by Jeffrey Howard

      The 72nd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration provided a legend of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry the opportunity to win his fourth World Grand Championship on four different horses, the first to accomplish that feat. Billy Gray rode The Coach to the title on the last Saturday night before Labor Day, which is Celebration tradition.
      Gray also directed Delight Bumin Around to the title in 1973, Pride’s Secret Threat in 1982 and Delight Of Pride in 1984. This year marked 37 years since the first time Gray rode under the spotlight in the last class. “It is a complete honor whether you win it one time or four times because you are the World Grand Champion for that year,” said a humble Gray.
     For the second consecutive year, great weather greeted the guests in Shelbyville for the 11 days of the Celebration. Cooler temperatures and low humidity marked a stark contrast to the summer of 2010. The Celebration also greeted 99 more horses to the ring in 2010 than in 2009, an accomplishment not lost on show management.
     “My overall impression of the show has to be good,” said Celebration CEO Dr. Doyle Meadows. “We showed more horses this year than we did in 2009, had great weather and we crowned some new champions. The horses that were presented in the show ring had a different look and one the entire industry could be proud of. There were very few significant problems compared to the size and scope of a world championship event. The fans were very vocal and really supported their favorite horse.”
     Celebration Board Chairman Charles McDonald echoed Meadows sentiments. “I feel the 2010 Celebration was a very good horse show; one with very few issues and a horse show that saw an enthusiastic crowd enjoy five days and 10 nights of quality competition from some outstanding entries. Our panel of judges did a very good job of selecting winners and I commend Dr. Steve Mullins and Tony Edwards and the entire SHOW staff for the work they did in allowing compliant horses in competition. The trainers are to be commended, as well, for the great job they did in bringing compliant, competitive horses to the show ring,” said McDonald.
     Three new events highlighted the championship weekend of the horse show. On Thursday night, a new class the Trainers Ride for the Roses allowed trainers that had never shown a World Grand Champion in Open Competition to ride for their first spotlight ride at The Celebration. The highly competitive class ended with Charlie Green directing King Of The Jungle to the winner’s circle for the Nestor Stewart family. Jazz Country and Tim Smith were reserve for Beverly McNeill and Absolute Proof and Bill Callaway finished in third for Ricky Young.
     Another new addition on Thursday night was the Country Pleasure World Grand Championship class. Always a popular class with entries, the World Grand Champion in 2010 was A Red Ruby and Liz Gassaway. Hallelujah In The Sky and Logan Hankins finished reserve with Beth Sims and Cowboy On Parole finishing third for the Mike Chiappari family.
     Spectators were greeted to a new opening to Saturday night when 22 lead line entries made their way for the first Lead Line World Grand Championship on Saturday night. The class has been traditionally held on the first Saturday morning. Claiming top honors in the class were Storm Sims. Rounding out the top five were Abigail Lovvorn, Tori Baxter, Abi Smith and Colton Trimble.
     The SHOW HIO served as the affiliating HIO for the 72nd Annual Celebration for the second year in a row. A new rule passed down from the United States Department of Agriculture did not allow entries that were ticketed with a violation to compete in the remainder of the horse show.
     The number of horses presented for inspection in 2010 was 2,574. In 2009, 2,618 horses were presented for inspection. SHOW Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs) wrote 206 violations in total in 2010 as compared to 196 in 2009.
     “The inspection process at the Celebration showed a cooperative relationship and respect between the USDA and SHOW as well as the majority of trainers and owners. SHOW DQPs provided thorough and consistent inspections. This is a new day for the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and proves that compliant horses can still be exciting and thrilling,” said Mullins.
      The number of violations written by the USDA Veterinarian Medical Officers (VMOs) was drastically different in 2010. USDA VMOs took information on 64 violations in 2010 as compared to 405 in 2009, an 84 percent decline.
     “We are glad to see the professional working relationship between the DQPs and our veterinarians at the show. SHOW is improving in their enforcement of the HPA and we are glad they are willing to comply with the recommendations and respond to the concerns we bring to their attention. We recognize the decrease in the number of violations and are proud of the efforts of all who contributed to this success. We commend the decrease in the number of violations from 2009 to 2010. The industry should continue to work with the USDA and HIOs to decrease soring and unfair competition in horse shows. Our ultimate goal is to end this inhumane practice completely,” summarized USDA officials.
     “The HPA was written for self-regulation. In years past the industry has failed at self-regulation. Now the USDA is recognizing that it is possible for the industry to regulate itself. This is a credit to trainers, owners, exhibitors, show management and everyone involved with SHOW,” said Mullins.
     There has been an improved evolution from show to show and definitely over the past year. The credit goes to the leadership of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association and the trainers who are presenting horses compliant with the HPA,” concluded Mullins.
     In total, violations written by USDA and SHOW were 270 in 2010 as compared to 601 in 2009, a 55 percent decline. Scar rule violations were down significantly between both SHOW and USDA. SHOW wrote 61 scar rule violations in 2010 as compared to 82 in 2009, a 25 percent decline. USDA wrote 26 scar rule violations in 2010 as compared to 223 in 2009, an 88 percent decline.
     Regarding the inspection process Chairman McDonald added, “I think the numbers speak for themselves. If you take a look at the statistics, how could you not be proud of the progress we’ve made in just the past year. Any time you can reduce the number of tickets written by 55% I think it speaks volumes about the improvements that have been made by our trainers and our SHOW DQPs. I think we are on the right track of gaining a level of trust among all groups in the industry that proves we are sincere about placing clean, sound, compliant horses in the show ring.”
     Not all the numbers at this year’s Celebration were promising. Entries in 2010 were 3,720 as compared to 3,885 in 2009. The number of unique horses making up these entries also declined from 1,819 in 2009 to 1,726 in 2010.
     Another alarming figure was the reduction in attendance at the longest running, continual event in state history. Paid attendance decreased to 176,732 from 195,299 in 2009. Actual attendance decreased from 126,685 in 2009 to 114,017 in 2010, a 10 percent decrease.
     “I want to recapture some of the lost crowds of the past years. The community must realize the significance of the walking horse industry and support The Celebration through ticket purchases and advertisement. Virtually everyone in Shelbyville/Bedford County benefits directly or indirectly from local horse shows and the horse industry,” said Meadows.
     McDonald added, “Unfortunately, as our spectator numbers decrease, so does our revenue stream. Under the direction of Dr. Meadows, we have been able to reduce our expenses dramatically to follow the reduction in revenue. However, you can only reduce expenses so far and still maintain our grounds and facilities. The Celebration Board of Directors will be meeting in the near future to analyze our current financial situation and make plans for the future.”
     “Current economic conditions certainly impacted our numbers some, but I feel like as we continue to put sound, compliant horses in the ring, our fan base will return as the excitement builds toward crowning Grand Champions and the World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse,” concluded McDonald.
     Adjudicating the 72nd Annual Celebration were Mike Carpenter, Nathan Clark, Tommy Loid, Spencer Benedict and Jennifer Bingham. Benedict was making his first appearance on the Celebration judging panel.
     Each year, judging panels endure criticism as to their selections. The year 2010 was no different as fans and enthusiasts cheered their selections, whether the judging panel agreed or not. “I thought the overall performance of the judges during the 201 classes was very good. They did not work them too long, they knew the rules and placed the horses accordingly,” said SHOW Director of Judges Rollie Beard.
     “As for the criticism of the panel in the last class, I thought the last class could have gone to either The Coach or Star, however three judges placed The Coach first and two placed him second. Star on the other hand got two first place ties and three seconds. I felt the judges did their job and judges can only place what they see in front of them. A horse can make a mistake and still win if he has outperformed the other horses. It is up to the judge to decide the severity of the mistake,” concluded Beard.
     The crowning of the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion is a tradition unlike any other and The Coach and Billy Gray made the memorable ride for owners Holland, Kilgore and Barnes. The Coach was excused from the lineup the first Saturday night while qualifying for a rub found by the judging panel in the lineup. Because no HPA violation was found by DQPs post-show and The Coach made the lineup, Gray and The Coach were eligible to show back in the championship class.
     “We felt very fortunate with what happened preliminary night to be able to show on the last Saturday night. We all felt The Coach made the best show of his life on preliminary night and you go from such a high to such a low when he was excused. As we know, this is what the walking horse industry is all about. Twenty minutes later we found hope and hung onto that hope the whole next week. Billy Gray did a great job and we thought our horse was really good the last night. This is the third time I’ve had a chance to win the grand prize and it feels just as good this time as it did the first. That feeling makes you want to go do it again,” said Bob Kilgore representing the ownership group of Holland, Kilgore and Barnes.
     “I am humbled to accomplish something that other trainers have had the opportunity to do and I was able to accomplish that feat,” said Gray. He continued, “I am proud of our Celebration considering everything that is going on and was glad to see that crowd on Saturday night. My goal is to see our industry continue to grow and go on and not just for me but for everyone because I love this industry.”
     Finishing reserve and always a popular choice with the Celebration faithful was Star and Chad Baucom for Wilsene Moody. “I thought Star showed as good as he could show and Dockery Stables did an excellent job preparing the horse. I would like to thank them and owner Wilsene Moody for giving me the opportunity to ride such a wonderful horse,” said Baucom.
     Finishing third in the class were The Golden Sovereign and Tim Smith for Evergreen Walking Horse Farm. The team captured a World Championship on the first Saturday night. Also a World Champion the first Saturday night for the third time in his career was Rowdy Rev, trained by Bill Bobo for Harlinsdale Farm. Rounding out the top five were NYPD and Kenny Compton, a previous Amateur World Grand Champion team in 2008.
     Seven horses made the gate call for the Junior World Grand Championship on Friday night. Claiming top honors and no stranger to the blue was Jimmy McConnell aboard Dark & Shady for Molly Walters. “It’s been a privilege to watch the mischievous yearling we fell in love with make his way to becoming the 2010 Junior World Grand Champion. We’ve been there for all the ups and downs of that journey and so appreciate Jimmy and his guys for the care, training and love they show Dark & Shady. We are truly blessed to be a part of the Dark & Shady team and are so proud for him,” said excited owner Walters.
     Friday night provided more than just a win in the last class. Friday was a night to remember for the Walters family as daughter Taylor rode Busting Special to the Youth Mares & Gelding 12-17 Years Old World Grand Championship. “All of our dreams came true when the spotlight landed on 1616 and Taylor hugged that big black horse. What a great compliment to them and their abilities. We thank one and all for the wonderful support you’ve showered on Taylor and Busting Special since they became a team. What a night to remember! Thank you,” concluded proud mother Walters.
     Rounding out the top three in the Junior World Grand Championship were Another Nine Yards and Ronal Young for Darby Oaks Stables and Jazz Prince and Knox Blackburn for James and Betty Corlew.
     Finishing behind Walters and Busting Special were two riders from David Landrum Stables. Lindsay Hess directed She’s Push In Command to reserve honors and Landrum’s daughter Lindsey directed Ritzey Zone to third place honors.
     One of, if not the most competitive divisions all year long has been the three-year-old division. Talented stallions have showcased their abilities all across the country throughout the year and have sold for high prices leading right up until show time. Taking home top honors in the highly competitive division were I’m Copperfield and Knox Blackburn for owners the Walden family.
     “I am so honored to own such a great horse and I appreciate Bud and Suzanne Moore very much for allowing me the opportunity to own Copperfield. I also appreciate all the hard work Knox put in with Copperfield and he made a wonderful ride. The crop of three-year-olds this year was one of the best and we feel very lucky to have come out on top,” said Mike Walden. Walden purchased I’m Copperfield just weeks before the start of The Celebration. Finishing second and capping off a great year were A Strong Need For Cash and Michael Wright for Jim Roberts. A Bruce Pearl and Jimmy McConnell finished third for Mike and Lee McGartland.
     The largest numbers of entries in 2010 came in the Two-Year-Old division. The world championship class was split three ways and the world grand championship class was highly competitive. Claiming top honors were Pro V1 and Jimmy McConnell for William and Sandra Johnson.
     “We are very excited about Pro V 1. We feel he has a great future in the show ring. His sire The Titleist was a great young horse as well as his grandsires He's Puttin' On The Ritz and Generator's Santana. We couldn't ask for much more, he is a popular Two-Year-Old Champion and Waterfall owns his sire and both of his grandsires.  Jimmy McConnell recognized how talented he was and he was everything Jimmy said he would be,” said proud owners William and Sandra Johnson.
     Finishing reserve after their world championship ride on Monday night were Dirty Sexy Money and Tim Smith for Wallace and Laura Brandon. Rounding out the top three were Parole’s Jail House Rock and Daniel Latham for Robert Taylor.
     Pro V 1 and McConnell took home the $100,000 Waterfall breeding incentive for the World Grand Championship. Half of the incentive goes to the owners, in this case the owners of Waterfall Farms William and Sandra Johnson and half to the breeder, William P. Jackson (deceased).
     Claiming the first portion of the incentive, $50,000 to the first World Champion were Janice Fostek and I’m Pushin’ N Line when they won the Amateur Two-Year-Old World Championship. Half of that incentive went to breeder Jim and Judy Leek.
     John Allan Callaway directed talented stallion Ozone’s Cut Above All to the 15.2 & Under World Grand Championship for Don and George-Ann Pratt. This was the talented stallions first World Grand Championship. Finishing reserve were multi-World Grand Champion Private Charter and Knox Blackburn for the Walden family. In third were BeeBee King and Jimmy McConnell for Rachel Castaldi.
     Amateur and juvenile competition is always highly competitive come Celebration time and 2010 was no exception. At the top of the list was the Amateur Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship. He’s Vida Blue and Kay Green took home the roses for Green’s first ride under the spotlight at The Celebration. “He is a great horse and I am so proud for Knox as he has done a wonderful job. I love having the opportunity to show him and it was a pleasure to experience. I haven’t gotten over it yet,” said a jubilant Green.
     Green had a memorable Celebration as she was also honored and presented with the Susan Gordon Horsemanship Award. The award is one of the industry’s top accomplishments and one that Green was overwhelmed to receive. “I was totally surprised and shocked. It is quite an honor. I had watched and admired her for years and she was such a gracious lady and it is an honor to receive this in her name. Receiving this award was as exciting as the win with He’s Vida Blue and very special to me,” concluded Green.
     Rounding out the top three in the Amateur Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship were He’s 3 Under Par and Barbara Kenehan. This team won a World Championship and were the Two-Year-Old World Grand Champions in 2009. In third were A Bruce Pearl and Lee McGartland.
     Taking home top honors in the Amateur Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship were Bad Economy and Ben Kail. The spotlight ride was Kail’s first blue ribbon at The Celebration and one to remember as he topped the stiff competition in the full class. “It was totally unexpected,” said a thrilled Kail.
     “I don’t know how to explain it, it was surreal, it was great. Ever since I was a little kid I have dreamed of winning at The Celebration. The Celebration did a great job and provides the perfect atmosphere and feeling. Everything is just perfect. When they called my number out, it was like a dream and it wasn’t me,” continued Kail.
     The week got off to a great start for Kail as daughter Maggie took home a World Championship with Free To Score. “The very biggest thrill was my little girl winning. What a thrill to see her win,” concluded the proud Kail.
     Finishing reserve in the class were Janice Fostek and I’m Pushin’ In Line. The duo earlier had captured a World Championship. In third were I’m Deuce and Dru McCormick. The talented stallion was sold during the show to Darrell Frazier.
     A fan favorite, The Dixie Lineman and Gail Walling took the roses in the Amateur Four-Year-Old division. This duo had experience with the roses as in 2008 they took home the top prize in the Amateur Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship. This win makes a total of three World Championships, two World Grand Championships and a reserve World Grand Championship. A pretty impressive record to say the least.
     Reserve in the class were He’s A Jazz Thing and Kelly Sherman and in third were Play Something Country and Jeff Smith. Kelly’s mother Beverly Sherman had a great finish to her Celebration capturing the Amateur Mares & Geldings World Grand Championship with A High Dollar Charge. The win culminated an amazing year for Sherman who has recuperated fully from her accident in the ring at Dickson, Tenn., last July. Also, Sherman edged out a legend of the show ring in My First Dollar and George-Ann Pratt. That team has captured three World Grand Championships in their career. Third in the always competitive class were Main Majorette and Caleb Kilburn.
     Brian Reece came to the Celebration with high expectations but his Saturday night even surpassed his own expectations. “I am completely overwhelmed and really just speechless,” said Reece after he captured the Amateur Canter World Grand Championship. “I can’t say enough about Brandon (Stout). He had my horse great and all I had to do was sit there and ride. It was a thrilling experience and this will never get old,” concluded Reece. Matador and Tim Brooks were reserve and I’m Redeemed and Kenny Compton were third in the championship amateur division.
     The Amateur Specialty crown went to Wall Street and Clay Mills. The talented stallion was reserve in the World Championship class but came back and showed his blue ribbon form in the championship class. Finishing reserve were Meg Callaway and Absolute Proof and in third were Command Again and MaryBeth Blessing.
     Other notable amateur championships went to I’m NRA and David Sisk in the 15.2 & Under division, Command & Control and Sheryl Crawford in the Elite and Courtney Luttrell and Godfather By Ultra Copy in the Show Pleasure division. Tamara Kasser and Pride Of Willie took home the Novice championship. The Pony World Grand Championship was won by I’m Packin’ A Pistol. This win capped off back-to-back World Grand Championships for proud trainer Chad Williams.
     Lilly Waites had a wonderful Celebration and nothing could compare to her guiding Prime Poison to the Youth Pony World Grand Championship. It was a win that Lilly had to wait for as she was unable to show the horse in the class the previous two years. “This is one of the best and most memorable feelings I’ve ever had. Waiting three years to show Prime Poison at The Celebration made it much more meaningful and special. It taught me that if I don’t give up, eventually good things will happen,” said the 15-year-old Waites.
     Waites also tried to pull off a memorable feat and win both Pony divisions. In the adult pony division Waites won the World Championship with Lined Walkin’ and finished reserve in the World Grand Championship class. “The team at Joe Fleming Stables did a great job getting Lined Walkin’ ready and we won a World Championship and a reserve World Grand Championship. For years I showed at The Celebration and did not get a ribbon at all, so I am thrilled. Getting beat by a great horse is ok and Packin’ A Pistol is a great horse. With a little age and maturity he has a lot of potential,” finished a joking and laughing Waites.
     Finishing reserve to Waites in the Youth Pony division were Meghan Davis and Ritz Tornado and in third were World Champions Roll The Gold and Allison Thorson. Thorson had a wonderful Celebration winning three World Championships.
     Other top youth finishes were Moonstruck Dollar and Lake Weaver taking the 11 & Under crown for the second consecutive year and JFK’s Fancy Lady Leslie and Jesse Laughlin taking the Youth 6-17 Park Pleasure Mares & Geldings World Grand Championship. She’s Pretty Jazzy and Kaitlyn Rippy took home the top honors in the Youth Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship.
     The pleasure division at The Celebration continues to grown and 15 new classes were added at this year’s Celebration. Circle T Stables and Laurie Toone and Evan Morgan had a great Celebration accumulating 15 World Championships, nine reserve World Championships, four World Grand Championships and 2 Futurity championships.
     Southern Serenity also won their fair share of Celebration hardware capturing 11 World Championships, five World Grand Championships, nine reserve World Championships and one reserve World Grand Championship. Trainers Howard Hamilton and Patrick Thomas were proud of the contingency they brought to Shelbyville.
     Top pleasure honors went to Good Til The Last Drop and Ashley Say in the Novice Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. The team topped It’s Lady Gaga and Ty Irby. Good Til The Last Drop won a futurity crown, two world championships and one world grand championship.
     Dragonfire and Jim Heiting capped off back-to-back titles in the World Grand Championship Amateur Western Park Pleasure class beating Hello I’m Johnny Cash and Jacob Baum. I’m Rose Walker and Lauren Hamilton took home the roses in the Amateur English Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. This team took home the roses in both the English and Western Trail Pleasure World Grand Championships in 2009. Santa Emelia and Jared Carrier were reserve in the English Trail Pleasure division.
     Honor My Cash and Patrick Thomas capped off a great Celebration winning the Lite-Shod World Grand Championship for Don and Deborah Parmer. Deborah Parmer took Honor My Cash to the Amateur Lite-Shod World Grand Championship as well. The popular horse took home five world championships and two world grand championships during the week and never heard his name called in a position other than first. Roger Emerick purchased the talented horse from the Parmer’s during the show and the horse will make his home at Russ Thompson Stables.
     Sandra Johnson and Lined Up At The Ritz rode under the spotlight in the Amateur Park Pleasure World Grand Championship. Finishing reserve were 2x The Magic and Marty Irby. Darden Gladney and Tijuana Tex finished third in the competitive division. Red Sunday’s Best and Liz Gassaway wore the roses in the Amateur Western Trail Pleasure division edging out Cha Cha Cha and Miles Irby.
     Catastrophic and Laurie Toone won the Western Lite-Shod World Grand Championship capping off the Celebration for Circle T Stables. Finishing reserve were the popular Double Java and Beth Sims. Jose’s No Counting Me Out and Darden Gladney won the Park Pleasure World Grand Championship. Finishing reserve after a previous World Championship ride earlier in the week with Nicole Coffey were Yao Ming and Bruce Hankins.
     A growing division is the Park Performance division and a spectacular performance was put on by High Fashion Statement and Patrick Thomas for Pat and Jamie Gardner. Finishing reserve in the class were The Concealed Weapon and Patti Pollack. Avenger’s Lady Threat and Link Webb finished in third.
     All in all The 72nd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was a success. Can improvements be made? Sure, but the industry is alive and well as we head into the fall show season. The Celebration will jump into the act with the first Celebration Fall Classic in October.
     “I am extremely proud of our staff and the unbelievable amount of hours they worked during The Celebration. Each staff member continues to do more work with less help than ever before. I am really proud of the owners that continue to support the economy and the walking horse industry here in Shelbyville. Moreover, with the economic downturn, our trainers have had to do more with less. It has not been an easy road for the trainers to make a living. I am amazed at the number of trainers who are committed to this industry, and I applaud them,” summarized Meadows.
     Complete results, judge’s cards and pictorial coverage of the entire 72nd Annual Celebration can be found in the insert in this edition.