by Ann Bullard

Rollie Beard of Lewisburg is the veteran among The Celebration judges.
He judged his first world championship show in 1988, the year Doc's
High Tribute was crowned world grand champion. He was on the 1994 panel
that tied Gen's Armed and Dangerous and the 2002 panel when Steve Dunn
rode Out On Parole to earn the silver in the final class of Saturday
“It's a big honor to do that. It's a thrill to show there and a big
honor to judge,” he said.
Like all the judges, Beard has paid his dues. A native of Belfast,
Tenn., he started leading colts and working on Buddy Musgrave's farm
when he was “about 14. Then I went to work leading colts for S.W.
Beech,” he recalled. “My daddy [the late Buck Beard] taught me to ride.
He and Mr. Beech were very good friends and he was very particular.”
Beard went to school in Belfast until the eighth grade, and then moved
to Lewisburg because eighth grade was as far as Belfast schools went at
the time. Once he finished high school, he “apprenticed” with Billy
Gray, John Harney, Vicki Self and Albert Lee Roland. He spent the
longest time working with Steve Aymett.
In 1982, he married a Mobile, Ala., girl, moved to the Alabama Gulf
Coast and opened a training operation. He obtained his judges' license
shortly before the move.
Beard had a successful business in South Alabama, but after 15 years
decided to return to Tennessee. He bought his present facility in
Lewisburg six years ago and operates a training operation that is
growing and doing well.
That operation covers - or has covered - every facet of the walking
horse business, including flat-shod, lite-shod, heavy-shod, performance
and halter horses.
“Probably my best three horses were Pride's Grand Slam, Hal's Six
Shooter and Editorial Page,” he said. His former wife, Nanci, won an
Under 15.2 Amateur Stallion World Championship in the late '80s aboard
Pride's Grand Slam; Hal's Six Shooter topped an Amateur Fine Harness
class. Beard stepped up on June Hawkin's Editorial Page at the 2003
world championship show, earning a reserve world championship in one
section of the hotly-contested show pleasure division.
“I've had a lot of reserves [world championships],” he added,
mentioning Kodachrome as one stallion who consistently stayed near the
His dad's influence may be one reason Beard has a reputation for being
what he calls “a neat freak. How a horse and rider are turned out is
very important to me. I want everything to fit, to look correct, riders
to have their hair up. I want a horse that's well groomed with clean
tack. The whole package is important.
“I look for a rider who is totally under control and a horse that is
happy where he is and with what he's doing,” the judge said.
He looks for “a good-looking horse that shakes his head, steps nicely
up front, has a good stride behind and looks smooth."
In Western Park Pleasure, Beard says a horse should go on a loose
rein, with its head not up but not between its legs - in a comfortable
position like on a trail ride. He should be walking, nodding his head
and have a good stride behind.
“I don't want a lot of action with his front legs - but I do want
some,” he said.
In contrast, a trail pleasure horse should have a nice striding back
end, with his head nodding and be relaxed. English horses should carry
their heads higher than a western competitor, but both should work on a
loose rein.
As for stake horses … “If it's going to be our world grand champion, I
want him to look like a world grand champion. He should shake his head
and move well off both ends. He should be a good-looking horse that
sets back in the bridle. It's got to be a show horse.
“When they strip, I want a horse parked out, head up, and ears
forward,” he said, adding, "Beech always said to 'pick out a handsome,
good-looking son-of-a-gun' when I was looking at a horse.
“When stake horses are stripped down, there are so many on each side.
They ought to be parked out for conformation judging, with their heads
up and ears forward. A lot of people don't look at that. I do.  I know
he's tired, but I want him to show me his conformation.”
Beard may have the most equitation experience of all the judges on the
panel. He operated an academy program and taught equitation for several
“I know what equitation looks like, what looks good, what to wear,” he
said. “I think I know the program pretty good. Teaching Academy riders
keeps you up to par on such things as having your elbows in, heels
down, back straight, chin up. If a rider doesn't start correctly, he's
going to slump over and have his hands where they're not supposed to
“I have judged equitation classes at The Celebration by myself,” he
Beard simply loves horse shows. “I like the atmosphere, the fun of
going to horse shows. I love the people from every walk of life.”
He looks forward to the end of August when he and four other walking
horse fans will decide who the best of the best for 2005 may be.