By Mark McGee

The Walt Disney empire began with a mouse. The George Wright Family’s Tennessee Walking Horse breeding empire began with one broodmare.

That mare was Shadow’s Juliet, purchased by Russell Wright in 1965. Russell was wanting to buy a mare, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted a Tennessee Walking Horse or a Thoroughbred. Having had previous experiences with walking horses Russell made his choice. It turned out to be the correct one.

Shadow’s Juliet was the first building block. She was sired by Go Boy’s Shadow, the 1955 and 1956 World Grand Champion, out of a Stately Allen mare.

“My father lived in Alabama,” Dr. George Wright said. “That is where he bought Shadow’s Juliet. “We hauled her up here to Lewisburg to Paul and Louise Nelms,” George said. “They got her in foal to Ebony Masterpiece twice.”

Shadow’s Juliet produced Ebony’s Notion and Master Perfection who would produce Pride’s Pepper and Pride’s Main Man, both Pride Of Midnight foals. According to the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association the offspring of the two would form the foundation of the Wright family’s breeding program.

The Nelms once again played a key role. “They got Ebony’s Notion and Master Perfection in foal to Pride Of Midnight,” George said. “Everything worked out with them. The Nelms helped us more on the front end than anybody else.”

George has fond memories of Master Perfection. “Master Perfection was very pretty,” George said. “She had a lot of natural ability. She was really good.”

Pride’s Main Man was a great show horse for many years with Bill Bobo and Phillip Wilson. The talented stallion produced offspring who would go on to greatness.

“Pride’s Main Man was a National Futurity Champion, a three-time reserve world champion and a reserve world grand champion,” Amanda Winters Wright said. “The majority of the mares we currently have go back to him.

“Pride’s Pepper produced multiple show horses including Ms. Goldie. As a broodmare Ms. Goldie produced 32 ribbon winning offspring which is more than any other TWHBEA mare has ever produced.”

For their success with their breeding program the Dr. George Wright family, which includes his wife Donna and sons Brian and Steven, were honored in 2011 with the TWHBEA Master Breeder Award. Their daughter in-law Amanda, who married Brian in June of 2011, is also a major contributor to the success of the breeding operation. Brian is a veterinarian and Amanda oversees the halter training. Steven works in the music industry and married his wife Marian in September 2020. Marian has also been active in showing Tennessee Walking Horses for years. She and her mother Cynthia co-own reigning Park Performance World Grand Champion So Real.

George was 15 years old when he attended his first Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Ironically, Ebony Masterpiece won the World Grand Championship that year.

“This is always what we really wanted to do,” George said. “My father had a gaited horse when I was a little baby. He went way back with walking horses.

“We enjoy seeing what we have worked so hard at come together. We could have never predicted we would have so many world champions and world grand champions.”

All that jazz

Master Of Jazz has been the centerpiece of the Wright’s breeding program since 2015. The black stallion won the 2007 world grand championship with Jimmy McConnell in the irons. Amanda and Brian purchased Master Of Jazz in partnership with Dr. Donnie and Mrs. Headrick.

Brian had wanted to purchase Master of Jazz for a long time. “I always liked Master Of Jazz,” Brian said. “He crossed well with our mares.

“He is such a gentle horse. When Beverly Burgess gives tours of Fantasy Farms Master Of Jazz is one of the stallions she lets visitors pet and give a treat.”

The Wrights had bred some of their broodmares to Master Of Jazz before making the purchase. “Tracy Boyd suggested him to us, so we started breeding to him,” Brian said. “We really liked the babies he was producing.

“I liked his temperament and his foals’ temperament. His foals are so gentle and easy going. They like people.”

So, Brian mentioned in passing to Ronnie Green that if Mike and Lee McGartland ever wanted to sell Master Of Jazz, he wanted the chance to buy him.

“It just kind of came about from there,” Brian said. “We got a phone call one Sunday evening and were told the McGartlands wanted to sell. We talked with Dr. Headrick, and he decided to go in with us. Jimmy McConnell was instrumental in facilitating the deal and we can't thank him enough.  ”

Based at Fantasy Farms in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, Master Of Jazz has been one of the most successful breeding stallions in the the industry.

“We didn’t raise or own all of them, but his offspring have won six world grand championships, four reserve world grand championships, 21 world championships, 28 reserve world championships, eight TWHBEA Futurity Championships and 11 Reserve TWHBEA Futurity Championships,” Amanda said. “We also bred to some other top stallions before we bought Master Of Jazz.”

Some of the notable horses the George Wright Family has raised include:
Pride's Main Man
Gold Record
Play Something Country
Gen On The Run
Miss Belle Starr W.
Intimidator's Cover Girl
I'm King Of The Ring
Classic Country Star
Country Roads
I’m Walking To The Ritz
I Walk A Fine Line
Walking Down The Line
Side Lined
Roan Ranger
Side Effects
Walkin' The Wild Side
Gin In Everything
American Saturday Night
Always In Style
The Gangster
Get Ready
Ready To Play
The Leg Man
Main Connection
Dangerous Man,
I’m A Mastermind
My Black Cadillac
A Stones Throw
Mr. Rumor Has It
A Jazz Master
I'm Unforgettable
A Ringmaster
I'm The Ninth Caller
Stayin’ At The Ritz
The Strike Zone
Right Or Wrong
Keeping Promises
Grayton Beach
Title Defense
A Masters Degree W.
I'm Chesapeake Bay

Picking favorites

It is hard to make these choices among so many talented horses, but Amanda has five favorites – Master Of Jazz, I’m A Mastermind, Pat Head Summitt, Intimidator’s Cover Girl and Backroads.

"I remember the night Master Of Jazz won the World Grand Championship,” Amanda said. “The thought that I would ever own part of such a magnificent horse honestly never entered my mind. We are just incredibly grateful and honored to be part of his story and entrusted with his care."

I'm A Mastermind was the first horse Amanda won a reserve world championship on under saddle. “I’m A Mastermind was a fun and exciting horse to ride,” Amanda said. “He had the biggest and goofiest personality. He and I just clicked.”

Pat Head Summitt was Amanda’s first world grand champion in 2007 in the yearling division. Pat Head Summitt won 35 blue ribbons in 2007 in competitions in eight states. Two of her four blue ribbons in The Celebration that year were with Amanda leading. Pat Head Summitt, owned by Dr. Roger Richards and Allen Curtis, passed away in 2008.

“She holds a very special place in my heart,” Amanda said. “Dr. Richards asked me if I wanted to show her. She was chestnut with freckles in her blaze on her face. She was really good but not as pretty as some of Dr. Richard's other yearlings. I really liked her and we had a special bond. I was, and still am, incredibly grateful for the opportunity to show such a talented filly.”

Intimidator’s Cover Girl was the first world grand champion trained and shown by both Amanda and Brian.

“We co-owned her with the Andrew Waites Family,” Amanda said. “With only four foals on the ground Covergirl has already given us World Champion I’m Unforgettable and World Grand Champion and World Champion Backroads.

In 2019 Backroads was undefeated with four blues including two at The Celebration capped by the Weanling World Grand Championship.

“Backroads is so special to us,” Amanda said. “He is the only world grand champion I’ve shown that I’ve also shown and won a world grand championship with its mother.”

A top collection

The Wrights have been reaping the rewards of years of careful planning, matching and raising the best mares to cross with Master Of Jazz.

“Everything we show we raised,” Amanda said. “We have probably about 15 broodmares right now. We used to have more but we needed to cut back.

“We have raised those mares for generations. Mares can make or break a sire. We have their mamas and their grandmamas. Our broodmare band has the unique ability to pass it on. We've always been big believers in the contributions of the mare.”

Dr. George Wright and Donna have a farm near Mount Juliet. Brian and Amanda own a farm in Wilson County located near the superspeedway.

“We have broodmares, weanlings and yearlings in both places,” Amanda said. “We have nine weanlings this year. Last year we had 15 and two years ago we had close to 25.

“Master Of Jazz used to be the only stallion we bred to, but we have two Master Of Jazz mares we kept back so we bred them to Walk Time Charlie and Playing Gin.”

At the age of 20 Master Of Jazz shows no signs of slowing down as a breeding stallion in either quantity or quality.

“He is looks really good for his age,” Amanda said. “He bred between 60 and 70 mares last year. I think it will be close to that this year.

“He is pretty consistent in how his foals are built, but you can get a variety of colors which keeps it interesting."

The main color for his offspring, however, is blue as in blue ribbons.

“From 2009 until 2020 with the exception of one year, 2013, I have had a weanling world champion every year,” Amanda said. “From 2014 to 2020 all of them have been by Master Of Jazz.”

Challenging work

Amanda balances her training of the halter colts with her work at Brian’s veterinary practice. Brian specializes in large animals, primarily horses. Amanda is his assistant helping with hands on work while also serving as Brian’s office manager.

“Pretty much our entire lives are around the horse business,” Amanda said. “We are with horses 24/7.”

Dr. Roger Richards acted as cupid in getting the two together. “He had known George and Donna for years,” Amanda said. “They were actually in each other’s weddings. 

“There is a 10-year age difference between Brian and me. I was a little hesitant because he was older. Dr. Richards told me he is a really nice guy from a really good family and that I should give him a chance.” Brian likes working with the colts on the farm, but he lets Amanda do the showing.

“Brian used to show but he stopped in 2013,” Amanda said. “He had a horse run over him and broke his ankle. He would rather be a groom and watch me show.”

Working with weanlings and yearlings can be both physically and mentally exhausting but Amanda finds her efforts to be rewarding. “They will try your patience at times,” Amanda said. “I do a lot of walking and as a result I don’t have to go to a gym.

“I always want to end on a good note with each horse I work. It may be five minutes or 30 minutes, but you end on a good note. You want to make it a positive experience because if it is a bad experience, they are going to remember it.”

Like people horses have different personalities that have to be dealt with. Brian credits Amanda with possessing the infinite patience and dedication necessary to deal with them.

“Every one of them is different,” Amanda said. “Some of them love it and could do it all day. And then with some of them you have to be careful because they are little babies. You don’t want them to get bored with it.

“At the same time, they are completely blank slates. They don’t know how to do anything. You have to keep their minds focused.”

Road to success

Amanda’s first horse was a Shetland pony. Her grandfather later bought her an Appaloosa. “I got him when I was eight,” Amanda said. “He was supposed to be a child-broke, but he threw me the very first day I got him. He made me a much better rider.”

Her grandparent’s neighbor owned a Tennessee Walking Horse and asked Amanda if she wanted to ride it. “I did and then I wanted one,” Amanda said. “I was 12 when I got my first gaited horse.” 

Her first showring experience was with Spotted Saddle Horses. “My grandparents, Andrew and Evelyn Winters, were instrumental in my horse showing habit,” Amanda said. “They supported and encouraged me in every way they could."

“Showing ‘spots’ I had won almost every halter class and had achieved my goals,” Amanda said. “I was looking for a new challenge.”

A graduate of Blackman High School in Rutherford County, Amanda started working with walking horses in 2005 when she was a student at Middle Tennessee State University. 

“When I was riding spotted saddle horses I would go to The Celebration,” Amanda said. “In 1995 when I was 10, Pride’s Sundance Star was the first world grand champion I saw crowned.

“One of the people I watched when I was about 12 years old and first beginning to show was Bobby and B.J. Richards. I thought maybe I could do that.”

While still in college she made her first purchase in 2005, a yearling with a less than impressive breeding background.

“I started with an off bred colt,” Amanda said. The colt was A Vicious Rumor sired by Dub’s Flashing Light by Black Doubloon.

“I paid $5,000 for him which was a lot for me being in college and not yet working full time,” Amanda said.

“Our first show was in Starkville, Mississippi, and he was third,” Amanda said. “We went to Holly Springs, Mississippi, and finished second. I went to the Trainers’ Show and won the Amateur Yearling class.”

While she was unloading A Vicious Rumor at a show, Dr. Roger Richards wanted to know if Amanda would sell the colt.

“I was a little starstruck that Dr. Richards was standing there,” Amanda said. “I wouldn’t price him because then I wouldn’t have anything to show, which was the reason I bought him to begin with.”

A busy show season

The Wrights have five offspring by Master Of Jazz set for The Celebration. My Hopes And Dreams will show in the weanling filly classes, while Don’t Blink Now will compete as a yearling filly. Both will be prepared and presented by Amanda along with the guidance of L.M. Murphy. “Murphy is a long-time family friend and gives us advice and suggestions throughout the show season,” Amanda said. 

Howard Hamilton and Patrick Thomas are training three two-year-olds for the Wrights. Thomas plans to show Born Ready in the Two-Year-Old Park Pleasure class.

Joe Lester is preparing a two-year-old, Don’t Push This, which Amanda plans to ride in country pleasure classes.

“He is so cute,” Amanda said. “Everybody says that. He was a trail pleasure horse, but we have moved him to the country pleasure division.

Joe Fleming Stables is training a three-year-old stallion, A Country Mile, who will be presented by Justin Harris.

The Wrights work all summer with the weanlings and yearlings preparing them for the show ring. Exhibiting a colt that walks correctly and knows how to line up is not an overnight achievement.

“Wednesday, which includes the Futurity, is the biggest day of the entire year if you are showing halter colts,” Amanda said. “If we can make it through Monday, the last of the morning shows, it is all downhill from there. 

“You drive an hour home at midnight, then get up at 3 a.m. for the morning classes. That’s tough. There is definitely a Celebration hangover with that Sunday and Monday after it is over when you don’t want to do anything.”

Amanda claims it is worth all of the effort particularly when you are showing colts you bred, raised and trained. Brian adds the fact it is a family affair making it worthwhile as well.

“We have always enjoyed doing this,” Brian said. “I was born into it. I have had horses my whole life.

“It has been a good family business. It has gotten bigger than any of us ever dreamed it would be.”