By Ashlea Wheelon

FRANKLIN,Tenn- With the year coming to an end, many walking horse enthusiasts from state to state made their way to Fanklin, Tenn., to the Marriott Cool Springs for the annual Walking Horse Trainers’ Association’s Banquet on December 6, 2008. Traditionally held the first full weekend in December, the weekend consists of meetings, continuing education, awards and plenty of good times. The WHTA honors their prestigious Horse of the Year, youth council high point, and the WHTA Auxiliary winners.

Bobby Sands served as master of ceremonies this year, and the special announcement was made by Celebration CEO Dr. Doyle Meadows that he (Sands) would be returning to the Celebration center ring as the official announcer.  Meadows also announced that the WHTA had agreed to a new 10-year agreement with the Celebration to host the Trainers’ Show in the Calsonic Arena and that the Annual Fun Show would return to the outdoor Celebration Stadium.

After dinner was served Sands started off the evening recognizing many special guests from several different organizations including the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association, National Horse Show Commission and the Walking Horse Owners’ Association.

The youth awards were the first to be presented. Each year a Member of the Year is chosen and this year Thomas Derickson won the honor. With this honor comes a custom riding suit donated by Marsha’s On The Square. The WHTA Youth High Point Awards were next on the agenda.  Winning the Youth Plantation division was Lindsey Landrum while reserve honors went to Megan Davis.  Stratton Weaver won the Youth Lite Shod, reserve was Christopher Givens. Performance 11 & Under was Hailey Puckett and reserve was Member of the Year Thomas Derickson. In the Performance 12-17 division the winner was Haley Lane and Amy Nesius picked up the reserve award.

In 1991, the Trainers’ Friendship Club was established to recognize those noted individuals who have made a major contribution to the Walking Horse Industry.  In 2008 the WHTA honored three individuals, Billie Nipper and Dr. Michael and Becky Coleman, and welcomed them into the club.
In what has become tradition since 1995 thanks to the generosity of Frank and Shirley Neal, Link Webb was presented with his green blazer from Celebration CEO Dr. Doyle Meadows.  The blazer is now given annually to the World Grand Champion trainer and includes the Celebration logo and winning year sewn on the blazer.

The Auxiliary also hands out its awards during the evening and a complete breakdown of those awards and winners is included in a separate story on the WHTA Auxiliary.

A special award was presented to Lonnie Messick.  A reception honoring Messick was held prior to the banquet. Messick was honored for his 30 years with the commission. ”Lonnie has seen our industry though some major changes and has been a steadfast leader,” stated NHSC Chairman, Mark Farrar.
Jeffrey Howard, publisher of the Walking Horse Report came to the stage to present the checks to the Rider’s Cup winners.  Joel Weaver completed a three-peat, narrowly beating second place finisher Justin Harris. Weaver claimed his check for $14,223, which he worked extremely hard for showing 173 times in Rider’s Cup classes in 2008 and accumulating 29,430 points. The Rider’s Cup program has paid out over $250,000 since it’s inception in 2005.  That would not be possible without the five divisional sponsors, Waterfall Farms, the Molly Walters Family, Warr Development and Spud Warr, Randall Ferguson and Ferguson Farms and James Corlew Chevrolet, Cadillac and Mitsubishi.
Awards were given to each of the horses that won the overall divisions. Dangerous Dollar and Justin Harris won the Two-Year-Old division for owner Richard Greer. Prissy Ritzy and Chris Zahnd won the Three-Year-Old division for James and Peggy Vernon. Jose’s Whole Shabang and Charlie Green won the Four-Year-Old division for J&J Enterprises. A Formula One and Joel Weaver captured the 15.2 & Under for Brooks Depierro. Generator’s Champion and Joel Weaver won the Walking Stake division for Brett Jones.
The prestigious trainer of the year award went to the very humble Jeff Green. The trainer of the year award is voted on by the trainers of the industry and presented at The Celebration. This award is always an honor but for Jeff Green it was extra special. Green lost his father to cancer not long after this award was presented. Green’s father had worked with him for the past three years. The industry can hardly say enough about Green and his loyalty to the breed.
Assistant Trainer of the year went to Jakie Smith. Training with Philip Trimble at Philip Trimble Stables for the past 8 years this team has had many successes. This year marked a special one as Philip Trimble Stables brought home four blues including the Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship. This is Smith’s first time to win this award.
Horse of the Year as recognized by the trainers themselves is one of the most prestigious honors bestowed on any horse.  The year brought many memories for each of the winners but being named Horse of the Year always is a great accomplishment. 

The Weanling of the Year was Skyanide, owned by Fred Benjamin and trained by Carlyle Johnson. Along with wins at Tony Rice and Wartrace this team also captured the Weanling World Grand Championship.

Devious Don was this year’s Yearling of the Year. Shown successfully throughout the year this World Grand Champion had over ten wins this season, Lisa Anderson owns the entry.

Paroled In Texas was a major competitor all year long in both amateur and open divisions. Being named Amateur Two-Year-Old Mare and Gelding Horse of the Year with rider Holly Coggin was the end to a great season for the Coggin and Wittenburg familes.  Trained by Alllan Callaway Stables, John Allan Callaway captured a world championship with this mare.

Two-Year-Old Amateur Stallion Horse Of The Year was The Dixie Lineman. Winning all year long including the Amateur Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship with Gail Walling this team was a crowd favorite. This champion was trained by Finish Line Farms and owned by Judy McDonald.

Cash's Blackjack Fantasy was the Two-Year-Old Mare Horse Of The Year. Undefeated in 2008 this team went on to win the Two-Year-Old Mare class at the Celebration. The Bob Adcock Family owns the entry.

Two-Year-Old Gelding Horse Of The Year was Jazz’s White Night shown by Debra Colman and trainer Charlie Green.  Green carried Jazz’s Whit Night to the Two-Year Old Gelding World Championship.

Strait Line Cash and Philip Trimble had a big year. Making their debut performance at Mt. Pleasant this team went on to win Trimble’s first set or roses in the Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship. The Richard Justice family owns the entry.

Lite Shod Horse Of The Year Elegance of Design and Mark Lambert won the Lite Shod World Grand Championship. This WGC also won world championships in the 50 & over Lite Shod with Bruce Lavato and the Lite Shod Adult riders with Nancy Lavato. With many more wins this season this team took the season by storm.

Lite Shod Canter Horse Of The Year Calvin Klein’s Obsession is owned by Donald Knight and trained by Jeff Givens Stables.  Calvin Klein’s Obsession had wins at Gulf Coast, Smoky Mountain, Cumberland County, and Celina Lions Club to name a few. This team also earned the title of Lite Shod Canter Reserve World Grand Champion.

The Youth Walking Pony Horse of the Year Award had a tie. Youth World Grand Champion Rudy Rudiger is owned by The Neal Holland Family and ridden by Alexandria Holland. This team won their second Walking Pony World Grand Championship. Robby Black trains the entry. I’m Uncle Kracker owned by Dr. Linda Jones and shown by Haley Lane had a great season to earn them Horse or The Year along with Rudy Rudiger.  This team won the Juvenile 15-17 year old World Championship.

The Indy 500 was the Adult Walking Pony Horse Of The Year. Owned by Jo Ann Dowell and trained by Finish Line Farms, Sue Ann Dowell carried this blue ribbon champion to wins at Money Tree, Manchester, Columbia Spring Jubilee and the Adult Pony World Grand Champion.

What a season for the Novice Horse Of the Year Outta Line. Owned and ridden by Kelly Peevy this team captured three blues at the Celebration including the Novice ladies Stallions, Amateur Three-Year-Old Stallions and the Novice World Grand Championship. Swinging Gate Stables trains the entry.

The Elite Horse Of The Year was Kid Callahan. Trained by Charlie Green Stables, Ed Breedlove rode this champion to the Amateur World Grand Champion for Genevieve Breedlove.

Amateur Three-Year-Old Mare or Gelding Horse Of The Year Jose’s Dulce is owned by Bob and Linda Ramsbottom and trained by Link Webb Stables.  Jose’s Dulce earned Kathryn Ramsbottom many blues including the Amateur Three-Year-Old Mare or Gelding World Championship.

Three-Year-Old Amateur Stallion Horse Of The Year I’m Wall Street is owned and ridden by Clay Mills and trained by Baucom Stables. Current Three-Year-Old World Grand Champion, this team enjoyed wins at National Trainers’ Show, Spring Fun Show, Land O Sky and the PC Splash.

Three-Year-Old Mare Horse Of The Year was Jose’s Ritzy Doll. Owned by Caughman and Cain and trained by Allan Callaway Stables this mare was crowed the Three-Year-Old Mare World Champion with John Allan Callaway. Wins also include Columbia Spring Jubilee, Liberty Lions and Woodbury.

Ritz In Command was named the Three-Year-Old Gelding Horse Of The Year. Trained by Finish Line Farms and owned by Jay Kenehan this team captured the Three-Year-Old Gelding division with Rodney Dick and the Amateur Three-Year-Old Mare or Gelding division with Barbara Kenehan.

Three-Year-Old Stallion Horse Of The Year was A Show Of Jazz. Owned by Gus King and trained by Joe Martin Stables this talented stallion claimed the Three-Year-Old Stallions World Champion and the Three-Year-Old Reserve World Grand Championship.

Trail Pleasure Horse of The Year Playin’ Hooky had a year they will never forget. Owned, trained and ridden by Liz Gassaway this team had an undefeated season with 11 blue ribbons which included the Amateur Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship.

Western Lite Shod Horse Of The Year was Drop The Hammer. Warming up with two wins at the International this team is the current Western Lite Shod World Grand Champion with Connie Waldo.  Drop The Hammer is owned by Leek and Waldo.

The Western Park Pleasure Horse Of The Year was Armed Red Baron. No stranger to roses this team captured both the Amateur Western Park Pleasure World and World Grand Championship. Shown by Joe Dixon and trained by Southern Serenity Ranch, 2008 was a great season.

Amateur Fine Harness Horse Of The Year was Jazz’s Master. Owned by Buddy Stasney and trained by David Landrum Stables, this team is no stranger to the winners circle as they were the 2008 Amateur Gentlemen Fine Harness World Champions.

Open Fine Harness Horse Of The Year was Wire Transfer, who claimed top finishes at the Columbia Spring Jubilee, Murfreesboro and Lewisburg. Owned by Curtis Williamson and trained by Dickie Scrivner, this team also finished out the season with wins at the International and the ASHA Fall Extravaganza.

Ladies Amateur Specialty Horse Of The Year was My First Dollar. Owned by George Ann Pratt and trained by Callaway Stables this team claimed seven blues this season including the Amateur Mare and Gelding World Grand Champion.

Men’s Amateur Specialty Horse Of The Year was Kid Callahan, owned by Genevieve Breedlove and trained by Charlie Green Stables.  Ed Breedlove carried this talented horse to the Elite World Grand Championship.

Amateur Specialty Horse Of The Year was Jazzed Up. Owned and shown by Brenda Barmlett this team is the current Amateur Specialty World Grand Champion.

The Amateur Canter Horse Of The Year was NYPD. Always a crowd pleaser this champion is owned by the Compton Family and is shown by Kenny Compton under the direction of Steve Hankins Stables. The current Amateur Canter World Grand Champion this team also enjoyed blues from the National Trainers’ Show and the Spring Fun Show.

Bella Sera At The Ritz was named Four-Year-Old Amateur Mare & Gelding Horse Of The Year. Owned by the Anthony Joseph family and shown by Ashley Joseph this team had a great year that included the Four-Year-Old Mare or Gelding World Championship. Knox Blackburn Stables trains the entry.

Amateur Four-Year-Old Stallion Horse Of The Year was Palm Beach Ritz. Owned by Bill and Sandra Johnson and trained by Southern Comfort this team captured the Amateur Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship. Wins also included Gallatin, Woodbury and Pulaski.

Four-Year-Old Mare Horse Of The Year was A Victoria Secret. Owned by Chester and Lynda Stokes and trained by Carl Edwards and Sons Stables, their victories include Gulf Coast Charity, Woodbury, Midnight Sun and the Southern Championships. They are also the current Four-Year-Old Mare World Champion.

Four-Year-Old Gelding Horse Of the Year is Jose’s Whole Shabang. Owned by J&J Enterprises, trainer Charlie Green directed this champion to the Four-Year-Old Gelding World Championship.

Four-Year-Old Stallion Of The Year was The Coach, owned by Holland, Kilgore and Barnes. Trainer Joel Weaver held an undefeated season of seven blues that lead him to the Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship.

Amateur Park Pleasure Horse Of The Year was He’s On Georgia Time. Owned and shown by Kelly Gordon and trained by Russ Thompson this team claimed five blues before heading to the Celebration to win the Amateur Park Pleasure World Grand Championship.

The Professional Park Pleasure Horse of the Year was Fog At The Ritz.  Dentis Sisson and Southern Serenity Ranch had a great year with the talented stallion and won both the Park Pleasure Stallions World Championship and Park Pleasure World Grand Championship.

The Amateur Park Performance Horse of the Year was San Juan.  San Juan is no stranger to the winner's circle and 2008 proved to be a great year for San Juan and owner Eric Lackey.  Eric guided San Juan to wins at Dickson, Nolensville, the International, North Carolina Championships and best of all a World Championship in the Owner/Amateur Park Performance Mares/Geldings at the Celebration.

Professional Park Performance Horse Of The Year was The Concealed Weapon. Owned by the Robert Pollack family and trained by David Landrum Stables he claimed the Park Performance World Grand Champion. Shown in open and amateur all year this honor capped off a great season.

Amateur Show Pleasure Horse Of The Year was Iron Work’s Tin Man. Owned by Ray Jones Trucking and trained by Rob Brainard Stables this team hads four strong blues before heading to the Celebration to claim two blues including the Amateur Show Pleasure World Grand Championship.

Professional Show Pleasure Horse Of The Year was Coin’s Black Stroke. Owned and shown by Jean O’Brien and trained by John Puckett this team had a great season in both open and amateur competition that gained them the title of the Open Show Pleasure World Grand Champions.

The Juvenile 11 & Under Horse Of The Year was Moonstruck Dollar.  Moonstruck Dollar is owned by Stacy Blackburn and daughter Alex Blackburn won her first set of roses in the 11 & Under World Grand Championship. Trained by Knox Blackburn at the time Moonstruck Dollar is now owned by Brenda Little and trained by Paul Livingston.

FDR was the Juvenile 12-17 Horse Of The Year. With a year to remember, Amy Nesius carried FDR to the Youth 12-17 World Grand Championship. Owned by Shannon Nesius and trained by Team Tim Smith, this team enjoyed seven blues this season.

15.2 & Under Amateur Mare or Gelding Horse Of The Year was Be Cool. Owned by Jeanette Warr and trained by Chad Williams Stables this gelding was shown all year by Spud and Katie Warr and by Chad Williams.  Be Cool was the 15.2 & Under Amateur Gelding World Champion.

15.2 & Under Amateur Stallion Horse Of The Year was Muddy Buddy. Owned by David and Deborah Perry and trained by Bonner Stables this crowd pleaser and his talented rider, Alicia Perry McDaniel landed the 15.2 & Under World Grand Championship. This is the second set of roses for the duo.

Watch For Glory was named the 15.2 & Under Mare Horse Of The Year.  Winning many blues this year including the 15.2 & Under Canter World Championship with Herbert Derickson, made owners Erica and Maria Derickson extremely happy.

15.2 & Under Gelding Horse Of The Year was Cheatin’ Danger. Owned by Trish Harrison and trained by David Landrum Stables this Aged Mare and Gelding Canter World Grand Champion was shown in both amateur and open competition all year long to earn them this prestigious award.

The 15.2 & Under Stallion Horse Of The Year Shock Jock is no stranger to the winners circle. Owned by the Coleman family this current 15.2 & Under World Grand Champion is trained by Mickey McCormick Stables. Seven blues were added to this stallion’s already talented resume.

The One Night Horse Show of the Year went to the Moneytree for the second consecutive year.  The show, put on annually by the WHTA Auxiliary, has become an event on the 4th of July weekend in Shelbyville.  The Auxiliary moved the show a couple of years ago to the 4th weekend and it has proved to be a good move.

Multi-Night Horse Show of The Year was Gulf Coast Charity Horse Show. Recently celebrating their 10th anniversary this show has always offered a great time and a great show.

15.2 & Over Mare Horse Of The Year was Miss Hosanna. Owned by Hawkersmith and trained by Carl Edwards and Sons Stables this team had several win that led to the 15.2 & Over Five Years and Over World Championship. She is shown by Larry and Gary Edwards.

Bold Vengeance was named the 15.2 & Over Gelding Horse of the Year with wins at Gulf Coast Charity, Shelbyville Central High Band Show, Pulaski, The International and the Delta Fall Classic. Owned by Judy McDonald and trained by Finish Line Farms, he is the current 15.2 & Over Geldings Five Years and Over World Champion.

15.2 & Over Stallion Horse Of The Year was Santana’s El Nino. Last but not least your 2008 World Grand Champion had wins at East Tennessee Classic, Money Tree Classic, Belfast and then the Celebration where he was crowned along with trainer Link Webb, the World Grand Champion. Michael and Ann Jones own the World Grand Champion. This was Link’s first time to win the World Grand Championship.