by Mark Davis

It’s Friday night in Shelbyville! The excitement level was already high after a great night of Championship competition on Thursday night, topped off by the Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship, and it keeps growing by the moment. By the traffic coming into the show grounds even more than an hour before show time, it was obvious that an extra large crowd would be on hand tonight to enjoy the 13 classes of competition that would crown 10 World Grand Championship. Of course, the highlight of this evening, would be the final class, the Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship.

Also, the level of talk was on high regarding just who might be seen tomorrow night in the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship. One of those dark horse contenders that everyone has contemplated about since last week, World Champion Aged Mare Victoria’s Secret, made her announcement on the front of the Friday Night edition of the Walking Horse Report that she would be contending with the big boys for the big title on Saturday night. Now, the question remains will there be another surprise contender enter the ring. We will just have to wait and see.

Getting the Friday evening edition of The Celebration underway, the invocation for the evening was given by Rev. Bryan Elliot of the First Christian Church, Shelbyville, Tenn., followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Leah Boyd of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Marking the cards for the 71st annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was Rollie Beard of Lewisburg, Tenn., Jennifer Bingham of Shelbyville, Tenn., Jamie Bradshaw of Union Grove, Ala., Mike Carpenter of Franklin, Tenn., and Sam Sorrell of Flemingsburg, Ky.

Up first on the evening’s schedule was class 148A, Owner-Amateur Lady Drivers, Fine Harness. Six of the 10 with reservations worked down from Calsonic Arena to show their elegant entries for Judge Sam Sorrell and his panel. Knocking it out of the park to pick up the home run win in the section were Willie Mays and owner/exhibitor Kathy Owen of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Another Murfreesboro exhibitor, Lynn Womack and I’m Medusa drove in for the red streamers for Womack Stables of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Stretch Armstrong and Robbie Spiller were third for Cass and Spiller of New Orleans, La., and Shelbyville, Tenn.

Class 148B, Owner-Amateur Lady Drivers, Fine Harness brought three of the ten expected through the historic gates as Judge Rollie Beard called the gaits in the class. When the winner’s were called it was déjà vu all over again as Kathy Owen drove to the winner’s circle once again, this time with Clutch’s Power Play, driving for Double Springs Farm of Murfreesboro, Tenn. By the way, she made this drive with a unanimous decision of the panel. Brooks Robinson and owner/exhibitor Linda Hackel Brown of Bell Buckle were reserve, with Steal Justice and Susan Coleman picking up the yellow streamers for Beard, Ellison and Coleman and S & D Partners of Troy, Ala.

Back to the World Grand Championship competition, class 149 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship. Fourteen of the 17 on the Official Lions Club program made the call to work as Judge Jennifer Bingham called the gaits in the class. All the bayou folks on hand certainly were having a big time as Tijuana Tex and Darden Gladney made that spotlight ride to the winner’s circle in the class riding for Gladney Farms of Homer, La. This team captured a World Championship win in the Park Pleasure 50 & Over preliminary on Monday night. BB King’s Jazz and owner/exhibitor Jeannae Patterson of Gulf Hammock, Fla., pulled into the second spot. Santana’s Coin and John McNeely rounded out the top three in the competitive class for McNeely and Landrum of Blowing Rock, N.C., and Franklin, Tenn.


Class 150 brought the Susan Gordon Memorial Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses World Grand Championship to the historic big oval with four of the nine on the books working to the track hoping for their chance to make that coveted spotlight ride tonight. Judge Jamie Bradshaw served as Call Judge in the class. Making that cherished ride tonight was the reigning WGC in the division, Jazzed Up and Brenda Bramlett in the irons for Bramlett and Wilson of Shelbyville, Tenn. With this win, the team retired the Dewey Arnold Memorial Challenge Trophy, the Gen’s Fire & Ice Challenge Trophy and the Ruth S. Watson Memorial Challenge Trophy. Sheryl Crawford and Command & Control were reserve for Crawford Colts, LLC of Carrollton, Ga. DiMaggio and owner/exhibitor Alexandria Holland of Decatur, Ala., stopped in to pick up the yellow ribbon.

A quick break in the championship action brought class 151 down the hill, Walking Horse Trainers’ Auxiliary Members on Walking Horses. Twelve of the 28 on the entry sheets found their spot on the rail to work hard for their chance at the Celebration blue. Judge Mike Carpenter called the gaits in the event. Showing the PROOF was in their performance, Absolute Proof and Meg Callaway rode to the winner’s circle in the class, with a unanimous decision of the panel, riding for the Ricky Young family of Boaz, Ala. Jazz Eclipse and Jaclyn Williams rode into the second position showing for High and Harney of Lewisburg and Murfreesboro, Tenn. Bee Bee King and Stacey Blackburn were third for Rachel Castaldi of Princeton,


The lite-shod horses were back for class 152, Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite-Shod, World Grand Championship. All seven of the teams expected worked down the hill to get a close look over by Judge Sam Sorrell and his staff. Taking the honors back to sunny California was Double Java and Scott Benham riding for the Mike Chiappari family of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Bell Buckle, Tenn. Headed back to the southern Sunshine, Major Orders and Patrick Thomas were in the reserve spot for Brenda Gey of Monteverde, Fla. Gen’s Million Dollar Baby and Jimmy Laughlin were third for 4-J Land and Cattle Company of Waynesville, Mo.

Staying in the pleasure division and getting in the western frame of mind, class 153 featured the Owner-Amateur Western Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. Riding that happy trail down to find their spot on the rail, 14 of the 15 expected worked the gaits under the watch of Judge Rollie Beard and his cohorts. Walking to the win in the division was I’m Rose Walker and owner/exhibitor Lauren Hamilton of Murfreesboro and Cedar Grove, Tenn. This team captured the blue in the Western Trail Pleasure, Sec. B preliminary on Thursday morning in Calsonic Arena. Santa Emelia and owner/exhibitor Jared Carrier of Franklin, Ky., pulled into the second position. Another Kentucky team, She’s Pretty Jazzy and Paige Bennett accepted the golden streamers for Paige Bennett and Kaitlyn Rippy of Alvaton, Ky., and Greenbriar, Tenn.

Class 154 brought the Park Performance Walking Horse World Grand Championship down to the big oval. Nine of the 13 with reservations beat the time clock to take their spot on the rail and work for Judge Jennifer Bingham and her panel. Moving up from their reserve placing in the Park Performance Open preliminary, Patrick Thomas and High Fashion Statement made a strong statement and an outstanding performance to secure Thomas’ second set of roses for the week, this set for Jamie Gardner of Bridgewater, Va. The duo rode to top honors with the approval of all five judges. The Concealed Weapon and Patti Pollack were reserve riding for Robert Pollack of Saratoga, Calif., while sister Sherri Pollack was third with Prodigy riding for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif.

Owner-Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Walking Horses World Grand Championship was up next, class 155 on the schedule. Twenty of the 22 on the program worked their way down the hill and found that prime spot on the ring as they each prepared to work for their first ever set of Celebration roses. Judge Jamie Bradshaw served as Call Judge for the class. Making that coveted first spotlight ride was The Who and Molly Walters in the irons for the Molly Walters family of Southlake, Texas. Command Again and Mary Ann Blessing were reserve in the championship riding for What A Blessing Farm of Bristol, Tenn. Taking third back to the Magnolia State was The Thug and owner/exhibitor Lucky Easterling of Mize, Miss.


The young riders were up next for class 156, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 12-17 on Walking Mares or Geldings, World Grand Championship. Seventeen of the 22 on the books made their way down from Calsonic Arena to work for the highest acclaim in their division as Judge Mike Carpenter led the panel in the event. Riding back under the spotlight once again was the reigning Youth World Grand Champion, FDR and Amy Nesius up for the Rick Nesius family of Chapel Hill, Tenn. The duo captured the win in the 15-17 preliminary on Thursday night. With this win, the duo retired the Buddy Hugh Memorial Challenge Trophy, the David O Buttram Memorial Challenge Trophy, the Denzil Carbine Memorial Challenge Trophy and the Mr. and Mrs. W.A. Cauthen, Sr. Memorial Challenge Trophy. Ah, yes, happy days are indeed here again! Bustin’ Special and Taylor Walters were reserve in the very competitive class riding for the Molly Walters family of Southlake, Texas. The American General and owner/rider Maisie McSwain of Alpharetta, Ga., stopped in to pick up the yellow streamers.

Getting back in the western way once again, class 157, brought the Owner-Amateur Riders on Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship to the track to entertain the crowd with six of the seven anticipated coming to show their easy walking ways as Judge Sam Sorrell called the gaits. Setting the competition on fire with an outstanding performance was the duo of Dragonfire and owner/exhibitor Jim Heiting taking the honors way out west to Riverside, Calif. With this win, coupled with a 2007 win in the same division, the duo retired the Lorraine Martinez Memorial Challenge Trophy. Armed & Trigger Happy and Jim Nichols pulled into the second spot riding for Debbie and Jim Nichols and Jenna Hamilton of New Market and Murfreesboro, Tenn. Another Murfreesboro exhibitor, Miles Irby took Generator’s Power Pusher to the third award.

After Dragonfire and Jim Heiting exited the ring, 2008 World Grand Champions, Santana’s El Nino and trainer Link Webb returned to the big oval for his retirement ceremony. After Webb and El Nino worked the gaits one final time around the historic big oval and a few last pictures were made, it was time to pull in and remove the saddle one final time and put the official retirement blanket in place and take the little black horse from North Georgia that stole our hearts last year around the big oval one last time. After this retirement, he will return to the breeding shed where he will surely continue to sire champions.

Back to the horse show action, it was time for class 158, Owner-Amateur Riders on Two-Year-Old Walking Horses World Grand Championship. Twelve of the 19 on the Official Celebration program made the call to work for their chance at the spotlight ride in the division as Judge Rollie Beard served as Call Judge in the section. Hitting the hole in one to ride away with the roses with the approval of all five judges and the crowd as well, was He’s 3 Under Par and Barbara Kenehan riding for Jay and Barbara Kenehan of Flat Creek, Tenn. Major Sky Command and Julie Grider Tucker pulled into the second spot for the Tommy Grider family of Columbia, Ky. 9 In The Sky and owner/exhibitor Corri Knudson of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., rounded out the top three in a very talent laded division.


Class 159 brought the final class of the evening and the highlight of the night to the ring, the Four-Year-Old Walking Horse World Grand Championship (Canter). Four of the six with reservations came to the track as the crowd stood to bring them in. Announcer Bobby Sands called out each horse’s name and greeted them to the ring and called the four horse workout to order. Judge Jennifer Bingham called the gaits in the final class of the evening. Making that spotlight ride, after capturing the win in the Four-Year-Old Stallion preliminary on Sunday Night, was Lined Walkin’ and Justin Harris riding for the Joey Tidwell family of Rockmart, Ga. The duo captured this title with a unanimous decision of the judging panel.  I’m Indy Jones and Jimmy McConnell were reserve riding for Kimble and Madeline Tew of Waynesboro, Miss. Scratch Player and Winky Groover were third for Crawford Colts of Carrollton, Ga.


With that, Championship Friday of the 71st annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was history. Now, all that remains is Saturday Night and yes, history will be made once again as the 2009 Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion will be crowned.

Be on hand and be a part of history!