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UPDATE Celebration Suspends Nathan Mills

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. - Copyright The Walking Horse Report

This is an updated version of the story on the suspension of Nathan Mills by the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. The story includes Ron Thomas' letter to Hoyte Eakes notifying him of the suspension, Eakes' response to Thomas, and Ron Thomas' subsequent response.

The Report has learned that the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has suspended halter exhibitor Nathan Mills from participation at the 2005 Celebration. Mills was suspended for unprofessional and unsportsmanlike conduct in the Walking Weanling Grand Championship Class at this year’s show.

The suspension is for next year since Nathan’s actions were on the final night of the show. He was informed of the suspension by letter dated September 13, 2004 from Show Manager and Celebration CEO Ron Thomas (see below).

The letter was addressed to Hoyt Eakes, Nathan’s grandfather, because the Celebration was not sure if Nathan was 21 years of age. Eakes sent a reply stating that he agreed that Nathan’s actions were unprofessional and he told Nathan that as soon as he came out of the ring. He further stated that he had a long talk with Nathan about his actions and the penalty and that Nathan fully understands and is taking his punishment like a man.

Thomas responded to Eakes letter on September 27, 2004, and that letter is also printed below.

September 13, 2004

Mr. Hoyte Eakes

P.O. Box 140510

Nashville, TN 37214

Dear Hoyte:

This letter is being sent to you because I am not certain of the age of Nathan Mills. If Nathan is above 21 years of age, I should be corresponding with him. Since I am not sure, I will correspond with you out of respect.

Nathan’s actions in the Walking Weanling World Grand Championship Class were most unprofessional and totally unacceptable. We strive to attain a level of professionalism in center ring that is accepted and appreciated by all, and we are very disappointed when exhibitors and participants do not honor that. Nathan Mills has never shown any type unsportsmanlike conduct to my knowledge, but he was “way over the line” in his actions in the class just mentioned.

We have a conduct rule that states that this type of action is unacceptable and that participants and exhibitors are penalized for that. Since his unprofessional gestures came on the final night of the show, the decision has been made that he will not be allowed to show at the 2005 Celebration. I wanted to go ahead and make this known to you so that you might discuss it with Nathan. Even thought some might feel that this decision is too drastic, the people in leadership roles at the Celebration feel it must be dealt with severely and quickly. We merely will not accept that type behavior from our participants.

You have a great weanling, and I am very proud of the performance that the weanling made. I’m just disappointed in the manner in which Nathan handled his reserve world championship ribbon.


Ron Thomas

September 21, 2004

Mr. Ron Thomas

The Celebration

P.O. Box 1010

Shelbyville, TN  37162

Dear Ron:

This is in reply to your letter of 9/13/04 regarding the misconduct of Nathan Mills in the Walking Weanling Grand Championship class in this year's Celebration.

As a grandfather I completely agree with you that his actions were very unprofessional. I told him so when he came out of the ring and I will see that he fully understands why he is being penalized.

As a businessman, raising and showing colts for over 40 years, I am asking that you reconsider and levy another type of penalty, for Nathan not showing next year will completely put me out of business. Would you consider levying a stiff fine that I will see is paid out of his own pocket?

I have had a long talk with Nathan about his actions and the penalty. He fully understands and is taking his punishment like a man.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.


Hoyte Eakes

September 27, 2004

Mr. Hoyte Eakes

P.O. Box 140510

Nashville, TN 37214

Dear Hoyte:

Thank you for your memorandum of September 21, 2004, concerning our suspension of Nathan Mills at the 2005 Celebration. I appreciate your explanation, the fact that you have counseled with him, and the overall tone of your letter. Many thanks.

It would be very inappropriate for us to consider levying a stiff fine to an exhibitor for unprofessional conduct. Virtually every trainer that has ever violated our Code of Ethics Policy is remorseful after the fact. They have all been apologetic the next day. If we did not issue pretty stiff penalties and stick with them there would be chaos in our center ring. I know that you are aware of this having been in our business as long as you have.

I’m optimistic that Nathan’s suspension will certainly not “put you out of business.” I’ll bet there are many people that would jump at an opportunity to lead some of the great halter animals that you raise each year. Three members of the judging panel at the 2004 Celebration have already heard of Nathan’s suspension and called to personally thank me for defending them in this regard. They felt that his actions were certainly unprofessional and inappropriate, and that it did not cast a very positive light on the judging panel. I fully realize that Nathan is disappointed in his actions and apologetic for them. His suspension, however, must stand as presented. We will help you in any other way we can regarding your entries for 2005.


Ron Thomas

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