by Jeffrey Howard

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – Great horses…Great crowds…Great fun! If you weren’t in Shelbyville for the 43rd Annual National Trainers’ Show, shame on you. In what has become tradition, the 43rd annual show kicked off the show season in grand style. In 2011, the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association (WHTA) cut one day from the show schedule, moving from four days to three, and cut 22 classes from the schedule. What was the result? The most entries at the Trainers’ Show in eight years, a total of 483 over the three nights.

“We just can’t thank the owners and trainers enough for the number and quality of horses they brought to this year’s show. The success of this year’s show is a direct result of the owners and trainers bringing such high quality horses to the show,” said Show Manager Benny Johnson.

The industry has been surrounded with turmoil over the last several months and the off season was filled with industry meetings, USDA correspondence and an overall indecisiveness that left some wondering what kind of show would the WHTA have. Well if anyone is wondering about that now, they must have not been in Shelbyville on Thursday through Saturday, March 17-19, 2011.

The show allowed the industry and its participants to do what they know best, show their horses, congregate at barns across Shelbyville and have fun. “Everyone really enjoyed the show and we want to thank all the volunteers, sponsors and exhibitors that made it possible to have the best Trainers’ Show in the last eight years,” continued Johnson. “I would also like to thank the community of Shelbyville for coming out and supporting our show and our horse.”

With the level of competition that existed at this year’s show, word spread fast that many of the industry’s top-flight horses were in town. The result; the best one-night of ticket sales in the history of the National Trainers’ Show. The show took in $10,200 in ticket sales at the door on Saturday night alone and the crowd not only showed up but was vocal when they were there.

Judging this year’s show were Larry Wheelon, Tommy Howell and Bill Cantrell. Cantrell was making his second appearance in as many years. Also, for the second year in a row the judging panel donated their fee back to the WHTA. “I would like to thank these men for the generosity and donating their time to judge our show. As we are all aware, the WHTA is going through some tough economic times and this year’s show along with this donation helps us tremendously,” concluded Johnson.

Competition is something that everyone gets excited about and March Madness each year provides some of the best in all of sports. Well, March Madness was rivaled for one weekend with competition that reached a fever pitch in many of the industry’s most popular classes.

The 2011 National Trainers’ Show Stake class didn’t disappoint. Riding the momentum of their 2010 Reserve World Grand Championship, Star and Chad Baucom unanimously took home top honors in the class that featured some of the industry’s top aged stallions. Finishing in reserve was the popular team of The Golden Sovereign and Tim Smith. Both of these horses have claimed Amateur World Grand Championships in their careers. Rounding out the top three was More Of The Major and John Allan Callaway, a two-time World Champion and Reserve World Grand Champion.

As is always the case, the Three-Year-Old Stallions is a popular, competitive class that features some of the industry’s most exciting horses. This year was no exception and Link Webb and He’s Busting The Gin took home top honors in the hotly contested class for D.R. Mozeley. Finishing second in the class were A Poker Face and Chad Baucom and coming in third were Dirty Sexy Money and Tim Smith. 

A Bruce Pearl and Jimmy McConnell put on a great performance in the Four-Year-Old Stallions class and took home the blue unanimously in a great class for owners Lee and Mike McGartland. Earlier Lee rode the stallion to third place honors in the amateur class. Finishing reserve was the crowd-pleasing team of A Strong Need For Cash and Michael Wright and Mr. Heisman and Tim Smith rounded out the top three.

Brad Davis took home top honors in the Two-Year-Old Stallions class aboard Jazz And The Blues. Charlie Green took Boure’ to top honors in the 15.2 & Under Stallions making it two-for-two after owner Tam Brogdon directed the stallion to the unanimous honors in the Amateur 15.2 & Under Stallions.

Michael Wright took A Bit Of Change to top honors in the Four-Year-Old Mares & Geldings as did owner Diana Cruse in the amateur ranks. Charlie Green directed Those Fancy Legs to the blue in the Three-Year-Old Mares & Geldings and Rodney Dick took Judy McDonald’s recently purchased Unforgettable Lady to the winners’ circle in the Two-Year-Old Mares & Geldings.

Topping the always entertaining amateur division was the new team of Walk Time Charlie and John Callicutt. The duo entertained not only the common fan but also the most seasoned veteran with comments that compared the four-year-old stallion to some of the industry’s greats. He needed to be because finishing reserve were World Grand Champions He’s 3 Under Par and Barbara Kenehan and in third were A Bruce Pearl and Lee McGartland.

The Amateur Two-Year-Old Stallions and Amateur Two-Year-Old Mares & Geldings champions shared a common denominator; both were sired by Master Of Jazz, the 2007 World Grand Champion. I’m A Jazz Player (former named MST Of The Sky) and Courtney Luttrell took home the stallion honors for the Darrell Oliver family and Mistress Of Jazz and Edwina Ayers took home the mares and geldings top honor for B&B Show Horses. These were the first two offspring of Master Of Jazz under saddle to hit the show ring.

Debbie Eichler took MP2 to blue ribbon acclaim in the Amateur Three-Year-Old class with Jose’s Dr. Pepper and Lucky Collins finishing reserve and The Big Lick and Deborah Williams finishing third.

On The Line and Suzanne Moore claimed the Amateur Grand Championship, Julio Julio and Leigh Anne Gregory claimed the Amateur Specialty Grand Championship and The Royal Dollar and Lee McGartland claimed the Ladies Specialty Grand Championship.

The youth in the industry are some of the most important exhibitors as they represent the future of the breed. Top honors in youth competition were claimed by Maggie Kail and Free To Score, Robert Cortner and A Fire In Dixie, Allison Thorson and Santana’s Renaissance Man and Suiza, Logan Hankins and Hallelujah In The Sky, Meghan Davis and Jose’s Dulce, Lindsey Landrum and Rudy Rudiger, and Kaitlyn Rippy in Equitation.

Taking home championship honors in the pleasure division were Catastrophic and Laurie Toone in Lite-Shod Open division and Victoria’s Got A Secret and Sandra Dennis in the Amateur Trail Pleasure Specialty class. BB King’s Jazz and Jeannae Patterson took home top honors in the Park Pleasure Open Specialty Grand Championship. Lauren Hamilton directed I’m Rose Walker to top honors in the Country Pleasure Grand Championship. Mr. Black Sun-Dust and Jackie Byrom took home blue ribbon honors in the Show Pleasure Specialty Grand Championship.

Every year the industry’s first gauge for how the season will unfold is measured by the National Trainers’ Show. If this year’s show is any indication, the industry is in for the kind of year that will begin to rebuild the industry to the levels seen in its most prosperous times. The model is before the industry, load your horses, show your best and let the chips fall where they may because another opportunity lies before you at next weekend’s show. 

The industry now moves to the second “kickoff” show of the year in Jackson, Miss., and all early indications point for it to be every bit as good as the 43rd Annual National Trainers’ Show. Complete show results from the National Trainers’ Show can be found at and complete pictorial coverage of all of the winners at this year’s show can be viewed in the print edition of the Walking Horse Report.

Check out our Fan Page on Facebook for photos taken of all the winners!