by Mark McGee

Blue skies returned to “The Big Oval” as well as an impressive number of fans after two nights of rain for Wednesday night’s performance of the 83rd annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

It was the night before the start of world grand championship classes, but there was still plenty of excitement. Like getting to open just one present on Christmas Eve the Weanling World Grand Championship gave fans a preview of what is ahead Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There was something for every walking horse fan in the 14-class schedule with trainers, auxiliary members, owner-amateurs and fine harness drivers competing. 

Ronnie Spears and White Diamond Dollar opened the evening. It was all in the family in the center ring. Bobby McGee from Grace Baptist Church gave the invocation. His sons, Jason and Jeffrey McGee, sang the “National Anthem” as a duo adding a special touch of harmony.

Six of 13 original entries answered the gate call from announcer Mark Farrar for the Fine Harness class. Brent Grider was the call judge. For the third year in row Bill Callaway drove In Ted’s Image to the world championship unanimously for Ron Lawrence of Lenoir City,  Tennessee. It was the third consecutive win in the class for the duo, the seventh blue of 2021 for In Ted’s Image. LT. Horatio Caine and Knox Blackburn drove out with reserve honors for Stacy Blackburn. Tom Collins L.T.L. tied third with Dickie Scrivner driving for Kathy Owen. 

David Sisk was the call judge as seven of 12 programmed entries competed for a world championship in the Aged Geldings (Canter) class. Mr. For Real lived up to his name taking top honors with Jimmy McConnell in the saddle for Paul Simmons of Orangeburg, South Carolina. It was the third top finish this season for Mr. For Real, one with Simmons riding. Country And Famous walked out with a red ribbon with John Allan Callaway aboard for Rick and Marla Lovett. I’m Lovin’ It and Sam Martin won a yellow ribbon for Bob Medina.

There were 16 of 19 scheduled entries in the ring for the Three-Year-Old Geldings with Dale Watts as the call judge. The Mandalorian was ridden to the world championship by Tyler Baucom for Dee Broom Yoder of Ooltewah, Tennessee. It was the second world championship for The Mandalorian. Yoder won Division A of the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old Mares & Geldings class Monday night. He’s Ballistic placed second with Ryan Blackburn in the irons for Dr. David Bullock. The Jackalope received a yellow streamer with Jordan Caudill aboard for Tim Brown. 

With a spin of the wheel in the center ring, David Sisk was named the call judge for the 12 entries vying for the Weanling World Grand Championship. Making the winning walk underneath the spotlight was Tee Martin and handler Robert Nelms for Pittman, Washburn and Teel of Shelbyville and Fayetteville, Tennessee. Peyton Nelms guided Tee Martin to the world championship in the Youth Weanlings class Saturday morning, while Robert guided Tee Martin to the world championship in the Weanling Colts class Monday morning. Tee Martin is undefeated in five shows in 2021. My Hopes And Dreams was named the reserve world grand champion with Amanda Wright at the lead for the Dr. George Wright Family. I’m Mamacita and handler Rachel Dorris were third for Ricky and Lisa Atnip.

Chris Bobo put 19 of 27 listed entries through their gaits in the Amateur Owned & Trained class. I’m Jordan and Kenny Compton were awarded the world championship for Della Compton of Tazewell, Virginia. They have three blues this year. Another Nine Yards, a “Classic” horse, was ridden to second by Jacob Miller for The Matt Miller Family, while Ferrari 308 raced to third for with Kenny Smith in the irons. 

The Two-Year-Old Geldings class drew 14 of the 18 programmed entries for call judge Derek Bonner. It was Charlie’s Time for the world championship with John Allan Callaway aboard for Jeff Rich from Franklin, Tennessee. Google.Com was second with Brandon Ailshie in the stirrups for Ronnie Stanfill. The American King walked out with a third place streamer with Tanner Burks riding for Sister Milligan. 

Fourteen of 18 expected entries competed in the Five & Under Park Performance class. Brent Grider was the call judge .Draw A Line captured the world championship as the unanimous selection of the five-judge panel with Josh Wright in the saddle for Jannie Chapman from Owens Crossroads, Alabama. It was the second world championship this year for Draw A Line. Chapman won the Owner-Amateur Five & Under Park Performance class on Friday night. Wright and Chapman have combined for four blues in a row on Draw A Line. Deal With It and Mickey McCormick received reserve honors for Chester and Debbie Marbry. One Special Poison tied third with Patrick Thomas riding for Lisa Shockey. 

With a number of multiple entries by several trainers, 14 of the 31 programmed entries were in the ring to hear the commands for David Sisk for the Experienced Trainers class. Samsung and Bill Callaway won the world championship for the second year in a row. It was Callaway’s second world championship ride of the night. Bravo! and Chad Way were second for Jack Heffington. Say Cash and Keith Blackburn rode out with a yellow ribbon for Dan and Susan Erwin.

Dale Watts served as the call judge for the Walking Horse Trainers’ Auxiliary Members class as 12 of 25 original entries rode for the world championship. The Iron Door and Sarah Coffee Burks of Calhoun, Georgia, shut the door on the competition for the top honor. It was the fifth blue of the year for The Iron Door, four with Burks in the saddle. We Will Rock You rocked second with Amy Trimble on board for Dr. Edwin and Chris Hutchinson. I’m The Alamo took home a third with Karen Callaway riding for Ridgemont Farm.

Manning and Jimmy McConnell made a touchdown play winning the Mares & Geldings World Championship for Kelsey Andrews from Rancho Mirage, California. Manning and McConnell won the class in 2020. This show season Manning has four blues, three with Taylor Walters aboard. Charlie’s Perfect Angel tied second with Hayden Burks aboard for Tara Rhoades. Gotcha Jose’ left the ring with a third place for Jacob Baum. Eleven of 25 listed entries made the gate all with Chris  Bobo the call judge. 

Eighteen of 22 scheduled entries heard the gait calls of Derek Bonner in the Five & Under Show Pleasure class. The Honor Code was ridden to the world championship by John Allan Callaway for The Alan Riddley Family from Kings Mountain, North Carolina. It was the second world championship of the evening for John Allan Callaway. The Cochise tied second with Jeff Laughlin in the irons for Jannie Chapman. Charlie Danger claimed third with Ryan Blackburn at the reins for Ginger Williams.

Brent Grider was the call judge with four of the five listed entries competing in the Owner-Amateur Stallions (Canter) class. Beth Pippin from Huntsville, Alabama, took home the world championship aboard The Mason Dixon Line. They are five-for-five in blue ribbons in 2021. Knock’ Em Ted and Jannie Chapman were reserve, while Famous & Andy and Amelia Haselden left the ring with a yellow streamer for John Haselden.

The Owner-Amateur Classic Horses 15 Years & Over featured 12 of 18 planned entries for call judge David Sisk. There were 54 “Classic” horses entered in the Celebration this year. Versace’s Dollar was a fashionable world champion with Kenny Compton in the saddle for Rick Compton. It was Versace’s Dollar’s third blue of the show season. BeeBee King was second with Mary Medina on board for Bob Medina. A Private Benjamin and Dee Broom Yoder walked away with third. 

Several of the 26 horses entered in the program had shown previously leaving 10 to make the Stallions Specialty class, the finale of the evening. Dale Watts served as call judge. Walkin’ Mr. Charlie walked to the world championship in the class. Sam Martin was in the irons for Terry and Lisa Smith. Hawk In The Shade and Michael Wright rode to reserve for Johnny Sapp, while Nino’s Category Five tied third with John Allan Callaway on board for Dr. Barbara Moersch.