by Linda Scrivner

FRANKLIN, Tenn. - The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) held its annual awards banquet Thursday evening, Dec. 4, at the Cool Springs Marriott.

Executive director Charles Hulsey welcomed the crowd by saying, “Tonight begins a weekend of activities devoted to this horse we love so dearly, and it is an opportunity for us to recognize the outstanding achievements of some of the most dedicated people and top horses within our Tennessee Walking Horse industry.” After dinner was served, John Hood began the special presentations.

The names of the outgoing board members were read and they were given plaques to commemorate their service.

The TWHBEA recognized the 2003 Executive Committee, and the committee members each received a framed portrait of the “perfect Tennessee Walking Horse.” Those recognized included Member at Large for Youth Paula Sanders of Missouri; Member at Large for Bylaws Sid Baucom of Utah; Vice President for Training David Landrum of Tennessee; Vice President for Pleasure Horse Ann Kuykendall of Oklahoma; Vice President for Performance Show Horse Spencer Benedict of Kentucky; Vice President for Owners/Exhibitors Nicole Carswell of Kentucky; Vice President for Horse Show Bill Stricklend of Alabama; Vice President for Enforcement Melvin Belcher of Virginia; Vice President for Breeders Nancy Lynn Beech of Tennessee; Vice President for Administrative/Fiscal Charles Wharton of Tennessee; Immediate Past President Jim Welch of Tennessee; Senior Vice President Jerrold Pedigo of Tennessee; President Robert Thomas of Mississippi and Secretary/Treasurer Sharon Brandon of Tennessee.

The winners of the regional futurities were also recognized. (A complete list of these sires and dams accompanies this article.)

This year marked the third year for the Youth Medallion classes, which were designed by the Performance Show Committee to encourage youth riders to show in three-gaited performance classes. For the second year in a row, the Youth Medallion High Point Champion for 2003 was Erica Hartlein of Petersburg, Tenn. Hartlein received a trophy, a $1,000 scholarship and several other awards. She earned the majority of her points riding Solid Silver, who is trained by Justin Jenne’.

The reserve youth medallion high-point award was claimed by Kathryn Ramsbottom of Norris, Tenn. Ramsbottom earned her points riding Beam’s Eclipse, who is trained by Link Webb.

“The Performance Show Horse division wishes to commend all the trainers who supported this important program throughout the year. It takes true commitment to encourage and teach the canter to our youth riders, but the rewards, we feel, are worth it. And, we would certainly encourage any trainer to urge their youth riders to take advantage of these classes next year. There’s good money to be earned, but preserving our wonderful canter gait is the true reward,” John Hood said after the presentations were made.

The TWHBEA announced the outgoing 2003 Youth Board of Directors. They were President Erica Hartlein, Vice President Erika Mann, Secretary Catherine Simpson, Treasurer Paula Gambill and Parliamentarian Sarah Nichols.

“These young women are so full of enthusiasm, energy, and ideas that the inaugural Youth Board was destined to be successful....” Hood said. “No one will ever forget The Challenge 2003 when you flogged the Trainers’ Association at softball and raised over $2,600 for the Great Strides Therapeutic Riding Program!”

The other senior board members present were Leslie Ann Birk, Luke Carswell, Blake Everett and Meredith Newberry.

The 2004 TWHBEA Youth Board consists of 41 members representing 19 states, Europe and Canada. Their mission is to have a positive impact on our industry, to serve as ambassadors of our breed, and to introduce the great Tennessee Walking Horse to new equestrians.

The Youth board members recognized included President Catherine Simpson, daughter of Cathy and Jon Simpson of Crossville, Tenn.; Vice President Kathryn Ramsbottom, daughter of Linda and Bob Ramsbottom of Norris, Tenn.; Secretary MiKenzie Brown, daughter of Bonnie and Michael Brown of Manchester, Tenn.; and Parliamentarian Joel Johnson, son of Suzy and Keith Johnson of Shelbyville, Tenn.

The other senior board members are: Blake Everett, son of Donna Kay and Don Everett of Lewisburg, Tenn.; Brooks Everett, daughter of Donna Kay and Don Everett of Lewisburg. Tenn.; Rachel Galeski, daughter of Pam and Joe Galeski of Genevieve, Mo.; Leann Little, daughter of Karen and Lee Little of Clarkrange, Tenn.; Meredith Lovato, daughter of Ellyce and Chris Lovato of South Jordan, Utah; Jessica Marlewski, daughter of Judy and Ed Marlewski of Mackinaw, Ill.; Matthew McMurtrey, son of Diana McMurtrey of Orlando Fla., Meredith Newberry, daughter of Melissa and Louis Newberry of Wartburg, Tenn.; Hali Stokes, daughter of Bonnie and Tim Stokes of Franklin, Tenn.; and Mary Jo Williams, daughter of Lynne and Tom Williams of Pegram, Tenn.

Junior board members present were: Leslie Ann Birk, daughter of Debbie and Rob Birk of Gordonsville, Mo.; Luke Carswell, son of Nicole and Smokey Carswell of Morehead, Ky.; and Lindsey Landrum, daughter of Karla and David Landrum of Franklin, Tenn.

The TWHBEA traditionally recognizes the breeders, trainers and owners of the World Grand Champion, the Park Pleasure World Grand Champion and the Lite-Shod World Grand Champion.

The Lite-Shod World Grand Champion Double Java was ridden to the tricolor by Scott Benham and is owned by Mark and Marcy Drummond. He was bred by Charles and Julie Wharton.

The Park Pleasure World Grand Champion Lit Up’s Double Time was directed by Howard Hamilton. Lit Up’s Double Time was bred and owned by Randall and Gloria Dixon.

The 2003 World Grand Champion The Whole Nine Yards was ridden to the top honors by Bill Bobo for Bob and Luanne Sigman. He was bred by Larry Wheelon. “Bill Bobo now joins his late father, the legendary C.A. Bobo, in having saddled a World Grand Champion,” Hood said. “Bill added this well-deserved title to a long list of divisional world championships and multiple Trainer Of The Year Awards.”

Next on the agenda was the Performance Horse Ambassador Award. Vice President of the Performance Horse Division Spencer Benedict presented Jane Hardy Meredith with this award. Meredith spoke to the group concerning the Academy Program of which she has been a great supporter and promoter.

Jane Anderson was recognized as the Pleasure Horse Ambassador, and presenter Ann Kuykendall proudly proclaimed her to be most deserving for her unselfish efforts toward the betterment of the breed. Anderson has exposed countless people to the superior versatility of the pleasure Tennessee Walking Horse.

The Ambassador Awards were created in 2001 to honor the individuals who best exhibit dedication, commitment and personal involvement towards the betterment of the Tennessee Walking Horse.

Next, Bill Strickland presented the Emerald Award of Excellence in Show Management. This is the fourth year that the award has been presented. It was designed to recognize the efforts of horse show managers, and to go one step further and acknowledge outstanding achievements in this field.

In previous years, an outstanding one-night show as well as an outstanding multi-night show were honored. This year TWHBEA decided to recognize just one show, and limit those eligible for the award to be first-year shows that were assisted by the TWHBEA Horse Show Support and Development Program. In 2003, the program helped launch nine new shows. The award went to Holly Springs Charity Walking Horse Classic of Holly Springs, Miss. This year’s show manager Lisa Cole accepted the award.

“And we can’t let the evening go without at least mentioning the National Celebration,” Hood said. “The 2003 edition was perhaps the Celebration’s greatest production, and we commend the Celebration Board and its show manager Ron Thomas for providing a wonderful showcase for our breed.” The Celebration’s board of directors was on hand to receive the TWHBEA’s special thanks for their support of the breed.

One of the most touching moments of the night was the announcement of the Reese L. Smith Jr. Distinguished Service Award. This award is given to the individual who best exemplifies the same dedication, commitment and personal involvement that Smith did. David Howard was chosen as this year’s recipient.

“The 2003 award recognizes a man who has served the walking horse industry in a variety of important capacities....” Hood said. “His company has been a solid member of the Bedford County community as well as a generous member of the walking horse community, having donated thousands in advertising space, luncheons, merchandise and sponsorships to numerous industry organizations, most notably the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association.

“Personally, he has donated his time and business acumen to the walking horse breed as a former member of the TWHBEA Board of Directors and a current board member of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.”

One of the longest running awards made by the TWHBEA are the Sire and Dam of the Year Awards. The awards are given based on both actual points acquired by the progeny and the percentage points acquired.

The top dam for 2003 in both categories, total points and percentage points, was awarded to Miss Molar. Gorden and Tricia Timmons accepted the award.

The top sire for 2003 based on points was Gen’s Major General. Connie Bryant and Bill Harlin accepted the award. This marked the first time since the inception of the award 11 years ago that a stallion other than Gen’s Major General’s sire, Pride’s Generator, has earned this award for total points.

Lindy Holt was beaming as The Grand Collection was announced as the percentage point winning sire for the second straight year. The only other sire awarded this honor was Pride’s Generator. (The top 20 winning sires and dams in each category accompany this article.)

The final presentation of the evening was made to Robert Thomas, TWHBEA’s President for the last two years. Charles Hulsey presented Thomas with a certificate for a Boston rocking chair and an official Tennessee Walking Horse brass lamp for his service.