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Reflections on the 66th Annual Celebration as seen by the Show Manager

by Ron Thomas 

Length of Sessions: 

What a wonderful success story here. In 2003 there were 79 timeouts totaling 6 hours 4 minutes and 12 seconds. This year there were 42 time outs totaling 2 hours 46 minutes and 4 seconds. This difference of approximately 4 hours is an entire evening performance. Almost all of this credit goes to the trainers and grooms for doing a much better job in preparing their horses for show ring competition. I applaud them and thank them. By changing the timeouts from 10 minutes to 6 minutes a subtle message was sent that horses need to come in the ring show ready. You trainers obviously answered this challenge in a wonderful way.  

Small Championships: 

There were five championships that had ten or fewer entries in the class. We need to work hard to correct this. It does not send a good message in our world championship show when there are fewer entries in the class than there are ribbons to be distributed. I do not know why so many people elect to forgo the championships. Many of the preliminary classes are so competitive and so many different horses have a chance to win. It would appear that they would want to return to the arena on championship night for another try. This will be studied very carefully this winter by Celebration officials.  

Headed to “the line-up” 

We must deal with the number of “passes” that some of the exhibitors are making when we call for the line-up. For each pass that is acceptable there is probably another one hundred that are unacceptable. There aren’t many shots like Billy Gray and Jimmy McConnell in their division of the Aged Stallion Class. At this year’s show we had 11 and Under youth doing this, pony riders doing this, novice riders doing this, and some amateur riders that certainly had no business trying to make a big pass down the west side on their way to the line up. This has gotten out of hand, and we intend to deal with it. It is not professional, does not send the right message, and must be handled. This will get a great deal of attention from the Celebration officials in the next few months. 

Trail Pleasure: 

The number of entries in the Trail Pleasure Division was down about 30%. This is probably due to the fact that we raised the entry fee along with the premiums being paid in most classes to coincide with other divisions. It seems that the majority of the people we surveyed wanted this change, but obviously many people stayed at home because of it. In any event, it is still a great division and possibly the quality of the horses has improved as some have been left behind. Our intent was not to lower the number of entries, merely honor a request of many people that they be treated on the same level as lite-shod people, plantation pleasure people, etc. 

Novice Division: 

We continue to struggle with ways to divide Novice Classes so that they are not so large and that people continue to have a better chance of showing their horse and competing with their peers. This division is extremely important now, and we must be very careful with its future. We will look for ways to improve and make the participants in the Novice Division happy to be there. It has become extremely significant to our horse show. 


We do not have all of the exact details about turndowns in the inspection area, but it does appear that the attitude between USDA and our industry officials was very positive. We are indebted to Dr. Todd Behre for being here throughout the time his VMO’s were present. It was also a pleasure to have Dr. Chester Gipson represent USDA with his presence.  

TV’s in Barn Area: 

It seems that the reproduction of the video screens in center ring to the first two rows of barns was most successful. The trainers and owners who applied for this service were rewarded with the same excitement as if they were in the outdoor arena. We have been told that they enjoyed this very much, and it was also a successful tool for them in preparing horses for the classes. It is my understanding that WDA International, the vendor involved, intends to wire the next two rows of barns prior to the 2005 Celebration. 

Fact Sheet: 

The Fact Sheet below gives various information about facts and figures concerning the 2004 Celebration. We were very pleased with it, and we are delighted that so many people continue to enjoy their world championship horse show. Their response and excitement makes us work even harder. Plans are well under way for the 2005 event, and we are delighted with the things we have working for the 67th Annual Celebration. 


In my opinion, judging the Celebration becomes more difficult each year. There are more horses that are capable of winning, there are more horses that are closer and closer to each other, split second decisions determine the difference in placing. I continue to challenge and urge anyone that is not happy with the judging to come to center ring and sit outside the official stand and watch one class. I challenge this person to sit there and look at that portion of the rail that the judge in front of them is watching. Don’t look around at the other horses, but focus on that area in front of you. After the horses go by you a couple of times each way then you write down the ten winners and tell me how easy it was. It is extremely difficult.  

One irate spectator was extremely critical of a class in which a horse “messed up” both ways of the ring in front of one judge near the entry/exit gate. This person told me the horse made two mistakes and should not have won any part of first place. The judge in question at the entry/exit gate did not place the horse on his card. The other four judges placed the horse first because they thought the horse won the class. The system worked perfectly. The person who was complaining is wrong. Many times sitting in the stands we are guilty of picking two or three horses and watching them, and we have no idea how many of the judges see the strong points or the weak points of a particular entry. My challenge continues. Come to me in the right spirit, and I will gladly welcome you to come sit in center ring on one of the benches and watch a class. It will be an eye opener I assure you. 

Overall the judges did a very good job. Cards were scattered, especially in the early part of the show, but that begin to level out as the show continued. I applaud their work ethic and their attitude of trying to get things right. They were very disappointed when they felt they missed a horse, or left a horse off the card, but they tried even harder the next class to make it right. The beauty of the five-judge system is that these types of oversights are usually corrected.  

This panel worked extremely hard, and show management was not aware of any impropriety whatsoever regarding the numbers that they placed on the cards. They worked diligently to improve every performance, and in my opinion they did. I’m proud of them for a job well done. 

The Lite Shod and Trail Pleasure Shoes 

Our industry must step up and help this issue. The penalty is far too insufficient for the potential gain. On one occasion at our show a thrown shoe weighed in excess of two pounds. The rule states that a shoe cannot exceed two pounds. It weighed three pounds and fourteen ounces. The class was retied. The sad thing is that the winner did not have the thrill of the victory pass nor hear the applause from friends and family as they made their round with a blue ribbon on the bridle. Additionally, we have no idea as to how many other shoes might have been overweight that we do not know about. Lite Shod and Trail Pleasure exhibitors have expressed great frustration with the National Horse Show Commission in this regard. It seems that their voice is not being heard. A mere shoeing violation for an overweight shoe certainly is ridiculous. The penalty must step up and be such that people do not want to challenge it. I do urge everyone in the Trail Pleasure and Lite Shod division that is concerned about this to continue talking to the members of the National Horse Show Commission and express your displeasure over this.  


We continue to be so grateful to the people who come here in record numbers each year to see world championship Tennessee Walking Horses crowned. Our focus and mission continues to be the crowning of these great animals. There are many other things that supplement this mission, but we understand that our basic purpose is to crown championship walking horses.  

We are delighted at the reception of our patriotic night on the final Friday night. Lori O’Brien did a beautiful job, and we were proud of her presentation. It was a pleasure and an honor having the McClenney family in center ring to pay tribute to a fallen son. We thank spectators for their outpouring of support for this family in their time of grief.  

The barn area has never been more beautiful. The decorations are just unbelievable. So many people view these barns with wide eyes and amazement. 

The media coverage this year was the best in history. So many people heard so many positive things about our horse and this world championship show. This gives us a clear focus for next year regarding media coverage. We will work even harder to do a better job in 2005. 

It is a grueling eleven days, it is an exciting eleven days, and it is an eleven-day period in which so many people have so much fun. For everyone who attends, regardless of their level of participation, comments and suggestions are welcome…they are read and studied, and these voices are heard. Please keep them coming.

Factually Speaking: 

239,967…….Paid Attendance 

162,176…….Actual Attendance 


3,627…….Actually Showed 

2,610….….Different Horses 

6…….Flat Shod Thrown Shoes 

6……..Padded thrown shoes 

73%…….of Horses Padded 

27%…….of Horses Flat Shod 

3.9%…..Turn-Down Rate by DQP’s 

$675,000……..Prizes and Awards by Celebration and Futurity 

42……..States represented by attendees 

3…..Foreign countries represented by attendees 

14 Years, 2 Months…….Number one person on box seat waiting list to receive a box

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