By K.C. Hensley

With April’s arrival, spring was officially on the scene. The weather across the nation did not look springlike, however. Torrential rains soaked parts of the country where rain was a rarity. Walking horse fans were not to be denied, though. Out came the rain gear, and on went the shows, sales and relocations.

The first East Tennessee Regional Walking Horse Charity Classic was held April 1-2 at the Roane State Community College in Harriman, Tenn. The show offered 30 classes and was judged by Eddie Tuck of Reidsville, N.C. Keith Becknell of Winchester, Ky., opened the show with a win aboard the talented two-year-old Lightfoot’s Summer Dream owned by Glen Butcher. Becknell also closed the event by winning the championship stake with All Cash.

The 1994 edition of the Desert Classic Horse Show, held in traditionally arid Indio, Calif., was nearly canceled by a downpour of rain. The show was held over for several hours, but after deliberating show chairman Jerry Herman decided the show must go on. Paul “Whitey” Whitehead of Mt. Orab, Ohio, judged the show while the familiar voice of Celebration announcer Bobby Sands gave the directions to the exhibitors.

The hardworking crew of Russ Thompson Stables walked away with nine blues and nine stake victories by the close of the show. Announcer Bobby Sands was right when he observed that there were more reigning world champions to be found at the Indio Show than there would be at a typical Belfast/Wartrace weekend.

Generator’s My Papa and Scott Beaty were the favorites of the crowd and the judge at the WHOA/Murfreesboro Kiwanis Club Show held April 8-9 at the Tennessee Livestock Pavilion in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Owned by Gladys Owen of Cookeville, Tenn., Papa and Beaty received thunderous applause for his tricolor championship ride.

The two-night, 33-class event was judged by Brian Martin of Ontario, Calif. Another highlight of the show came during the Walking Pony class. Twelve world class ponies got the crowd involved enough to give an ovation to The Heat Is On and Joseph King as winners of the class for Owen and King.

Leaving with the most blues was 1993 Trainer of the Year, Bill Bobo. Bobo had six wins for the show.

Also on the April show schedule was the Mississippi State Charity Horse Show held April 7-9 in Jackson, Miss. Show manager Sam Hall reported an increase in overall entries and quality of horses. David Brown, Wink Groover and Eddie Tuck judged the event.

The Mississippi bred and owned Gen's Major General, under the direction of David Landrum of Franklin, Tenn., was named grand champion. M.G. also held this title in 1990 and 1992. The champion was owned by Connie Bryant's Hillview Farms.

Landrum Stables also led the blue ribbon count with nine victories, including titles won by Sweepstakes, Pride's Sundance Star, If By Chance and Major League. Amy Williams' mount Gold Deals earned enough versatility points to be named Versatility Super Horse for the second consecutive year.

Moving to the Midwest, the Mid Ohio Walking Horse Association's annual Easter Seals Spring Spectacular was held April 8-9 at Robert's Arena in Wilmington, Ohio. More than 700 entries competed in 75 classes for walking, racking and Rocky Mountain horses.

In the eight horse stake a dynamic little mare with a big way of going, Dawn's Walking Blue with Rodney Dick up put the boys in their places and returned the tricolored ribbon to the Robert Pollack family in California.

Son Of Dude made it four for four when he captured the Lite-Shod No Canter class with owner/rider George Quinley up. I Be Strokin' and Barbara Civils claimed their fourth Wilmington title in the Plantation Western Championship.

Reigning North Carolina State Champions Mr. Bocephus and Candy Whitehead, under the direction of her father Whitey Whitehead, claimed the Amateur Specialty Stake.

The blue ribbon tally at this show was won by a new facility, Kensington Gate of Lenhartsville, Pa., owned by Clem and Cindy Hipple. Kensington Gate accounted for 13 of the blues at Wilmington.

Walking to Georgia for the opening of the state's 1994 season were 150 horses at the gate call of the second annual Piedmont Classic. Held April 16, the show was managed by Julie Altman and judged by Linda Finn of Childersburg, Ala.

Spirited Rendezvous, owned by Kent and Julie Ploeger and ridden by Mike Maack, was undeniably the crowd's favorite. The duo earned cheers and an ovation for their grand championship win that followed an earlier blue in the Aged Stallion class.

All first shows should go as well as the J.W. Cross Memorial. In its debut April 23 at Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville, Tenn., 213 entries answered the gate call.

Horse show photographer David Pruett put down his camera to act as show manager and proved that he'd learned lessons from all the shows he'd attended. The purpose of the show was to provide scholarship funds for the J.W. Cross Memorial Scholarship Fund. The other goal, said Pruett, was "to educate the general public about the Tennessee Walking Horse."

To do so the show featured a beautifully decorated stallion row filled with industry greats like Shades Of Carbon in his last stallion row appearance before his death later in 1994; The Pushover; The Touch; J.F.K; He's Puttin' On The Ritz; Dark Spirit's Rebel; Flashy Pride; Motown Magic; Ebony's Threat's Professor; and Doc's High Tribute. Many new faces filled the stands, a direct result of an aggressive advertising and promotional plan. The class schedule showed both the beauty and versatility of the breed. Harrell Jones was the judge for the 25-class schedule.

The hard core club was out in force for the Kentucky Walking Horse Association Ladies Auxiliary Spring Jubilee. With tornado warnings and heavy rain forecasted for the Central Kentucky region, 400 entries decided that they would kick up a little dust of their own and the two-day show went on as scheduled. Mickey McCormick of Murfreesboro, Tenn., the judge for the event, watched both the sky and horses standing in the Friday night mud to pick the winners.

In the Amateur Championship, Newton Parks was in the saddle and the crowd was on its feet as Senator's Lacy J. collected the roses. The Walking Horse Championship was won by Rodney Dick and Pride's Clutch, owned by the Moore Brothers and McDonald.

In the news for the month of April in 1994 was the grand opening of Oakwood Farm's new sales pavilion. A broodmare and open consignment sale was held April 25. With 65 entries and 47 horses sold, the sale grossed $102,495. The top selling entry was Sheik's Omigosh selling heavy in foal to the deceased 1985 World Grand Champion Pride's Final Edition. David V. Johnson of Miranda Ranch, Smithfield, Mich., made the final bid of $7,100.

More big news included a statement that was submitted to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on April 12. APHA recommended that fiscal year 1995 funding for the Horse Protection Act program be increased form $361,000 to the full authorized amount of $500,000. The current funding allowed APHIS attendance at only 20 percent of the more than 500 walking and racking horse shows held each year.

The industry lost a great woman April 25, 1994. Mrs. Mary E. Miller, 74, of Lewisburg, Tenn., and the widow of John C. Miller who passed away in 1984, died at her home. She left MTSU a bequest in excess of $20 million dollars which was to be used to build a horse show coliseum and to support related activities.

A native of Mt. Pleasant, Md., Mrs. Miller and her husband homesteaded on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska in the early 1960s. They later moved to Tennessee and built 10-Tucky Stables where they raised the 1973 World Grand Champion Delight Bumin' Around.

Also Mrs. Miller and her husband were instrumental in the founding of the Walking Horse Owners' Association (WHOA).

The horse world lost a former world champion April 22, 1994. Pride's Noon Parader was owned by Roger and Barbara Jenkins of Brentwood, Tenn. He was standing at stud at G-IV Farms at the time of his death. The Jenkins had owned the 13-year-old stallion since he was a yearling. In 1983 he carried Roger Jenkins to the Two-Year-Old Amateur World Championship.