by Jeffrey Howard

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – The walking horse industry held its Memorial Day weekend tradition with the 38th annual Celebration Spring Fun Show. Dr. Doyle Meadows managed the show for the first time as new CEO and show manager for the Celebration. He was welcomed to his post by an extremely talented group of horses, large crowds, much optimism and USDA VMOs. The Fun Show also marked the first time the USDA has attended a show in Middle Tennessee in 2008.

With a total of 531 entries making up the 49-class schedule, Meadows was happy with his first show. “The success of any horse show rests on the shoulders of the professional trainers in our industry,” said Meadows. “I’m extremely proud of the job they are doing and the horses they brought to the Fun Show this year. Their efforts have given our industry a wonderful shot in the arm.” The quality of horses was also evidenced by 26 of the 49 classes being won by either a previous world or world grand champion.

It is no secret that when USDA VMOs are present, the attention placed on the inspection process is heightened. With industry unity the buzzword in 2008, many were anxious to see the results of the USDA assisted inspections. “From my point of view, the trainers have simply done an outstanding job and that’s where it all starts,” said NHSC Director of DQPs David Finger. “Early shows that the NHSC monitored indicated that our trainers presented sound, healthy horses for inspection, which was evidenced by a high compliance rate. At the Fun Show, under USDA supervision, those numbers were confirmed,” concluded Finger.

Meadows also addressed the condition of the horses. “Presenting healthy, sound horses for competition is the absolute highest priority for this industry,” said Meadows. “From what we saw over the weekend, it’s obvious that everyone in the process is pulling in the same direction to achieve that goal.” Meadows recently attended the compliance meeting as a guest of the National Horse Show Commission along with TWHBEA, WHOA, WHTA, USDA and AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners).

“I’m very proud of the NHSC team of DQPs, their leadership and the USDA VMOs,” Meadows said. “The working relationship and professionalism they showed toward each other and to the trainers is an example of how our system can and should work at each and every show. They are to be commended.”

The Walking Horse Championship class summed up the weekend show pretty well. The top three finishers had won 34 blue ribbons in their career. There were four world grand champions represented in the five-horse class and the winner, Rowdy Rev, had none of those four. What Rowdy Rev does have is momentum as this was his second win of the season following his win at the National Trainers’ Show in March on the same track and his second consecutive Fun Show title.

“This is a once in a lifetime deal [winning the Fun Show two years in a row],” said Bill Bobo. “This is a big win and big honor for us and I am proud of the accomplishments of Rowdy Rev. He is as good a one as I have ever put a leg over.”

Finishing reserve in the class was two-time World Grand Champion Gen On The Run and Justin Harris for Michael and Ty Hart. No stranger to the winner’s circle, the duo made a solid performance and have their sights set on competing come the last Saturday in August. Rounding out the top three in the class were PGA and Joel Weaver. This was Weaver’s debut with PGA, also a two-time world grand champion owned by Robbie Lanier. Their performance left no doubt they are a player in the World Grand Championship scene. Needless to say the crowd was treated to a highly competitive and very exciting class.

The judging panel of Gene “Smokey” Carswell, Jennifer Davis and Mike McCormick presided over the three days of competition. Leading the blue ribbon count for the show was Rising Star Ranch with six blues. Collecting three blues each were Chad Williams Stables, Allan Callaway Stables, Southern Serenity Ranch and Tim Smith Stables. Going home with two wins were Finish Line Farms, David Landrum Stables, Steve Hankins Stables, Bruce Hankins, Liz Gassaway and Amanda Winters.

Complete daily show coverage and results can be viewed by clicking here.