By Mark McGee | photos by Shane Shiflet

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – The Blue Moon of Tennessee shined on over the 85th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration on a near perfect evening for the 13-class schedule on the second Wednesday. Announcer’s assistant Margaret Eakin explained to ring announcer Mark Farrar that a blue moon is the second full moon of a month, and is a rare occurrence as it rose above the East side of “The Big Oval”.

It was a family affair in center ring with Bobby McGee from Grace Baptist Church in Shelbyville giving the invocation and his sons Jason and Jeffrey McGee providing a rousing duet presentation of the “National Anthem,” while Ronnie Spears presented the flag horse White Diamond Dollar.

Motlow State Community College President Michael Torrence was a special guest. 

Leah Boyd was the call judge as two of six programmed entries in the Fine Harness class answered the gate call to the music of organist J. Brantley. Call My Lawyer was driven to the unanimous blue ribbon by Chad Way for Jack Davis of Ashville, Alabama. No Shame In My Game rode out with a second place streamer with Larry Edwards driving for Bobby and Linda Mixon.

Me And Pocahontas won unanimous top honors in the Aged Mares & Geldings (Canter) class with Tyler Baucom in the saddle for Allyson Armstrong from Hickory, North Carolina. It was the third blue in six classes this year for Me And Pocahontas. I’m Charlie Daniels fiddled his way to reserve with co-owner Welsey Allen riding for the Bingham and Allen partnership. Mr. For Real placed third with Jimmy McConnell riding for Paul Simmons. Six of 13 entries competed, with Nathan Clark directing the gaits. 

The spin of the wheel in center ring fell on David Sisk to be the call judge in Division A of the Amateur Owned & Trained class. Half of the 16 scheduled entries were in the ring. Sophisticated, a class horse, made a classy appearance for the blue with Paul Robbins of Rutherfordton,  North Carolina, riding for Teresa Pierce. Robbins and Sophisticated are three-for-three in blues this summer. The Gamecock, also a class horse, walked out with a red streamer for co-owner Curtis Thompson riding for Livingston and Thompson. He’s A Title Wave was the third tie with owner Chris Burton.

R.M. Kellett guided Jose’s Havana Night to the winner’s circle as the unanimous selection of the five-judge panel in the Three-Year-Old Walking class for Mr. and Mrs. Howard Eastridge of Columbia, Kentucky. I’m Ritzy Ritz left the ring with a second place ribbon with Derek Grant in the stirrups for Joe Estes. Steinway and Knox Blackburn were third for John Haselden. Call judge Derek Bonner welcomed 11 of 20 planned entries to “The Big Oval”. 

Kenny Smith called the next class that saw 11 of 17 programmed entries in the ring for Section B of the Amateur Owned & Trained class. Dr. David Bullock from Mount Vernon, Kentucky, and Ready To Play proved they were ready to win. They repeated their win in the class from 2022, and are undefeated in four classes this year. Lightning In A Bottle, with Robbie Casteel riding for Chloe Casteel, was second. The third place tie went to I’m Shady with K.J. Compton riding for Della Compton.

Owner-rider Candy Green rode The Lonestar Legend to the blue in the Walking Horse Trainers Auxiliary class. The Lonestar Legend has three blues in five classes this summer. Samsung and Karen Callaway were reserve for Allan Callaway, while Bravo! rode out with a yellow streamer with Jayden Jackson in the irons for Jack Heffington. Seven of 20 expected entries competed in the class, with Leah Boyd calling the gaits.

Nathan Clark was the call judge with 10 of 18 listed entries answering the gate call in the Two-Year-Old Geldings class. He’s Walking In Dixie walked down victory lane with Chad Thompson for Jamie and Donna  Etheridge of Jacksonville, Alabama. It was the third blue in a row in four shows for He’s Walking In Dixie. A Red Alert, with Dan Waddell in the saddle for George and Kim Lewis, received reserve and was also the Futurity champion with the highest finish of those nominated in the class. My Tomahawk, with Derek Grant riding for Beth Alagna, was third.

Flirtin’ To Win and Just A Flirtin’ were led to the blue in the Mares & Foals class by Karen McGee Harnden and Lisa Teel for owners Teel and Washburn from Fayetteville, Tennessee. The second place ribbon was awarded to Call For A Good Time and I Am Stormy Daniels with John and Rachel Dorris as handlers for John Dorris. Armed Eye Candy and Side Chick placed third with Caroline Wesley Way and Mary Frances Way serving as handlers for Mona McMillan. Six of eight expected entries were on display for call judge David Sisk.

Kenny Smith called the gaits for nine of 13 programmed entries in the Park Performance Five & Under class. Praise And Honor rode to the winner’s circle with Jeff Laughlin in the saddle for Doris Penick from Walterboro, South Carolina. They have three blues in a row this show season in four classes. I Am Jose’s Johnny Cash, with Patrick Thomas aboard, placed second for Jim and Jeanne Roberts. Lined With Luck and Michael Johnson left with a yellow streamer for Michael Chandler.

Miss Ebony Rose, with Steve Beam in the saddle, was first in the Mares & Geldings class for Sudie Reed from Jasper, Alabama. Honor And Salute and Kayla Baucom rode away with a red streamer for Kerry DeArmond, Manning and Jimmy McConnell were third for The Molly Walters Family. Eleven of the 30 listed entries worked under the direction of Derek Bonner.  

Leah Boyd called the gaits in the Show Pleasure Five & Under class, where 14 of 26 programmed entries took to the track. The Jackalope and Amber Zahnd won top honors for Kent McGary from Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The Jackalope has four blues in five classes this year. Charlie’s Time was the second place tie with Knox Blackburn in the stirrups for Jeff Rich. Watch For Honor and John Allan Callaway rode to a third place streamer for Charles Gleghorn.

Up next was the Owner-Amateur Classic Horses 15 Years & Older class. For the third year in a row, it was the team of Versace’s Dollar and Kenny Compton called from the line up as the world champions. With this win, the duo retired The Network Memorial Challenge Trophy and The Kathy Zeis Memorial Challenge Trophy for Rick Compton of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Reserve went to Unreal and Dr. Jim Baum, riding for Lisa Baum. Bad Economy and owner-rider Emily Kaiser-Jackson were the yellow ribbon winners. Nathan Clark directed the 13 of 24 entries. 

Seven of 27 listed entries competed in the Walking Horses (Canter) class to close out the night. David Sisk served as the call judge. Koufax struck out his competition for the win with Blaise Broccard riding for Ron and Jan Wagaman from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. It was the fourth top finish for Koufax in five classes this year. Say Cash finished second with Keith Blackburn aboard for Dan and Susan Erwin. He’s Pushin’ The Dollar cashed in with a yellow ribbon with Steve Beam aboard for Bob and Roxy Cole.