by Sara Engel

FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Many came from all across the country to once again meet at the Cool Spring Marriott to attend the annual Walking Horse Trainers' Association Banquet, held on Saturday, December 3, 2011. Mark Farrar once again was happy to serve as emcee for the night and handle all the announcing duties.

The youth awards were the first honors presented for the evening. Lindsey Landrum was called to the stage to be presented with the Youth Council Member of the Year honor as well as a World Champion riding suit from World Champion Horse Equipment. The Youth Council Member of the Year is voted on by all members of the youth council. Next up were the WHTA Youth High Point Awards. The winner for the Youth Park division went to Anne Evans. Zachary Sapp received the reserve honor. Taylor Strickler topped the Performance 11 & Under division, while Savannah Martin captured second place. The Performance 12-17 division winner was Allison Thorson, with Meghan Davis claiming the reserve award.

Three more individuals were inducted into the Trainers' Friendship Club this year, bringing their total to 99 inductees. The Friendship Club was established in 1991 to recognize key individuals who have made a major contribution to the walking horse industry. Dr. W.H. and Mrs. Hill, Wallace Brandon, the Glen C. Dowell Jr. family and Jeffrey Howard were presented with a plaque to mark their induction into the club.

The auxiliary awards were the next presentations to be made by President Sarah Smith. Susan Coleman was presented with the Celebration award for capturing the world championship title aboard Lethal Nightshade for proud owner Phyllis Langley. The High Point Member of the Year honors go to an individual member who has accumulated the most points throughout the year in Auxiliary classes. Dru McCormick received the first place and gold award. Jacquelyn Elliott was second with the silver award. Susan Coleman was third with the bronze award.

The auxiliary equitation awards followed. Capturing the Equitation Youth 11 & Under title was Keely Marrow. Moving up a division from last year to the Equitation 12-14 category, and once again receiving the top honor was Kaitlyn Rippy. Allison Thorson also aged into the next category and earned the Equitation Youth 15-17 award.

The auxiliary Rookie of the Year honor went to Heather Beard. In only a short amount of time as an auxiliary member, Beard has served as an officer, donated countless hours of her time and as the owner of L & M Awards, she has also donated ribbons and trophies to the Money Tree Classic. Patty Gray graciously accepted the Mudslide Slim Lifetime Achievement Award, while Jada Callaway was honored to be voted as the Auxiliary Member of the Year.

Jeffrey Howard was next to come to the stage to present the Riders' Cup awards to both winning trainers and horses. Since it's inception in 2005, the Riders' Cup program has paid out over $400,000 to dedicated trainers who continue to bring top horses to shows all across the country. For the second year in a row, it was Jimmy McConnell who amassed the most points to top the Riders' Cup charts. McConnell was presented with a check in the amount of $13,925 for his efforts.

The Riders' Cup divisional sponsors were also recognized for their contributions to the program. Keith and Lorraine Rosbury/Don Diego sponsored the Two-Year-Old Mare & Gelding division. The Two-Year-Old Stallion division was sponsored by the Andrew Waites family. Sponsoring the Three-Year-Old Mare & Gelding division was the East Tennessee Fall Classic Horse Show. The Delta Fall Classic Horse Show sponsored the Three-Year-Old Stallion division. The Molly Walters family sponsored both the Four-Year-Old Mare & Gelding division and the Four-Year-Old Stallion division. The Aged Mare & Gelding division was sponsored by Bill and Karen Bean/Just Horse'n Around Ranch. Sponsoring the Open Specialty division was Phyllis Langley/Western Sky Walking Horses. Q & E Construction sponsored the 15.2 & Under division, while The Celebration was the sponsor for the Stake division.

Next, awards were presented to the winners in each Riders' Cup category. Proud Texas Lady topped the Two-Year-Old Mare & Gelding division for Darlene Zamora. Tim Gray and Proud Texas Lady showed seven times in Riders' Cup classes in 2011. Southern Black Gin won the Two-Year-Old Stallion title for D.R. Mozeley. He was shown by Link Webb in 10 Riders' Cup classes this season. Jose's Pina Colada, owned by Bob Ramsbottom, won the Three-Year-Old Mare & Gelding division. This mare and Link Webb showed in Riders' Cup classes this year a total of 12 times. I'm Deuce won the Three-Year-Old Stallion division. He was shown in Riders' Cup classes by Casey Wright for Billy Max and Debbie Woods nine times this season. Main Sweetie topped the Four-Year-Old Mare & Gelding division for James and Peggy Vernon. Philip Trimble and Main Sweetie showed 10 times in Riders' Cup classes in 2011. Ultimate Power Stroke won the Four-Year-Old Stallion title for new owner WhitLei Green. He was shown in 16 Riders' Cup classes, mostly by Michael Daniel, but Charlie Green was in the irons once. General's Show Stopper, owned by Brenda Little, won the Aged Mare & Gelding division. Combined, Charlie Green and Bill Callaway showed General Show Stopper in Riders' Cup classes this year a total of five times. Jose's Don Julio won the Open Specialty division. He was shown in Riders' Cup classes by Brent Coburn for Fred Randolph nine times. I'm Splashed topped the 15.2 & Under division for Hillview Promotions and Lindsey Landrum. Tim Smith and I'm Splashed showed 12 times in Riders' Cup classes in 2011. King Of The Jungle won the Stake division for the Nestor Stewart family. He was shown by Charlie Green in 11 Riders' Cup classes this season.

The Trainer of the Year award went to Chad Baucom who has previously accepted his award during the last Saturday night of the Celebration. Scott Shepard from Marsha's on the Square presented Chad Baucom with a custom riding suit for his Trainer of the Year award. The Assistant Trainer of the Year honor was bestowed upon Brock Tillman of Mickey McCormick Stables.

2011 WHTA Horse of the Year Winners

Two-Year-Old Amateur Mare or Gelding: Lindsey Lohan

Weanling: Intimidator’s Cover Girl

Two-Year-Old Amateur Stallion: Command On Parole

Yearling: The Supreme Titleist

Two-Year-Old Mare or Gelding: Evening At The Palm

Lite-Shod Specialty: Honor My Cash

Two-Year-Old Stallion: I Am Jose’

Lite-Shod Canter: Honor My Cash

Youth Pony: Roll The Gold

Trail Pleasure: Pusher’s Secret Rose

Adult Pony: The Dixie Lineman

Country Pleasure: A Red Ruby

Novice: Boure’

Three-Year-Old Amateur Mare or Gelding: She Has Status

Elite (50 Yrs. & Over): Command & Control

Three-Year-Old Amateur Stallion: I’m Pushin’ N Line

Western Lite-Shod: Red Sunday’s Best

Three-Year-Old Mare or Gelding: She Has Status

Western Park Pleasure: Armed & Trigger Happy

Three-Year-Old Stallion: Honors

Fine Harness: Carolina Confederate

Model: Trigger Treat

Ladies Amateur Specialty: My First Dollar

Men’s Amateur Specialty: Play Something Country

Four-Year-Old Amateur Mare or Gelding: She’s Sugarland

Four-Year-Old Amateur Stallion: He’s Vida Blue

Amateur Park Pleasure: B.B. King’s Jazz

Four-Year-Old Mare or Gelding: One Fine Line

Professional Park Pleasure: B.B. King’s Jazz

Four-Year-Old Stallion: I’m Copperfield

Amateur Park Performance: The Concealed Weapon

Amateur Show Pleasure: Godfather By Ultra Copy

Professional Park Performance: The Concealed Weapon

Juvenile 11 & Under: A Cloudy Sky

Professional Show Pleasure: Chillin The Most

15.2 & Under Amateur Mare or Gelding: Miss Hosanna

Juvenile 12-17: A Victoria Secret

15.2 & Under Amateur Stallion: I'm P. Diddy

Amateur Specialty: Play Something Country

15.2 & Under Mare or Gelding: Bella Sera At The Ritz

15.2 & Under Stallion: Lined Walkin’

One-Night Horse Show: Marshall County Horseman’s Association

Multi-Night Horse Show: Delta Fall Classic

15.2 & Over Mare or Gelding: Like A Rolling Stone

15.2 & Over Stallion: Game World