty Sain became the first woman to win the World Grand Championship in 1966 with Shaker’s Shocker, a four-year-old.

“My goal was to win it one time,” John Allan said. “I always wanted to win the big stake and when you go back after you have won you still want to win it again. I never thought about winning it three years in a row. The good Lord has just blessed us.

“The whole time I was getting him ready on the preliminary night I kept thinking I am riding last year’s World Grand Champion and I am about to do this again. He looked good that morning so I decided to show him and see what would happen.” 

Not one to show emotion, it was obvious to everyone John Allan was more than a little nervous about bringing Justified Honors back. 

“John Allan told me he had shown in the big stake for 15 years,” Dr. Jim Baum, husband of Lisa Baum, Justified Honors’ owner. said. “He started thinking about everything that could go wrong. He was wanting to do everything possible to keep something bad from happening.”

John Allan admitted it was the most pressure he had felt in the show ring, both in the preliminary class and the World Grand Championship class. The pressure started building for him the moment he, Allan and his brother Bill decided to take another shot at a Celebration blue. 

Lisa knew how nervous John Allan was. She had spent the summer trying to ease his nerves about whether to show or not.

“I didn’t want to be that owner who tells a trainer you have to show my horse and you have to win a blue ribbon,” Lisa said. “I didn’t want any pressure on John Allan.

“I said if you guys want to do it, then do it. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t do it and you don’t even have to tell me why.”

Fans weren’t giving them much of a choice. Whenever Justified Honors rode in an exhibition the Baums and John Allan would be bombarded by people wanting him to return to the ring for another world grand championship.

“We had a lot of people encouraging us to let him go again,” Dr. Baum said. “He is special. People like watching him.

“I didn’t worry about him showing again. He was very consistent. I think he was better this year than last year.”
There was no strategy discussion like last year when the Baums and Callaways met to make decisions about Justified Honors.

“John Allan had me enter him in The Celebration,” Allan said. “That was about the extent of our conversation. It wasn’t a big deal talking about it. The morning of the stud class I saw him being washed so I assumed we were going to show.”

Improving on perfection

The Callaways work as a team at their stables located at Twin Oaks Farm. As good as Justified Honors was in 2021, they all three agreed he was even better as the 84th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration loomed on the horizon.

Maturity was the key word used by the Baums and all of the Callaways. In addition, the 16.5 hands tall black stallion had also gained 150 pounds since winning in 2021.

“He is more finished,” Bill Callaway said. “He is bigger and stronger. He was always smart, but he is a lot smarter now.

“Last year we would ride him and he would be looking across the field at the broodmares. In the 48 hours we had to keep him on the grounds, he never let anything shake him up like the noise from the golf carts.”

The Callaway way

It was the fifth World Grand Championship for the Callaway clan. Allan rode Pride’s Jubilee Encore to the title in 2001, while Bill was in the saddle when Gen’s Black Maverick was crowned World Grand Champion in 2017.
Those winning ways attracted the Baums to the Callaways more than 20 years ago. Lisa admits the first horses they brought to the barn for training weren’t championship caliber.

“When we first started with them we gave them horses to train that weren’t very good,” Lisa said. “We were at the bottom of the pile. We have paid our dues.”

But it is more than just the success of the Callaways that attracts the Baums.

“They are class acts,” Lisa said. “They look you in the eye. They tell us the truth and Jim and I like that a lot. They don’t sugarcoat things. 

“They work hard. They pay attention to detail. They take care of the horses. What more could you ask for? The proof is in the pudding.”

Dr. Baum likes the overall strong character of the three Callaways.

It is a mutual admiration society. The Callaways are equally impressed with the Baums and appreciate their friendship.

“All of our customers are special, and everybody is deserving but Lisa and Doc have been so supportive,” Karen Callaway, mother of John Allan and Bill said. “They have had the utmost trust with their horses with John Allan, Bill and Allan. I felt like it was a real good combination. John Allan and the horse just click. He has the innate ability to connect with an animal.”

The Baums credit John Allan, Bill and Allan, as well as Jesse Barnes, for their work with their horses. They recognize and respect John Allan’s abilities to train walking horses.

“He is a very talented trainer,” Dr. Baum said. “They kept working Justified Honors while he was being bred. Part of getting a horse ready is conditioning and part of it is training. John Allan had two separate jobs to do.”


Love at first sight

It all began with a chance encounter. Layne Leverette was preparing for his annual barn party at his stables where he planned to exhibit some young horses as well. The day before the event, John Allan dropped by. A black stallion was standing in the cross ties. John Allan asked about the stallion and was told it had been sired by Honors, the 2016 World Grand Champion, and out of Maypine’s Doll Baby.

It was love at first sight for John Allan. He asked Jeff Faulkner to buy Justified Honors and bring him to the Callaways’ barn.

“Standing back there in those cross ties he had the look of a really good horse,” John Allan said. “His conformation was impressive. I thought he had the talent to win the big stake.”

Allan had the same first impression.

“He really came on good once we started working him,” Allan said. “He has all the intangibles. We felt like from the beginning he could win the big stake.

“He has a God-given presence with the way he carries himself in the bridle. He has a natural step to him. When you get on him you better be ready to go.”

Justified Honors had seen limited time under saddle and was not ready for the showring as a two-year-old, but, John Allan had no doubts he was in the presence of a future world grand champion when he started working him in February of 2020.

“He was not as far along as most three-year-olds would have been at that stage,” John Allan said. “We were just hoping he would be ready to show as a three-year-old.”

While John Allan was working Justified Honors, he caught the attention of the Baums, who watched Justified Honors work for a few months and decided they wanted to buy him in May of 2020.

Winning Baums

Having the repeat winner put the Baums in an interesting predicament. The owners of the previous year’s World Grand Champion are asked to be in center ring to give the Owner’s Trophy to the new winners.

It was not the situation Lisa and Dr. Baum wanted. Last year they watched the World Grand Championship class with their family and friends in box 143.

“We really didn’t want to be anywhere else because it might be bad luck,” Lisa said. “We are very superstitious any way. We won last year sitting in that box and we wanted to sit there again.” 

The Baums were dressed and ready, but Allan told them they couldn’t go to center ring because he also thought it would be bad luck.

“Allan told me we couldn’t do it, “ Lisa said. “I said whatever you say Allan.”

Dr. Baum called Jeffrey Howard, publisher of The Walking Horse Report, and Warren Wells, Celebration CEO, and told them he and Lisa didn’t really want to watch the class from the center ring. Howard and Wells agreed it might not be a good idea either.

“Jeffrey and Warren said I couldn’t be out there if I couldn’t keep quiet,” Lisa said. “We made the right decision to stay in our box. I wanted to cheer and scream. We were so excited. I was dancing in the box.

“When we came to center ring after Justified Honors won they said, ‘Here is the Owner’s Trophy. You can give it to yourself.’”

Dr. Baum grew up in Wisconsin where he developed both a love for Tennessee Walking Horses and the Green Bay Packers, two passions that endure to this day.

“We got our first horse in 1963, which was just a riding horse,” Dr. Baum said. “In February of 1964, we bought our first show horse so it was May of that year when we made our first show.”

Lisa had a background in dressage and hunter jumpers. She also showed Arabians, which gave her the opportunity to meet Dr. Baum. 

Dr. Baum not only introduced Lisa to walking horses, but to a new life in Shelbyville as well.

“Jim had been around walking horses his whole life,” Lisa said. “I didn’t know what a walking horse was until I married him. I was like, ‘A Tennessee Walking Horse with those big shoes?’”

Originally from outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Baums found their way to Middle Tennessee in the early 1970s. 

They have personally won countless world grand championships at The Celebration in other divisions, including two more at the 2022 show. Lisa rode Strike to the title for the second year in a row in the Owner-Amateur Ponies World Grand Championship. Dr. Baum and Do Right won the Owner-Amateur Park Performance World Grand Championship.

Dr. Baum, who operates Baum Equine Clinic in Shelbyville, watched Justified Honors work while he was at the stables performing veterinary duties.

“When I saw him starting to come around, the Callaways thought he would be a good horse for us,” Dr. Baum said. “I agreed.”

A humble person

John Allan takes all of the accolades in stride. He admits the magnitude of the wins with Justified Honors and Master’s Razzle And Jazz and all of the history he has become a part of at the age of 44 has not completely sunk in.

Karen thinks John Allan’s modesty as he has received so many accolades make him a special person.

“He is a man of few words,” Karen said. “When he is riding in training, he is 100% business. He has a God-gifted talent.”

“John Allan has more work ethic and dedication than anyone I know,” said John Allan’s wife, Jada. “I am so happy that all his efforts have once again put him in the winner’s circle. Julia and I are more than proud of him!”

The future

Justified Honors stands in a stall directly across from the office at Twin Oaks Farm. Lisa calls him “Chauncey” as his barn name, while Allan prefers to refer to him as “Justified”.

“I look at that horse and say, ‘You silly boy, this was pretty cool,’” Lisa said. “It was better the second time around because this is history.”

Will he and John Allan go for a third straight title together in 2023?

“Every day people ask us if we are going to show him again next year,” Lisa and Dr. Baum both said. “We tell them to give us a chance to enjoy this year first. We haven’t thought about next year yet.”

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday Justified Honors makes the trip to Sugar Creek Farm for breeding purposes. Sometimes he goes four days a week. Since winning in 2021, Justified Honors has been bred to more than 130 mares. The fall breeding season begins in October and Justified Honors’ breeding schedule is filling up fast.

While no one is saying anything definitely, perhaps Allan gives a hint of what might be ahead.

“That horse is really good,” Allan said. “When he is in the ring with other horses, he really shows up. Why have a horse that good and not show him? But are we going to show him again next year? We haven’t even thought about it. But, he has a chance, and maybe he already has done it, to become one of the major horses in the history of the Tennessee Walking Horse.”