Extra Ebony Goes the Extra Mile in the Ring

By Bonnie Vannatta

Extra Ebony, an 8-year-old black gelding Tennessee Walker who has won 17 blue ribbons this year, has that big something extra that makes him a world champion. Webster’s dictionary defines “extra” as more, larger, better than is expected usual or necessary. Ebony is defined as the dark, hard, colored wood from the center of the ebony tree of Asia and Africa or resembling this, black in color. Put them together and you’ve got a pretty good picture of what this horse is all about. He’s made of winning timber. But there’s more.

“In my opinion, a great horse is one that when asked for his heart, he’ll give it to you,” said owner Clay Mills, who also trains the horse. Extra Ebony, a three-time world champion, has a very big heart. “He wants to please. He's very willing. He’s the perfect example of a show horse. He’s made right and he steps right. He has a great back end, a great front end, a great headset. He's attractive. When he's in the ring with 20 others, he definitely stands out,'' Mills said.

The horse is a 3-year-old amateur world champion, a juvenile 12-17 world champion, and an amateur-owned and trained world champion. He won the blue in the Aug. 26, Thursday morning Amateur-Owned and Trained/No Professional Training Within 90 days class this year at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn. That was the first time Extra Ebony or Clay Mills had shown in that division at the Celebration. Mills, of Mount Airy, N.C., bought the horse last November from "a very good friend," Newton Parks. "I had watched him (Extra Ebony) show on and off for five years. I've always been interested in him," Mills said. One of the things that impressed him was "how he can step so big with his front legs."

The horse also has excellent lineage. His sire is Extra Cash and the dam is Eb's Society Lady. Extra Ebony is kept in training at Mills' farm in Mount Airy, N.C., and Mills rides him about three times a week. What does he think about when he's showing Extra Ebony in the ring? "I think about winning. I think about getting the best out of the horse--getting everything he has to offer. He has an extremely large amount of talent," Mills said.

Mills says he prefers to ride the horse instead of another rider because he has a close relationship with the horse and knows how to get the best out of him.

Here's a list of his blue-ribbon wins this year: NCWHA Spring Horse Show, South Carolina Walking Horse Ladies Auxiliary Spring Horse Show (two blues), ENCSC Inc. Charity Horse Show, Stanley County Saddle Club Horse Show, NCWHLA Walking for the Children, Spring Fun Show, East Tennessee Classic, Land-O-The Sky Summer Festival, Foothills Classic, Tazewell County Classic, The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, South Carolina Championship (two blues), and East Tennessee Fall Classic (three blues).

In addition to his other qualities, Extra Ebony is very affectionate, and good with kids. "I chose to show him in the two-gaited Amateur Owned and Trained Specialty division this year to accentuate his flat-foot walk and running walk gaits. But he's a three-gaited horse. He does canter, " Mills said. "I'm very honored to have been given the opportunity to own and train a horse of Extra Ebony's caliber. The show of support from peers and friends throughout the year has been overwhelming. For that, I'm very grateful and appreciative. Extra Ebony has gained a big following. If I could say something to the walking horse industry from me and Extra Ebony, it would be, 'We humbly thank you.'"

Mills owns Horizon Equipment Rentals, with locations in North Carolina and Virginia. He currently has a black 3-year-old stallion named I'm Game which is in training at Chad Baucom's Stables in Monroe, N.C. He also currently owns a weanling by Jose' Jose' and out of Extra Ebony's mother Eb's Society Lady. His name is Jose's High Society, and Mills plans to put him in training next year.

"I want to give a special thanks to Chad and Jeanette Baucom for their never-ending support and friendship," he added.

What's in Extra Ebony's future? Mills plans to show him at a few more shows this year, and also exhibit him at a few barn parties and a football game. He also plans to enter him next year in the same division at the Celebration.

If the past is any indication, Extra Ebony has an extraordinary future.