By Sadie Fowler

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. — The Monday evening session at the 80th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration kicked off with an ideal setting. Each night, in fact, has opened with gorgeous weather, with some evenings even cooler than normal; traditional nostalgia with things like prayer and the singing of the National Anthem and the presentation of the flag horse; and then of course, the opening class of the show. The crowd remained steady Monday night, even for it being a Monday night following the busy weekend, with incentives such as dollar night drawing in a decent number of local supporters as well as the tried and true horse show fans who showed up for a great night of 12 classes that wrapped up before 10:30 p.m. 

On this night, announcer Mark Farrar called seven entries to start the evening off in Celebration style. The Amateur Gentleman Drivers Fine Harness competition concluded the first class of the evening in unanimous fashion with Ron Lawrence at the lines of winning entry In Ted’s Image, moving up a notch from their reserve finish in the same class last year. Close behind were reserve champions, who know the top ribbons well including those that come from the Celebration, Lined Royal Cash and Dr. Jack Kwok. 

Prior to the start of the next class, it was announced to the crowd’s delight that the Mr. Mullins, the gentleman who suffered injuries during Saturday night’s performance, having been life-flighted to Vanderbilt after falling from his horse in the line-up, woke up on his own and is hopefully on his way to recovery. 

He’s The Lady’s Man and Masie McSwain turned in the winning ride in the Amateur Walking Ponies Mares and Geldings, in unanimous fashion. Right on their heels for the reserve finish, Defending The Title and Pam Williams wore the red ribbon out of the ring.

In a short break that followed, special recognition was given to Claire Hankins, who earlier on Monday won the Equitation World Grand Championship for her third year in a row. This year, Hankins is not only closing out her career as an equitation rider, but also as a juvenile rider and she was recognized while riding in a special exhibition in front of the appreciative crowd. Hankins says she’s sad to be aging out of the division, but is grateful to be considered such an influential mentor to many young riders of the industry. 

Cash’s Good Wife and Jimmy McConnell, moving up from his position as the reserve rider last year, topped a nice group of seasoned mares in the next class for Bob Medina, with Nevermore and Chad Way hearing the crowd’s approval as they walked away with reserve. 


The most-anticipated featured class of the evening was the 15.2 and over stallions class, the evening’s finale, but the amateur five-year-old stallions did their share of entertaining show patrons as the bold and big-moving pair of Maroon 5 and Dr. Jim Baum teamed up for the winning ride with dark horse entry It’s High Maintenance and Sister Milligan claiming a fun reserve finish. 

The two-year-old splits were divided among three divisions — the only triple split of the show — with other classes being showcased in between each of the three splits. Jimmy McConnell is always a busy man and he represented his class and skill by finishing in the top three in each of the three splits, starting with the blue in the first split with his daughter Stacy Blackburn’s showy chestnut LT Horatio Caine. Bill Callaway has also been busy so far this week and he was on point again Monday night with Gen’s Black Rock for the reserve spot. 

McConnell settled in for reserve in the second spit. As the moon lit up the sky during this beautiful Monday night Kick It To The Moon was named reserve champion in the B split for the Formac team while José’s Revival and Casey Wright had all the attention among the talented field of eight for the win for Billy and Debbie Woods. José’s Revival shows up to entertain the crowd time after time, as he’s never been beat and on this night, his fans knew why as he captivated their attention as well as all five  judges as he earned the win unanimously. (Editor’s Note: The Report apologizes for incorrectly reporting the results from this class in the print edition of WHR).

First on all five cards, Coach Belichick and Blaise Broccard rose to the occasion for the win in the third split for Harold and Sherry Roberts while Hole In My Pocket and Ryan Blackburn earned their spot for reserve. Interestingly, announcer Farrar explained prior to one of the splits how the Celebration determines what classes are split. In short, the Celebration Board makes such decisions by looking back at the size of each class from the previous three years, which would have indicated it be a wise decision. This year, a total of 28 showed among the three splits for the two-year-old stallions.

Eleven entries made their marks in the Amateur Gentleman Show Pleasure class with a super-charged group of serious men aiming for the top prize. Robert Deutsch started off what would be an incredible night for his string as he rode The Memphis Blues down victory lane with Ready To Play and Denny Russell teaming up for reserve. 

Robin MacDonald represented her family in winning style for what would be a great night for the MacDonalds as she showcased her winning entry, veteran partner Mr. Heisman, to the unanimous win in the outstanding Elite Amateur Ladies Walking Stallions class where every entry in there was a house-hold name. Hey Tomcat and Carol Lackey captured the respectable reserve finish in the class of 10. 

Justin Harris showed off his ability as he catch-rode the sharp moving gray Georgia Florida Line in place of Bruce McDonald in the Park Performance Four and Under class while Curly Lambeau and Patrick Thomas received the crowd’s approval for reserve.

Robert Deutsch was on fire Monday night as he had two big wins, under the banner of the Trimble Stables team. In the Amateur Mares and Geldings class he topped an impressive field of nine with Zeta. Greenspan added another win for the MacDonald team, which was equally in the elite category on this night having already picked up two earlier wins for the family with Bruce serving as rider for this particular reserve. 

The attention within the arena came to full force in the evening’s climax, the Walking Stallions 15.2 and Under, where 10 horses and riders walked in ready to put on a good show. In the end, winners of this year’s Trainers’ Show, Fun Show and Christmas In July — I’m Pushin N Line and Tim Smith — continued their undefeated season by earning the top prize for Joe Fostek while Rammer Jammer WDE and Philip Trimble, who also had an excellent night, closed out the show as reserve champions.