By Sarah Smith and Sara Watts

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The decision was made earlier last year to make a schedule change of the annual WHTA Banquet. Instead of the typical early December meeting and banquet weekend combo, the awards were shifted to February 2-3, 2024. As per their bylaws, the annual end of the year WHTA Membership meeting was still held December 1, 2023. The date for the annual event might have changed to something new, but the location was returned back to the popular Franklin Cool Springs Marriott. 

A silent auction was held and offered well over 200 different items for those in attendance to bid on. Some of the available items were sports tickets, vacation packages, many different stud fees, jewelry, clothes, a variety of gift baskets, a full color ad in the Walking Horse Report and a new Polaris 570 side-by-side; just to name a few. The stud fee auction was also available online. Money raised by the auction will all go towards the Legal Fund.

Mark Farrar once again was happy to serve as emcee for the night and handle all the announcing duties, and in his usual fashion, he kept the crowd fully entertained. Starting out the evening, Farrar took a moment to recognize several organizations that play major roles in the walking horse industry, as well as a few individuals that helped make this weekend fun and successful. 

The Living Legend Lifetime Achievement Award was next. This year, Jimmy McConnell was presented with the much deserved honor.

The 2023 WHTA Scholarship recipients were recognized. This year the recipients were Jessica Lawwell, Gracie Mourglea and Aubrey Derrickson.

Next, Allan and John Allan Callaway were called to the stage next so John Allan could, for the fourth year in a row, be presented with his green blazer in recognition of his 2023 world grand championship win with Justified Honors. John Allan’s green blazer with now have 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 embroidered on the chest to commemorate the wins with Justified Honors and Master’s Razzle And Jazz. The blazer continues to be proudly donated by Frank and Shirley Neal in honor of 1992 World Grand Champion Dark Spirit’s Rebel. This tradition was started in 1995.

Next up, it was time to recognize the National Trainers’ Show Grand Champion. R.M Kellett directed Mr. True Blue to the victory to become the 55th Trainers’ Show champion for the Jake Jacobs Family.

Each year, the Riders’ Cup program continues to grow and be a highly competitive and respected program. Trainers were presented with their winnings during their meeting back in December. At the awards banquet, the two overall division winning trainers were presented with their large checks. R.M. Kellett topped the performance division earning $14,841.30. Robert Nelms captured first place honors in the pleasure division earning $10,646.23.

Marsha's on the Square has been a valuable supporter of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association. Again, this year, the trainer of the World Grand Championship was presented with a beautiful, custom saddle-riding suit. John Allan Callaway was happy to accept this gift. 

Frank Eichler was selected to be inducted into the WHTA Friendship Club. Members of this club are individuals who have gone above and beyond serving our horse and industry.

WHTA Horse of the Year Recipients

Performance Trainer of the Year
John Allan Callaway

Pleasure Trainer of the Year
Joe Lester

Assistant Performance Trainer of the Year
Lake Weaver

Assistant Pleasure Trainer of the Year
Victoria Jamison

Groom of the Year
Jack Davis

Youth of the Year
Harper Grider

Amateur of the Year (tie)
Lisa Baum
Janice Fostek
Best One-Night Show
Money Tree Classic

Best Multi-Night Show
ETWHA Fall Classic

Lead Line
Winner – Leading Man and Harlee Beard
Reserve – The Silver Lining and Piper Anne Teague

Amateur Two-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – She’s Lined With Love 4G
Reserve – She’s Almost A Ten

Winner – Simply Timeless
Reserve (tie) – She’s On The Money
 Sweet Georgia Brown J & R

Amateur Two-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Country As Cornbread
Reserve – Straight Republican

Winner – Josephine’s Time
Reserve – Fire’m Up, Charlie

Two-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner (tie) – Gimme A Redneck Girl
       Private Dixie
       She’s Lined With Love 4G
Reserve – He’s Walking In Dixie

Winner – Coachman
Reserve – Banks

Two-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – No Apology
Reserve – Spotlight On Jose 4G

Youth Show Pleasure
Winner – Well Armed American
Reserve – Annie’s Lined With Cash

Youth Pony
Winner – The Ultimate Honor
Reserve (tie) – I Like Gin
Time To Tease

Trail Pleasure
Winner – Machete
Reserve – Blacklist

Adult Pony
Winner – Dark Rain
Reserve – Pappy Van Winkle

Country Pleasure
Winner – Stapleton
Reserve – BP’s Captain Jack Sparrow

Winner – Patrick Mahomes
Reserve – Master’s Cool Jazz

Amateur Three-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Design By Dixie
Reserve – Miss Annie Rose

Elite (50 & Over)
Winner – We Will Rock You
Reserve – All About Jose

Amateur Three-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Slim And Hot
Reserve – Big Henry

Western Lite-Shod
Winner – Big Time Bandit
Reserve – The Master Of Ceremonies

Three-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Oh! My Black Betty
Reserve – I Am Sweet Maggie May

Western Park Pleasure
Winner – Gomez
Reserve – Boston Bay

Three-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Honky Tonk
Reserve – I’m Classic Rock

Fine Harness
Winner – American Titliest
Reserve – Call My Lawyer

Winner – Back In The Saddle Again
Reserve (tie) – Machado
 My Miranda Lambert

Ladies Amateur Specialty
Winner – Harley Quinn
Reserve (tie) – Flying High CC
 Ole Rocky Top
 Twisted With Honors

Men’s Amateur Specialty
Winner (tie) – A Home Run By Ted
      Uptight Jose
Reserve – Maroon 5

Amateur Canter
Winner (tie) – A Big Honor
      Honor My Country
Reserve – I’m Jordan

Amateur Four-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner (tie) – Milagro’s Command
       Ultra Grey Pistol
Reserve –

Amateur Four-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Born A Maverick
Reserve – Primo

Amateur Park Pleasure
Winner – Papacito
Reserve – Dose’

Amateur Lite-Shod
Winner – Roscoe Jenkins
Reserve – Banks

Four-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Smoking
Reserve – Happy Face

Professional Park Pleasure
Winner – Gomez
Reserve – Papacito

Four-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Cavender
Reserve – Honor Of The Ritz

Five & Under Country Pleasure
Winner – Shipwrecked
Reserve – He’s Off The Wall

Amateur Park Performance
Winner – A Touche’
Reserve – Do Right

Amateur Show Pleasure
Winner – Kong
Reserve – Evan Williams Black Label

Five & Under Trail Pleasure
Winner – Silverback
Reserve – Jalapeño

Professional Park Performance
Winner – Praise And Honor
Reserve – Wanted THF

All Day Pleasure
Winner – Miss Belle Starr W.
Reserve – 401K

Amateur Five-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – I Will Honor Thy Father
Reserve – Black Gins Scout

Youth 11 & Under
Winner – Dollar’s Silver Collector
Reserve – It’s The Medalist

Spotted Pleasure
Winner – There Ain’t Nothin’ To It
Reserve – Sheza Freightliner

Professional Show Pleasure
Winner – Honor Code
Reserve – Acclaim

Amateur Five-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – My Honey Bee
Reserve – I Am Bold And Spicy Jose

Amateur 15.2 & Under Mare or Gelding
Winner – Punisher
Reserve – I Am Bold And Spicy Jose

Youth 12-17
Winner – Nevermore
Reserve – He’s A Lucky Strike

Amateur 15.2 & Under Stallion
Winner – Form A Line
Reserve (tie) – A Kingpin
Cousin Bob

Amateur Specialty
Winner – The Iron Door
Reserve – All About Jose

15.2 & Under Mare or Gelding
Winner – I Am Bold And Spicy Jose
Reserve – Pappy Van Winkle

15.2 & Under Stallion
Winner – I Am Mighty Jose’
Reserve – Boons Gin

Open Specialty
Winner – Warbird
Reserve – TUA MCF

15.2 & Over Mare or Gelding
Winner – Me And Pocahontas
Reserve – I’m Charlie Daniels

15.2 & Over Stallion
Winner – Justified Honors
Reserve – Honor And Remember