By Mark McGee | Photos by Shane Shiflet

In an 84th Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration chocked full of firsts, another one happened Thursday night. The preliminaries to the first ever Two-Year-Old Mares World Grand Championship took to the ring for everyone to get a glimpse at the young mares. 

A gentle breeze stirred the air on a picture-perfect night in the outdoor arena. 
As usual, promptly at 7 p.m., Hall of Famer Ronnie Spears presented the colors aboard White Diamond Dollar, the white flag horse.

Lance Bennett from Fairlane Church of Christ gave the invocation, while Leah Boyd from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, presented a beautiful and rousing version of the National Anthem.

Another old tradition is the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Walking Mares opening the 15-class schedule, including two splits. Five of the six entries were in the ring when Mark Farrar instructed the gate to be closed. Miss Ebony Rose, ridden by John Winston Clark for co-owners The Clark Family of Arab, Alabama, and Sudie Reed from Jaspar, Alabama, walked away with a unanimous first. Miss Ebony Rose, sired by Pusher’s Next Generation, was second in the class in 2021. The pair is undefeated in five shows this year. Dixie Rita was reserve for owner-rider Aaleah Bell. Mary Beech Alias, riding I’m On Good Behavior, tied third for Alias Family Investments.

A classic horse, Mr. Heisman was awarded the blue ribbon in Elite Owner-Amateur Gentleman Riders on Walking Stallions class. Bruce MacDonald, co-owner, was riding for co-owner Robin MacDonald from Shelbyville, Tennessee. Sired by JFK, Mr. Heisman and Bruce also won the class last year. Mr. Heisman has won world championships in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Bruce and Mr. Heisman are three-for-three in first place finishes this show season. Maroon 5, with Dr. Jim Baum in the saddle, was reserve for owner Luke Baum, while Cash Agenda won a yellow ribbon for rider Jimbo Conner who co-owns the horse with Kyle Hicks. Six of 11 program entries participated in the class.

I Am Sweet Maggie May, sired by I Am Jose’, and Jimmy McConnell walked to victory in Division A of the Two-Year-Old Mares for owner Beverly Sherman of Shelbyville, Tennessee. The team has had three blues in three shows in 2022. I’m A Dixie Dolly, with Tyler Baucom in the saddle for owners Stephen and Nora Capper, was reserve. The Charqueen and John Allan Callaway tied third for Beth Beasley. The class also included Futurity nominated two-year-old performance horses and both I Am Sweet Maggie May and I’m A Dixie Darling were Futurity nominated and received blue and red ribbons respectively from the Tennessee Walking Horses Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association. Sixteen of the 27 program entries competed.

Next to the ring were the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Pony Stallions contenders with 11 of the 17 programmed entries making the gate call. Dark Rain with Taylor Walters on board for owner Molly Walters from Rancho Mirage, California, won top honors in the class. Dark Rain, sired by London Rain, has eight blues in 10 classes this show season. Strike was second for owner-rider Lisa Baum, while Dreamcatcher’s Santana walked away with a yellow ribbon with co-owner Tanya Strickland riding for co-owner Brian Strickland. 

The second section of the Two-Year-Old Mares were next to the ring with 18 of the 28 scheduled. Jimmer’s Country Girl and Josh Watts captured the blue ribbon victory pass for owners Carole and Lee Baxter from Alexandria, Louisiana. Sired by the Baxter’s beloved Jimmer Fredette, Jimmer’s Country Girl is nine-for-nine in blues in this season. Picking up the red streamer was the team of Tyler Baucom and I Am Shady for owner Dr. Barbara Moersch. Third went to I’m On The Honor Roll with Jimmy McConnell in the irons for Doug Quire. The class also included Futurity nominated two-year-old performance horses.

Cole McCormack was in the saddle aboard Major Justice for a blue ribbon ride in the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders, 6-17 Years on Park Performance Walking Mares or Geldings class. Major Justice, co-owned by Tim Brown from Science Hill, Kentucky, and Mike McCormick of Auburn, Alabama, was sired by Steel Justice. Line’s Ritzy Lady was reserve with co-owner Kelsey Wright in the saddle for co-owner Steve Ragland, while The Crimson Coach and owner-rider Jamen Smith were third. Eleven of the 15 programmed entries made the gate call.

Walk The Lime walked to a blue ribbon for owner-rider Justin Harney from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Two-Year-Old Walking Stallions, Division A class. Sired by Gen’s Black Gen, Walk The Lime has four blues in eight classes in 2022. Risk It and owner-rider Sister Milligan tied reserve in the competitive class, while Hotty Toddy Gosh A’Mighty took third for owner-rider Greg Kiser. Ten of 27 programmed entries showed.

Dixie Dare Devil, sired by The Dixie Lineman, and Claudia Gribble made the blue ribbon ride in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Two-Year-Old Walking Stallions, Division B class for owner Ella Abernathy from Olive Branch, Mississippi. Peace In The Valley CTF earned the reserve title with co-owner Gabriel Humiston in the saddle for co-owner Mark Thomas. The third award was presented to Eric C. Conn with co-owner Jennifer Bingham riding for co-owner Ira Kilburn. Seventeen of the 27 entered the ring.

I’m Coach Cal and owner-rider Ally Jo Jacobs of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, had the winning strategy in the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6 -11 Years on Show Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings class. It was the first unanimous decision of the night for the five-judge panel. I’m Coach Cal, sired by Brother Splash, has four blues in nine shows in 2022. Benelli, with co-owner Jackson Cammack aboard for co-owner Liz Vaughn, was reserve, while Watch The Line and Jacalyn Gardner received the third award for co-owners Curt and Kirsten Branch and Pat and Jamie Gardner. Five of the scheduled nine entries participated in the class. 

Honor And Obey was ridden to top honors in the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 15-17 Years on Walking Mares or Geldings class by co-owner Cohen Abernathy from Shelbyville, Tennessee. Honor And Obey, sired by Honors, is co-owned by Howard Eastridge of Columbia, Kentucky. It was the second blue in eight classes for Honor And Obey with several riders this year. Nevermore and co-owner Julia Callaway tied second for co-owners Rolling Hills Farm and Dr. Barbara Moersch. In third place was Dominick, a classic horse, with owner-rider Harper Grider. Nine of the 11 programmed entries were in the ring.

Marty McFly and owner-rider Janice Fostek of Roanoke, Virginia, won the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions, 15.2 & Under class for the fourth year in a row. It was the second unanimous decision of the judges for the night. Marty McFly, sired by Jose’ Jose’, has five blues in five shows in 2022 and has a string of 17 consecutive blues dating back to 2019. A Kingpin and owner-rider Bob Adcock were reserve, while it was the team of Command On Parole and owner-rider Sheryl Crawford earning the yellow streamer. Nine of the 14 programmed entries made the gate call.

Boston Bay and co-owner Anne Evans of Johnson City, Tennessee, were called to victory lane in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses class. The red ribbon was given to Papacito and owner-rider Karen Bean, while A Titleist Masterpiece tied third with Blake Cammack riding for Champion Stables. Seven of the nine original entries were in the ring.

For the second year in a row, Draw A Line and owner-rider Jannie Chapman of Memphis, Tennessee, took top honors in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Performance Walking Horses, Five Years & Under class. It was the fourth blue in as many outings in 2022 for Draw A Line, sired by Lined With Cash. Wanted THF walked away with a red ribbon with Justin Manis aboard for the Manis and Holt partnership. Jose’s Captain Jack captured a yellow ribbon with co-owner Wayne Cooley riding for co-owner Sherry Rouse. Eleven of the 17 original entries made the gate call.

Black Gin’s Scout and owner-rider Jayden Jackson from Shelbyville, Tennessee, claimed the blue in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Four-Year-Old Walking Stallions class. Sired by Gen’s Black Gin, it was the third blue in five shows this year for Black Gin’s Scout. I Will Honor Thy Father received a red ribbon with Kenny Compton riding for owner Della Compton. El Hombre In Black was third with Jake Jacobs riding for The Ted Nelms Family. Fourteen of 27 program entries participated in the class.

Closing out the first evening performance held in the Big Oval for 2022 was the Walking Stallions class. Four of the 18 scheduled entries took to the ring. Walking to victory and the blue ribbon was the team of Dixie Road and Link Webb for owner Joe Barnes of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The win came as a unanimous victory from the judging panel; the third of the night. Sired by The Dixie Lineman, it was the sixth blue in six outings for Dixie Road. Hawk In The Shade carried home a red ribbon with Michael Wright aboard for Johnny Sapp, while Walkin’ Mr. Charlie walked to third with Sam Martin in the saddle for Terry and Lisa Smith. Four of the 18 programmed entries showed in the class to close out the night.