Celebration Leading the Way in Horse Safety with Enhancements to the Trainers Initiative

Shelbyville, TN – Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Board of Directors today announced historical reforms that will ensure that The Celebration leads the way in reforming the industry so all horses are treated humanely and they are trained in a safe environment. Today’s measures will enhance science based testing recently announced by the  Walking Horse Trainers’ Association  (WHTA’s) Enforcement Initiative and strengthen the stringent testing methods currently employed by the Celebration. For the first time ever swabbing results will be made public during the event and violations will be punished severely by suspending trainers’ licenses, disqualifying horses, removing ribbons, trophies and prize monies.

“The Celebration is the premier Tennessee Walking Horse event in the world, so it is only fitting that we lead the way in reforming the industry so that all horses are treated humanely and trained in a safe environment,” said Dr. Doyle Meadows, CEO of the Celebration. “The Celebration’s highest priority is placed on the safety of the horses, which is why all of the horses participating in our event are inspected by the Horse Industry Organization (HIO) that employs the strictest inspection process and strongest penalties in the business.”

Every horse participating in the Celebration® will be tested for foreign substances through the WHTA’s Enforcement Initiative program.  This swabbing program is an objective, science-based inspection initiative to swab the pasterns of horses in competition in order to detect substances that harm the horse or mask substances that could have harmed the horse. Celebration is going one step further and paying to expedite the swabs so that the results will be available during the event – this is a first in the history of the Industry. The swabbing results will then be made public and those found in violation will be punished in accordance with the Trainers’ Initiative. This is also the first time that classes will be retied accordingly removing ribbons, trophies and prize monies.  A trainer found in violation will have their license suspended in line with WHTA initiative protocol and the horse will be disqualified.

“We applaud The Celebration’s commitment to horse safety and to preserving this rich Tennessee tradition for future generations,” said Jamie Hankins, WHTA President. “Not only is The Celebration going above and beyond anything that has ever been done in the Industry, they are footing the bill as well. We are happy to see such strong support for the WHTA’s Enforcement Initiative. Together we are reforming the Industry so that only sound horses compete in the show ring."

These new measure are in addition to the normal SHOW HIO inspection and USDA inspection.  This will be the most intense and severe punished inspection of TWH and Celebration in history.  Last year, The Celebration had a 93% compliance rate and 98.9% agreement between SHOW HIO and USDA inspectors. Additionally, the USDA only found 1.1% of all horses the inspected out of compliance with HPA. These new measures will raise the bar even higher.


Founded in 1939, The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration® is based on a vision of Henry Davis of Wartrace, TN. It has grown into the world’s largest and most prestigious event celebrating one of Tennessee’s most valuable assets - the Tennessee Walking Horse.
The 2012 Celebration is the 74th Annual Celebration.

The event is an 11-day and night annual festival in Shelbyville, TN, taking place in the summer, during which more than 2,660 horses compete in 171 classes and more than $650,000 in prizes are awarded.
The Celebration® names 39 World Champions of the breed and the festival culminates in its main attraction, the crowning of the World Grand Champion®, on the Saturday evening prior to Labor Day.


Selling nearly a 170,000 tickets to fans from more than 40 states each year, The Celebration® has an economic impact on Middle Tennessee’s economy, comparable to a NASCAR race and bigger than the Music City Bowl and the Country Music Marathon.
The economic impact on Shelbyville and Bedford County by the Celebration event alone has been estimated by a recent survey to be approximately $38.5 million annually.
Additionally, events in Calsonic Arena and the grounds throughout the year bring in another $13 million annually.

Many local civic clubs and charities depend on the 11-day event to raise funds to serve their community.
At present, approximately 17 civic clubs use the Celebration as their annual fundraiser and have raised more than $3.5 million over the past 15 years. Last year alone, these clubs grossed nearly $400,000 and netted more than $240,000 by operating food booths, parking cars, producing and selling programs, and selling souvenirs.
 All of the clubs use the proceeds to fund various programs throughout the county, including youth-oriented programs, recreational and sports leagues, as well as programs that help the disabled, the poor, or the disadvantaged.