by Shane Shiflet | photos by Shane Shiflet

It is a tradition that each Celebration some rain must fall, but a couple of stints of brief light rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of fans and exhibitors on a comfortably cool, breezy Monday night at the 85th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. 

The invocation was offered by Eddie Reed of Living Stones Community Church in Shelbyville. With Ronnie Spears and flag horse White Diamond Dollar stationed on the south end of “The Big Oval” Lovewell from Corbin, Kentucky, sang a powerful and harmonious version of our “National Anthem”. 

Ring announcer Mark Farrar kept riders and fans informed throughout the 15-class schedule, with a three-way split of the Two-Year-Old Stallions and a two-way split of the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old Mares & Geldings class.

With J. Brantley providing the organ music, five of six scheduled entries competed in the Owner-Amateur Gentlemen Fine Harness class with David Sisk serving as the call judge. In Ted’s Image, a classic horse, was driven to the winner’s circle for the second year in a row by owner-driver Ron Lawrence from Lenoir City, Tennessee, as the unanimous choice of the five-judge panel. They are undefeated in five classes in 2023. Reserve was Call My Lawyer, directed by owner-driver Jack Davis. Mister October CTF drove out with a yellow streamer with John Fikes for the Fikes and Mills partnership. 

Stapleton was a glittery first place tie with co-owner Maggie Moore aboard for co-owner Jim Leek of Christiana, Tennessee, in the Owner-Amateur Western Country Pleasure class. They have five blues in six classes this year. Slingblade rode out with a second place ribbon for owner-rider Debbie Marbry. Eye On The Title placed third for owner-rider Lisa Baum. All 10 listed entries showed with Kenny Smith calling the gaits. 

Under the direction of call judge Derek Bonner, 14 of 29 expected entries found their way to “The Big Oval” in the Owner-Amateur Ponies Mares & Geldings. Pappy Van Winkle was wide awake on the way to a blue with co-owner Kim Butler riding for co-owner Bruce Butler from Morehead, Kentucky, repeating their 2022 performance in the class. He has four top finishes this year in five classes. Heeza Jose’ and owner-rider Nancy Groover Hodges were the second place tie. My Ticket To Ride, with Rae Abernathy in the saddle for Sandy Shumate, won a yellow streamer.

I Will Honor Thy Father walked to an honor of his own with a first place ride with Kenny Compton aboard in the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old Stallions class for owner Della Compton of Tazewell, Virginia. They are three-for-three in wins this show season. Black Gins Scout and Megan Hammond were reserve for Shamrock Farms. Honored In Texas placed third for owner-rider Bob Adcock. Leah Boyd called the gaits with 11 of 21 expected entries showing in the class. 

Eight of 20 listed entries were in “The Big Oval” for Division A of the Two-Year-Old Stallions class. Nathan Clark called the class. Spotlight On Jose 4G was the center of attention earning the blue ribbon victory pass with Bill Callaway in the irons for Bob Adcock of Lilitz, Pennsylvania. It was their second blue in as many classes this year. No Apology was ridden to second by Jimmy McConnell for the Bryden and Tuttle partnership. Longing For Honors was the third place tie with Tanner Burks aboard for Nate Crimmins. 

My Honey Bee buzzed to a unanimous blue ribbon with Taylor Walters riding for The Molly Walters Family of Rancho Mirage, California, in the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old Mares& Geldings class. They have two blues in three classes in 2023. Cheatin’ On Charlie received a red streamer for co-owner-rider Kaitlyn Rippy and co-owner Andy Rippy. He’s Ballistic was third for owner-rider Dr. David Bullock. Half of the 24 scheduled class entries competed with Derk Bonner calling the class. 

The spin of the wheel in center ring designated David Sisk as the call judge with 14 of 21 progammed entries riding in the Two-Year-Old Stallions, Div. B class. Hot Streak and Jimmy McConnell heated up “The Big Oval” for a world championship title for Joyce Meadows of Atlanta, Georgia, and David Bulloch ofBell Buckle, Tennessee. They are also the National Futurity champion in the class. Hot Streak is perfect in 2023 with five blues in five classes. Java was ridden to reserve by Casey Wright for Darrell Oliver. Charlie’s My Pa Pa, also a Futurity nomination, was third with Drew Graves in the irons for Terry Vaught.  

Tanner Burks rode I Am Mighty Jose’ to a blue in the 15.2 & Under Stallions class for owner Shane Porterfield from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They have two blues in three classes this summer. Samsung and owner-rider Bill Callaway rode out with a red ribbon. Boons Gin and Jimmy McConnell placed third for Mike Floyd. Leah Boyd directed the class with 14 of 26 slated entries competing. 

Six of 19 programmed entries made the gate for call judge Kenny Smith in Division C of the Two-Year-Old Stallions class. 8 Mile SWF, with Casey Wright in the saddle, took top honors unanimously for Darrell Oliver of Bowling Green, Kentucky. 8 Mile SWF has two blues in four classes in 2023. Jose’s King Of Queens was reserve with Rodney Dick on board for Dwight Brooks. I Am That I Am went out with a yellow streamer for The Kenneth Rich Family.  

Rat Tailed Jimmy, with Will Cole aboard for Thomas Holton from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was first in the Owner-Amateur Gentlemen Show Pleasure class. Georgia Florida Line and owner-rider Robert Deutsch placed second, while Evan William’s Black Label walked out with a yellow ribbon for owner-rider Jacob West. Nathan Clark was the call judge with four of 18 listed entries making an appearance. 

David Sisk was the call judge with six of 21 expected entries in the Elite Owner-Amateur Ladies on Stallions class. We Will Rock You and owner-rider Chris Hutchinson rocked the competition with a winning ride for co-owner Dr. Edwin Hutchinson of Shelbyville, Tennessee. We Will Rock You has won four blues in five classes this show season. All About Jose and owner-rider Jackie Whatley were reserve, followed by The Iron Door and owner-rider Sarah Coffee Burks picking up the third place title. 

Gotcha Jose’ walked to the winner’s circle in the Owner-Amateur Mares & Geldings class for the second year in row with Dr. Brittany Baum riding for owner Jacob Baum of Shelbyville, Tennessee. It was their third blue in five classes in 2023. Flying High CC was reserve with owner-rider Sheryl Crawford in the irons. He’s Remington and owner-rider Dr. David Bullock received a yellow streamer. Fifteen of 36 planned entries worked under the direction of call judge Kenny Smith.

Leah Boyd was the call judge as eight of 25 expected entries made their way to “The Big Oval” for the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old Mares & Geldings, Div. A class. Design By Dixie and owner-rider Gail Walling of Wartrace, Tennessee, won top honors. They have won two blues in four shows. Jose’s Havana Nights took home a red streamer with co-owner-rider Howard Eastridge on board for Mr. and Mrs. Howard Eastridge. I’m Actin’ Up tied third with owner-rider Rhonda Baucom.

Knox Blackburn and Broadway Honors rode to the blue for owners Keith and Lorraine Rosbury from Bell Buckle, Tennessee, in the Experienced Trainers class. They have three blues in row in five classes this summer. Powerstroked By Jose’ and Rodney Dick were reserve for Susan Coleman. Woodstock won a mellow yellow ribbon with Casey Wright in the irons for Rodney Clark. Thirteen of 40 entries were directed by call judge Derek Bonner. 

The largest class of the night was the last one with 17 of 24 programmed entries working for call judge Nathan Clark in the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old Mares & Geldings, Div. B class. Miss Annie Rose and co-owner Danny Hicks walked to the blue for co-owner Kathy Hicks of Candor, North Carolina. Walking to the red ribbon was A Dixie Lady and Cassi Slagle, while the team of Polly Gray and Dr. Lynda Brogdon were third.