By Sara Watts

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – Ready or not, here we go! It is one of the most favorite times of year for all Tennessee Walking Horse enthusiasts. A time to converge on Shelbyville, Tennessee, for 11 days of Tennessee Walking Horse competition.

This 83rd edition of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration kicked off Wednesday morning, promptly at 9 a.m., in Calsonic Arena with Dallas Eubanks calling the 13 classes slated to the ring. Classes featured entries in model, trail pleasure, lite-shod, country pleasure and equitation. 

The judging panel for this year features Chris Bobo, Derek Bonner, Brent Grider, David Sisk and Dale Watts marking the cards.

First up to the ring with six entries of the nine entered were the Model Pleasure Mare contenders. Called to victory lane to pick up the first world championship and first unanimous decision of the show was Catherine Zeta-Jones with Robert Nelms at the lead. This is the fourth Celebration title for the stunning mare, of which include the 2020 Yearling World Grand Championship. Catherine Zeta-Jones is proudly owned by Ed Lukacevic of Crittenden, Kentucky. Second place was awarded to the Rushing Creek Walker owned entry of Mystic Jazz, with Beverly Carter at the lead. Picking up the yellow streamer was the duo of Hunter Fikes and Walkin’ & Jammin’ CTF for Mark and Sharon Thomas.

All seven of the scheduled Owner-Amateur English Trail Pleasure contenders took to the ring next for class 2. Deborah Dill was called to take the magical ride down victory lane aboard A Rain Delay for the Deborah Dill and Colton Trimble partnership. With a huge smile on her face, Dill added this win to early season blues at the Spring Fun Show, Marshall County Horseman’s Association and Fayetteville Blue Ribbon shows. Proudly picking up the red streamer in the competitive class was the team of Blacklist and Sherry Kessler. Walking to the third place spot was I’m Thunderstruck N.D.R. and Debbie Simons.

Class 3, Owner-Amateur English Lite-Shod brought eight of the 10 scheduled teams to the ring next. Back to defend their title was the popular team of Susan Coleman and Roscoe Jenkins. They earned this same title in 2020, 2018 and 2017. This 16th Celebration win for Roscoe Jenkins is add to other 2021 wins at the Columbia Spring Jubilee and Money Tree Classic shows. Second place was captured by Moonshine At Midnight and Darden Gladney, while it was the duo of Blake Cammack and Two Gunns LLC called to the third position. 

The first of two slated equitation classes was next with class 4E, Auxiliary Equitation Youth 12-14 (Canter). Four of the five with reservations took to the ring. After the patterns were completed it was another repeat winner. Kate Cowan was also back defending her 2020 title under the directions of Leigh Stuart. This world championship win was added to Cowan’s other season victories at the WHOA Spring Classic and WHOA/ThorSport Spring Fling. Corbin Parker moved up a spot from last year, this time capturing red streamers, while Finley Grace Brooks accepted the yellow ribbon.

All 15 entries scheduled in the Blue Ribbon Program made in to the ring next in class 5, Owner-Amateur English Country Pleasure making it the largest of the first morning session. In the tough class, rider’s jockeyed to find their perfect spot on the rail. After the tabulations of the judges’ cards, for the fourth year in a row, GiGi’s Majestic and Elysse Bradford earned the ride down victory lane. The duo has early wins at the National Trainers’ Show and Money Tree Classic. Keeping the same spot as 2020, Bulleit and Maggie Moore accepted the reserve position, while third place was presented to Sherri Pollack and She’s Never Been Kissed.
Elite Owner-Amateur Park Pleasure was next on the slate with six of the 12 with reservations vying for the world championship title in class 6. The number of entries may have been smaller, but the competition sure was not. Moving up from a reserve finish in this class for the past two years to wear the unanimous blue ribbon from the ring this year was Lisa Baum and Dose’. This is the fifth Celebration title for Dose’. Papacito and Karen Bean shined in their western attire to claim the second place honor. It was the well-known duo of Jannie Chapman and Dirty Sexy Money exiting with the third spot.

The amateur owned and trained teams who put in tireless hours together were next in the ring for class 7, Amateur Owned & Trained Country Pleasure. Eight teams of the 11 listed in the Blue Ribbon took to the rail for their chance at the world championship title. To the roar of the crowd on hand, Hey Charlene and Amanda Manis were called to the winner’s circle for the Manis, Holt and Mathews partnership. This duo headed into The Celebration on a four show winning streak. Kimberly Walden and Diamond At The Ritz were awarded with the reserve finish, while Allison Thorson and Suiza were presented with the yellow streamers.

Class 8, Owner-Amateur Four-Year-Old Trail Pleasure saw eight teams of the 11 registered come to Calsonic Arena next. Taking the world championship title back to Greenville, Kentucky, was LaMar DePoyster and King Mojo. This title is added to King Mojo’s two other Celebration titles, one of which was the 2019 Owner-Amateur Three & Under Country Pleasure World Grand Championship. Proudly picking up the red streamer in the competitive class was the team of Knockin’ Boots and Leigh Anne Gregory. Walking to the third place spot was Daddy’s Home and Debbie Simons.

Another class small on entries, but high on talent was class 9, Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old Trail Pleasure. Adding their fourth win of the season to their ever-growing resume was the team of Mr. Bentley and Ashley Wadsworth. Last year the duo captured the coveted Owner-Amateur Five & Under Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship spotlight ride. Kimberly Walden and Habanero Picante were awarded with the reserve finish, while Monica Tipton and Pistol’s Senorita were presented with the yellow streamers.

A large class of 14 Owner-Amateur All Day Pleasure contenders entered Calsonic Arena at a walk for their chance to perform in front of the judging panel. After work was done both ways of the ring and the judges’ cards were tabulated, it was IB Smokin’ Joe and Joel Johnson smokin’ the competition to the winner’s circle, just as they had done in 2019. Joel took over the reins from his sons Tanner and Tucker who have led IB Smokin’ Joe to an undefeated season so far with six previous wins. Exiting the ring with a big smile and the reserve ribbon was the duo of Lauren Hamilton and Petal Pushin’ Jazz. Dixie Serenade and Kaitlyn Rippy pulled in to accept the third place award.

Next up to the ring were five entries of the seven with reservations in class 11, Two-Year-Old Lite-Shod. Making their first appearance at The Celebration at blue ribbon win was the team of Jose’s Charlie Boy and Brandon Ailshie for owner Jamie Armstrong of Knoxville, Tennessee. Jose’s Charlie Boy is by Walk Time Charlie and out of the Jose’ Jose’ mare, Hot Ticket. Chris Zahnd and Barcelona’s Lineman were awarded with the reserve finish for the Rogers and Woodruff partnership, while Ryan Gannon and Shore Line were presented with the yellow streamers for Wells and Heiden.

Class 12, Three-Year-Old Trail Pleasure saw tough competition with all nine entries coming to the ring. Everyone found their spot on the rail to ensure the judges were able to see them properly. Remaining undefeated with 11 wins and capturing his fourth Celebration title at only three-years-old was Jose’s Twist Of Gin. B.J. Richards was in the irons to top the class for S&P, LLC of Saratoga, California. Hannah Myatt directed Bombay Sapphire to the reserve finish for the Andy Rippy Family, while it was Capistrano and Joe Lester rounding out the top three spots for Kimberly and Perry Walden.

All three entries expertly entered the ring in class 13E, Auxiliary Equitation Youth 15-17 (Canter), to close out the morning performance. The crowd picked their favorite and was sure to let the judges know as each girl showcased their equine partner. Following the pattern work, Riley Gregory was called to victory lane to claim the title and the victory pass. This title was added to four other equitation wins for this year, keeping them undefeated. Marley Peyton Doyle was awarded with the red streamers, while Jacie Booth accepted the yellow ribbon.

Leigh Stuart is the proud instructor for both champions of the equitation classes.

And with that victory pass by Riley Gregory, the first 13 classes of The 2021 Celebration are already in the books. Tonight, we are off the TWHBEA National Futurity with 28 scheduled classes showcasing the younger contenders in our breed. Then, Thursday morning competition is back on in Calsonic Arena at 9 a.m., sharp, for the second session of The 2021 Celebration, followed by the first session in Celebration Arena Thursday night at 7 p.m.