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Walking Horse Enthusiasts Reflect On Celebrations Past



Walking Horse Enthusiasts Reflect On Celebrations Past

compiled by Sadie K. Fowler



As the 67th edition of the Tennessee Walking Horse National
Celebration prepared to roll out its red carpet for the industry’s
celebrities, several owners, exhibitors and enthusiasts recalled some
of their favorite Celebration memories.
We asked participants to reflect on their favorite celebration
memories, their best performances, and their favorite World Grand
Champion contenders. Here's what they came up with as they strolled
down memory lane...


What Is Your Favorite Celebration Memory?


The first time I showed Trip My Trigger. The response from the crowd
when they cheered, win or lose, was unbelievable.

Sue Ann Dowell
Powell, Ohio

I remember as a little girl when Judy Martin won on Shades of Carbon. I
was so excited to see a woman win the World Grand Championship. I knew
even then that I was witnessing history.

Christy Howard Parsons
Shelbyville, Tenn.

I’ll never forget the very first Celebration I went to, in
1972...Walking into that arena and seeing all those people -- and the
excitement never stops. I will also never forget winning the Reserve
World Grand Championship with Pusher’s Big Score in 1982.

Donna Hughes
Ontario, Calif.

My favorite Celebration memory is the first time I rode down ‘the
chute’ into the Celebration ring. It had been a dream of mine to show
at the Celebration for a long time and I finally had the chance to do
so. I did not get a ribbon or even make the workout but it was a thrill
just the same. I have now had many rides at the Celebration but I still
get that same thrill each and every time I ride down ‘the chute.’

Gail Walling
Wartrace, Tenn.

The Celebrations where I got to ride under the spotlight are very
special memories for me indeed! However, I can’t say that one is more
special to me that any of the others. All these rides were aboard
Electrifying. My first world grand championship ride was when
Electrifying was a three-year-old -- what a memory! In our next two
world grand championship rides we were not the favorites. Believe you
me, when you are not expected to win, but don’t give up, give it all
you (and your horse) have got, with the good Lord willing, you and your
horse can wear that floral horse shoe out of the stadium. It is,
without a doubt, a thrill that you never really get over. If I could
bottle that feeling, I could put all the drug dealers and drug
manufacturers out of business!

Dona Griffin
Matthews, N.C.

My favorite Celebration memory is when I won a world championship and a
world grand championship on a mare that I raised. I had won the Ladies
On Novice Mares and Geldings World Championship aboard Kiss My Grits
and we showed back and won the world grand championship (Novice
Amateur/Owner class). That same year, another colt I raised, Aspen
Gold, who was out of a different mare, also won. Another great memory
is when Star Of The Future was reserve in the World Grand Championship.
I had also raised him and he was reserve the same year Russ Thompson
won on Gen’s Armed and Dangerous.

Mandy Dawn
Shelbyville, Tenn.


My favorite Celebration memory is when I won the Ladies World Grand
Championship in 1994 with ET’s Silhouette. It was only the second world
grand championship I had ever won and I was so young when I won the
first time that I didn’t really realize what was going on. This one was
very special.

Pam Ingraham
Brentwood, Tenn.


The best Celebration memory for me was riding through the gates of the
big oval for the first time in my life. I remember going to the
Celebration as a kid every year just to watch all the beautiful horses
compete and my dream was to compete just once. Thanks to my parents, I
had that opportunity in 1987. I won my first ribbon, a sixth, and the
rest is history!

Patti Pollack
Saratoga, Calif.


My favorite memory is when my daughter Kathryn won the 12-17 World
Grand Championship for the second year in row aboard Pusher’s Special
Design.

Bob Ramsbottom
Norris, Tenn.

When my daughter Lane Walthall won the Show Pleasure Amateur World
Grand Championship in 1999. It was great for Lane and our whole family.
She and Coin Maker had worked really hard and were great together.

Paul Bryan
Thomasville, Ga.

My first Celebration seeing Bud Seaton ride in on Snow On The
Mountain...that big American Flag, that beautiful white horse, and a
rider with great style and a cool red hat!

Sue Stilwell
Independence, Iowa

Without a doubt, 1969. I was then a 20-year-old college student at
Murray State University...I remember that summer hearing about this
horse called The Senator, but never knew his breeding. That week at the
Celebration it was hot and rainy. The night of the Walking Horse Stake
class it looked like it was going to rain all evening, but as you would
guess it held off until the final class. When it did start to rain, it
really rained! To this day I still believe I have never seen it rain
that hard again [there was also lightning and thunder]. The lights went
out, and then came back on, and then out again. Then, only some came
back on. Still, they continued to show on the rail. By this time, many
people had left. I wound up standing in Vic Thompson’s, on the rail,
alone. When it came time to reverse Marvin Wilson stopped The Senator
so close to me I could have touched him...When he won, it was even more
enjoyable...The next morning as we were leaving Shelbyville, I learned
a lesson. Passing Vic Thompson’s barn what do I see but the man that
had just ridden the World’s Grand Champion the night before in terrible
conditions working a horse for a customer! This really touched me.
Marvin Wilson did not have to be there doing that in the morning! I
went on to become a successful coach and now a successful motivational
speaker/humorist and craftsman. I learned a lesson in humility, hard
work and dedication that Sunday morning in 1969.

Richard N. Henson
Hickman, Ky.

One of my favorite Celebration memories is when I attended the
Celebration for the very first time and watching as each World Grand
Champion [contender] was brought into the ring individually under the
spotlight. The spotlight followed the horse all the way around the ring
until the horse stopped. I still think of it today and it gives me cold
chills. I finally understood what the term “poetry In motion” really
means. This is when I really saw how pretty the canter truly is. The
memory that tops this is when my son rode at the Celebration and won
third place. I don’t think it could have been any better had that
ribbon been blue instead of yellow.

Kim Derrick
Dandridge, Tenn.

My favorite memory is when I won a Rebel colt at the Celebration. One
night we were going into the Celebration and I noticed a beautiful
Rebel colt stabled at the entrance. My husband and I had always loved
Rebel and we stopped to look at the colt -- he was so pretty. We read
the note that told us that we could register to win the colt by filling
out an entry in the Walking Horse Report. I told my husband, “since you
like him so much, I will win him for you.” He laughed at me and told me
that I would be wasting my time. I entered...Each night as we went into
the Celebration we would stop and look at the colt. My husband just
loved him. The last Saturday night, Mr. Bud Dunn came to center ring to
draw the name out of the box. I whispered to my husband that he was
about to own a Tennessee Walking Horse. He laughed. I laughed. And I
won! I really was not expecting to win at all! I was stunned and you
can imagine my husband’s surprise. It was special to us because, at
that time, we had never owned a Tennessee Walking Horse. This “win”
gave us our start in this wonderful business and since then we have
owned, raised and sold several colts and have several mares as
well...My husband sometimes kids me that I got him a “free” start into
a very expensive business. Considering he started with a free colt, he
says that it has cost him a lot of money since then!

Jody Sibley
Mt. Hope, Ala.

I love the smell of the Celebration...horses, leather, the steaming
rain on the hot pavement and the food booths...and before the food
booths were so plentiful, the smell of Kentucky Fried Chicken on a cool
evening before the show...My worst memory, now looking back, was the
year it rained so hard. There was about a foot of water in the ring. My
dad had sat there waiting for the World Grand Championship class and I
caused him to miss it while he took me to the rest room.

Jeff Johnston


I have so many memories, but the one that sticks out would have to be
the 2003 [Celebration]. Paul Watlington (my brother-in-law) had been
informed that he would be a judge for The Celebration. He had wanted
this honorable job for some time and to be chosen was very
exciting...not just The Celebration itself, but also leading up to it.
He phoned me at my job, which he had never done before to give me the
news. When he phoned me like that I knew how proud he was. New clothes
were bought and shoes were shined. He performed his job well each night
and everyone cheered when The Whole Nine Yards was crowned the World
Grand Champion. The following month, Paul was diagnosed with cancer.
Six months later he lost his battle. It is very hard every year to go
back and not see him on the grounds. It just seems like it was meant
for him to judge before he passed away. He told me in his last weeks,
'At least I got to judge The Celebration.' We miss him very much.

Steven Davis
Maryville, Tenn.

What has been your best personal Celebration performance?

My best performance was probably when I won the Elite World Grand
Championship with Poppa's Smokin' Pusher. It was the first time they'd
had that class.

Beverly Sherman
Dallas, Texas

My best performance was the 1998 under 15.2 stake class with Major
League. He had run off in the preliminary and it took me a lot to go
back. We did show back and he made a perfect show.

Sue Ann Dowell
Powell, Ohio

When I won the Amateur Grand Championship in the '80s with Pride's
Merry Gold. It was the first time this class had been won by a mare.

Donna Hughes
Ontario, Calif.

My best performance was in 1992 on Beam's Black Onyx when we won the
O/A Riders on Four-Year-Old Mares and Geldings unanimously. There were
four or five past world champions in that class and I was so proud of
Onyx because she made a great show. Onyx was my first really good horse
and I loved showing her because she had so much heart.

Gail Walling
Wartrace, Tenn.

I believe it was when Electrifying won the Elite World Grand
Championship in 2003. When we went reverse, I pushed him right up on
that edge and kept him there. You can't help but love a horse that will
do that -- and do it for an amateur rider!

Dona Griffin
Matthews, N.C.

Wow, I have had so many incredible rides at the world titles, but I'd
have to say there's nothing that can come close to the thrill of riding
under the spotlight. In 1998 I rode Pusher's Benny Boy to my one and
only world grand championship win. That moment will always be one of
the highlights of my life as it had been a lifelong goal of mine.

Patti Pollack
Saratoga, Calif.

I haven't won a blue ribbon at the Celebration yet, but my best ride
was two years ago on my horse Pegasus Mr. Roby. It felt like I kept him
in gear the whole ride and that's unusual for me!

Paul Bryan
Thomasville, Ga.

My favorite Celebration ride was the first time I rode in the big arena
under the stars...the bonus was a third place ribbon. What a thrill!
You would have thought I won the blue!

Cheryl Reidy
Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.


My best ride was in the Two-Year-Old Amateur Mare and Gelding class
with Summer Passion. That was our first blue together.

Pam Ingraham
Brentwood, Tenn.

Who is the best horse you have seen compete for the World Grand
Championship?

Generator's Santana. I had just sold him. Kelly had won the
Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship on him and he was a real special
horse to us.

Beverly Sherman
Dallas, Texas

This will be my 40th viewing of this class and I have seen a lot of
good horses and some not so good...too many to pick a favorite.

Pam Ingraham
Brentwood, Tenn.

One particular horse that sticks out is The Touch. When Chad Way showed
him the minute he came in, he came in really trying to win that class
and he never gave up.

Sue Ann Dowell
Powell, Ohio

You know, that's a really hard question. Pride's Secret Threat with
Billy Gray is one of my favorites. Also, I enjoyed The Whole Nine Yards
a couple years ago with Bill Bobo. It is hard to say because they're
all so different. If they win this class, they've got to be good, don't
they!

Donna Hughes
Ontario, Calif.

My favorite World Grand Champion was The Whole Nine Yards. I had a
connection with him because my trainer Bill Bobo rode him to his World
Grand Championship. I was so happy for Bill and after being around Nine
at the barn I really appreciated his talent. Nine made his work look so
easy and he really enjoyed his job. He also has a sweet disposition.

Gail Walling
Wartrace, Tenn.

I have been showing for 35 years and I loved Pride's Secret Threat with
Billy Gray and I loved Dark Spirit's Rebel with Bud Dunn. Pride's
Jubilee Star is also one of my all time favorites -- he was trained by
Ramsey Bullington. There have been so many great stallions out there.

Mandy Dawn
Shelbyville, Tenn.


My all time favorite World Grand Champion has always been He's Puttin'
On The Ritz. To me, he was the ultimate show horse. He had it all...he
had the show presence, a long striding back end and an incredible front
end to match.

Patti Pollack
Saratoga, Calif.

The best horse I have seen compete for the World Grand Championship is
Out On Parole. He had a rear end to die for...he was a walking son of a
gun!

Bob Ramsbottom
Norris, Tenn.

Out On Parole to me is the horse that did everything you could ask for
in the World Grand Championship class. He was great in the bridle. He
flat walked and did the running walk like a true champion should. Plus,
he's one of the most handsome stallions I have ever seen!

Paul Bryan
Thomasville, Ga.

He's Puttin' On The Ritz...once he entered the ring it was hard to look
at any other horse. He did it all!

Sue Stilwell
Independence, Iowa

I don't know if she was the best, but she stands out in my mind; Shout!
When she entered the ring, it seemed like everyone was cheering for her
and waving those pink shakers. It was like being in Knoxville at the
stadium and seeing that sea of orange. This was a sea of pink. It
seemed as if she knew that she was there to take care of business...and
she really entertained the crowd.

Kim Derrick
Dandridge, Tenn.

My favorite World Grand Championship horse was Dark Spirit's Rebel with
Bud Dunn. The entire audience was cantering in their seats and when
they announced him the winner it was the people's choice! Unanimously!

Cheryl Reidy
Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

My favorite Celebration memory was when The Super Stock won the World
Grand Championship. He was an awesome horse and so much better than all
the rest that, when they called to reverse directions of the ring, he
didn't stop for a break as so many horses do now...He turned and to the
roaring approval of the crowd made an entire lap before any other horse
moved. It was like they knew he was the best. It was like they gave him
the honor and glory he much deserved...and/or they (the other trainers)
just wanted to see this magnificent animal perform too!

Jeff Johnston

The best horse that I have seen contend was one that did not get a lot
of attention: Ebony's Time Around. He was always reaching forward and
wore the bridle so well. The first time I saw him was at a barn party
at Wheelon Stables. I liked the way he went then and always did...he
was a favorite of mine. My favorite to actually win that class was He's
Puttin' On The Ritz. He was a horse of his own...he was just too good.

Steven Davis
Maryville, Tenn.

(****Block off on its own in center??***)
Larry Lowman's Favorite Celebration Moments
What is your favorite Celebration memory?

I have many wonderful memories. Watching my daughter Beverly win her
first 11 and Under Championship on Eb's Talk Of The Town and watching
her win the Pony Championship twice on Prides Grand Finale...watching
my wife Judith win her first Celebration blue on Pushed To The
Limit...winning my first Celebration blue in 1966 and getting to ride
under the Celebration spotlight twice on Delight's Royal Haze in 1988
and on Outworlder in 1992.
I have also enjoyed promoting and handling the retirement ceremonies
for World Grand Champions Masquerading, RPM and Ironworks, complete
with center ring fireworks. I enjoyed being Celebration photographer
for 10-plus years and being able to be a part of and record on film so
many other people's memories. And, my ultimate favorite is when I was
inducted into the Celebration Hall Of Fame .

What has been your best Celebration performance?

This would be 1988 when I made my first ride under the Celebration
spotlight riding Delights Royal Haze to the 15.2 and Under Amateur
World Grand Championship. We had not been defeated all year, but had
not shown against all the horses in our division until the Celebration.
There were so many [horses] in the preliminary class and we tied fifth.
After the show and on our way home I expressed to my wife Judith how I
wanted to show back in the championship. Her immediate response was,
"why? I don't think you can beat the horses that tied above you, as
they are all previous world champions." But, against the odds, I
decided to show back anyway. Come championship night my horse was
really good and after a very long and heated class three horses were
chosen for a final workout. As I said, this had been a long class and
this was also the first workout that had been called in a championship
class all week. I could not believe I was chosen as one of the three.
The other two were Charcoal Delight, who had already won two
championships that week and was the class favorite, and Royal Label,
who was a 10 or 12 time world champion. All three horses were already
so tired, but I could not believe I was in this group.
As we took the rail with 30,000-plus fans screaming, my only thought
was I sure hope Haze can last and, believe me, that ring gets awfully
big with just three horses. When we reversed the crowd became louder
and as I passed the West grandstand it hit me that the crowd was
screaming for me and Haze and that if we could just make it a couple of
more rounds we might could just win this thing. As we went into the
North turn they called for the last running walk. Haze was so tired his
legs seemed like rubber, but he was giving it his all. As we came out
of the turn I remember looking up the rail of the East grandstand and
thinking if we can just make it to the next turn maybe it would be
over. Going past the East Grandstand the crowd was so loud I could not
hear Haze's feet hitting the ground. As we lined back up I knew this
little horse had just given the show of his life. When my number was
called and the spotlight landed on us I could not believe that it had
actually happened. So, in the excitement, I did just what everyone
hopes will not happen to them and I went the wrong way on my victory
pass... and with Haze being so tired I only went half the way around,
cut across the grass, walking on all the tv cables to the presentation
group to get my roses.
Monday after The Celebration I received a phone call from my friend
Ron Thomas. I thought he was calling to congratulate me but he said
"Lowman, you probably made the worst Celebration spotlight ride in the
history of the Celebration." As I laughed I told him, "but I still won
the roses."


Who is the best horse you have seen compete for the World Grand
Championship?

This is a very hard question because of the changing times of our
industry. When I was growing up and working for Sam Paschal - Sun's
Delight was without a doubt the greatest three-gaited horse of that
era. The old timers always said he could go from a flat walk, to a
running walk, to a canter and back to a flat walk and never miss a
step. He did all this with amazing head motion.
Being Celebration photographer for 10-plus years another horse that
impressed me was The Super Stock the night he won the big stake. I will
never forget this. I was standing in center ring taking pictures and it
was the workout for the World Grand Championship and the announcer had
just called reverse. Everyone stopped as they do. I turned and looked
over my right shoulder and David [Mason] never stopped Super Stock. He
just turned him around and went right up the rail in a flat walk. As
the rest of the riders realized what was happening they took off to try
and catch him. As they went up the East rail Super Stock was
unbelievably great. I remember standing there thinking-he looks like
General George Patton leading his troups to war -- what a memorable
night!
In more present day, the performance that Generator's Silver Dollar
made in the Championship stake was awesome, knowing that he had only
been ridden 21 times prior to that night. And I also think that the
performance that The Black Night Shade made in the Championship stake
class was probably the most flawless show a World Grand Champion
contender has made since Sun's Delight.




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