PULASKI -- The unmistakable rhythm of horses' hooves on a sod track was music to the ears of a crowd of about 200 horse enthusiasts at the Milky Way Farm Equestrian Challenge Sunday.
The event, sponsored by the Walking Horse Racing and Event Commission, was held at the historic Milky Way Farm, home of candy legend Frank Mars. The race track, built in 1932, was designed by Mars and is where many champion thoroughbreds were trained, including the 1940 Kentucky Derby Winner, Gallahadion.

Sunday's challenge featured several races including Tennessee Walking Horse Pacing, an open race, a Sweetheart Ladies Race, and a Mule Race.
One of the organizers, Wayne Abee, explained that the event was a way to promote the diversity within the Walking Horse industry.
"The breed is very versatile, so we want to show other sides of it. Walking Horses came from pacers originally, so we want to have various types of races that show the many sides of the breed. In the future, we hope to have harness races, both pacing and racking, as well as saddle events. We'll be having races at tracks in Lincoln County and other places as we can get them scheduled." Abee stated.
A 'showcase'

"This is another avenue to showcase the horses." Abee said that he hopes that by doing so, more people will come back to the industry and new people will gain an interest in the horses. "We're expanding the industry in new directions and promoting the horses with events such as this. We're already seeing an upsurge in interest in the horses."
Abee added that the Commission's races and events in the future will give amateurs and trainers other opportunities in which to compete and to promote their horses. "Anyone can train and compete in these types of events, so they open it up to a wider group of people who are interested in horses."
Kirsten and Scott Lambert from Shelbyville own Walking Horses and were trackside during the races. They were excited about the event, echoing that it was an excellent way to generate more interest in the horses.
"I love it. Diversity is a good thing, so I support it," Kirsten Lambert said. "I think that these types of events show that there's something for everyone with this breed. I hope that more people start gaining an interest in Walking Horses. It would be good for the industry and for the breed."

The event drew people from all over, including many who do not own horses, such as Kristin Gomez from Hohenwald.
Gomez enjoyed a trackside view of the races from her vintage quilt and with a picnic basket full of goodies and libations. She saw this event on the state's tourism website, www.tnvacation.com, and thought it would be fun.
"We're just having a romantic getaway weekend and wanted to do something fun that is close to home. We spent last night in a cute bed and breakfast in Mulberry and drove over here today. It's a beautiful day to be at the races," she said.
Several families of tailgaters enjoyed the day parked on the track's infield. Grills, smokers, and coolers dotted the nicely mown infield as children played ball, wrestled in the grass and played with their dogs.
The day was indeed beautiful, but very windy, causing the ladies who participated in the Most Southern Hat contest to have to hang onto their bonnets to keep them from blowing away. The winners of the contest were Kelley Garrett, Donna Baird and Karen Brittain.
On the web

For more information on Milky Way Farm.

Reprinted with permission from Times-Gazette.