by Bob Roach, Walking Horse Club of Kentucky

The good old days, full of sweet memories from the past, are cherished by all, young and…. more mature. We usually remember the good times and put hard times out of our minds. This Saturday April 7, 2012, will go down as a fond memory. The Middle Tennessee State University Pre-Vet Show was a big day in the lives of trainers, owners, and fans of the Tennessee Walking Horse.

I arrived on the grounds early with expectations of enjoying a horse show in the south. As soon as I got out of my truck, it was obvious that this was going to be a special day. As per usual, the trainers and back yard owners of yearlings also arrived early. Few people realize how much time is devoted to showing this great horse of ours. These yearlings have been worked at home, bathed, shined, and ribbons put in their hair. And most of them have never been away from the barn much so they need to get familiar with their new surroundings. Many handlers like to get to the show and work inside the ring so that their colts will relax and show what they can really do.

It was enjoyable watching the natural movement of these fine horses but it did not take me long to realize just how special the day was going to be. I kept hearing the sound of diesel trucks and trailers. When I peeked outside, the parking lot for horses was filling up and before it was over they were parked everywhere. Many had to park off of the grass onto the pavement. Excited barely describes my feelings at this point.

I had driven from Elizabethtown, Ky., hoping to see a good show but I never imagined it was going to be this big. Many others had arrived early and were enjoying good conversation as they met up with friends that they had not seen for a while. I marveled at the joy that each reunion brought. Trainers, owners, and horse show lovers were visiting and telling stories of days gone by, while realizing that today was going to be a day like many of our fondest memories.

You see, many of us remember days like this. Days where the parking lot was full. The bleachers were packed. And just as important, there were classes full of competitive Tennessee Walking Horses.

Finally when I was about to burst with anticipation, the flag horse came in. Next, I heard the greatest rendition of our national anthem. I hate to admit it but, sometimes I get anxious for the anthem to be over so that I can see some good horses. But on this day the song rang through the air with such voice quality that I was proud just to be a part of the ceremony. If I could spell a capella without spell check, I would tell you that she sang it that way.

The model horses were beautiful and the yearlings, while obviously still nervous, showed us the promise of our future. From show pleasure to amateur classes to country pleasure, each class showed the distinct and natural difference between our beloved Tennessee Walking Horse and any other breed. That fluid ride and long stride as if gliding on air, was obvious in each of the disciplines. By the time the two-year-olds came in, I was ready to explode. You see they are definitely my favorite. I have never been able to afford a horse that was already made, so I have started a colt almost every year since 1974.

Many of you back yard operators can identify with the hard work and preparation on show day. We get up early to see if we think we are good enough to show and, if we are, we know it will be an exciting day. It is lots of hard work, yet we love the challenge.

While the back yard operations are working hard, you can only imagine the excitement and anticipation that is going on at the same time in the large training barns. Many people say that the back yard operations are the backbone of our industry. I say that while they were the origin of our show horses and are very important, the large barns that bring semi loads to the horse shows are quite instrumental to the success of each show.

I especially enjoyed the three-year-olds, four-year-olds, park pleasure, park performance and ponies. The classes were full and the crowd was enthusiastic. When the juvenile class came in, it reminded me of what showing horses is all about. I observed a grandfather that was overwhelmed with pride. No, it was not a grandchild winning a blue ribbon but a grandchild that was competitive. I overheard him say, when his granddaughter came out with a third place ribbon, “We are going to have a lot of fun this summer.” Of course, this brought back memories of my own daughter showing for the first time. I am sure that each of you can remember a particular show that you made or observed that is stuck in your mind like a permanent picture. Memories of days gone by brought back by the present.

Well, you can imagine my excitement when they brought the stake horses in one by one. As I looked around, I noticed that no one in the stands was ready to leave. They were enjoying a horse show much like those of days gone by. The ring was full and the competition was welcomed. It got really loud when Justin Jenne came through at a big flat walk. When they asked the horses to go running walk, it turned into a roar, each of the enthusiastic and proud fans yelling for their horse of choice, while remembering…the good old days, and looking forward to more.