By Mark McGee | Photos by Shane Shiflet

If it wasn’t the last week of August in Shelbyville, it wouldn’t be time for the Celebration. If it wasn’t the last week in August, it wouldn’t be hot and humid.

So, everything was right with the world Wednesday, August 23, 2023, for the first night of the 85th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Organist J. Brantley provided the musical accompaniment as the crowd settled in for the 16-class schedule.

It was the first time Wednesday night classes have been held in the outdoor arena since the indoor arena, now Cooper Steel Arena, was constructed.

Ronnie Spears, riding White Diamond Dollar, entered the ring promptly at 7 p.m. carrying the Stars and Stripes under the spotlight, a Celebration tradition. Ron Adams of Emmanuel Pentecostal Church gave the invocation, while Gary Haile of Shelbyville presented a rousing presentation of “The Star-Spangled Banner” despite dealing with some technical issues.

Eakin Elementary and East Side Elementary were honored with students in attendance. 

Up first on the schedule was the Weanling Colts National Futurity, Foal Spring 2023 class. Choo Tobacco Choo Tobacco was led to first by Chris Richards for owner Bobby Jones from McMinnville, Tennessee. Choo Tobacco Choo Tobacco was sired by Jimmy Choo, and out of I Am Princess Margaret. Reserve was A Road Trip who was led by owner Amanda Wright. De La Cruz and Robert Nelms claimed third for owners Teel, Washburn, Jacobs and Franks. Twelve of 15 programmed entries answered the gate call by announcer Mark Farrar. Kenny Smith was the call judge. 

Owner Chad Spencer rode This Is Who I Am to top honors in the Owner-Amateur Two-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class for co-owner Scarlet Spencer of Shelbyville, Tennessee. It was their first blue in two outings this summer. Cha Cha Ching SF was ridden to a red ribbon by Jordan Howell for mom Janet Howell. Deadbeat Daddy placed third for Dennis and Suzy Hills. Nine of 11 listed entries competed with Derek Bonner as call judge. 
Draw A Line drew the way to the winner’s circle in the Owner-Amateur Five & Under Park Performance class for owner-rider Jannie Chapman of Fayetteville, Tennessee. The team has four blues in five shows in 2023. The red ribbon was awarded to A Perfectionist with Vickie Watkins in the saddle for Jowers and Watkins. Dead Head was third with Ramona Wilson riding for Dr. Shana Hughes. Leah Boyd was the call judge as six of seven scheduled entries made the ring. 

Robert Nelms guided Simply Timeless to the blue in the Weanling Fillies National Futurity class for owners Link, Teel and Washburn. Walk Time Charlie sired the winner who was out of Master’s Country Song. Tell Me Have You Cena tied second with Lynn Womack handling for owners Bobby Jones and Roger Richards. She’s On The Money walked out with a yellow ribbon with Rachel Dorris at the lead for owner Richard D. Atnip. Nathan Clark was the call judge with 11 of the 14 planned entries making their way into the “Big Oval.”

Gomez was ridden to top honors by Amber Zahnd for owner Brock Wampler of Midway, Tennessee, in the Western Park Pleasure class. It was the fourth blue in five classes for Gomez this year. Papacito and Chris Zahnd tied second for owner Karen Bean, which Jamey Thompas was in the irons aboard The Red Falcon to earn the yellow streamers for Joyce Hofstee. Four of nine programmed entries took to the ring.

Skip The Line walked past the competition as the unanimous selection of the five-judge panel with owner Kimberly Walden on board in the Owner-Amateur Two-& Three-Year-Old All Day Pleasure class. It was their second blue in six classes this year. The Queen Supreme was reserve with owner Dr. Brittany Baum. Cali Caliente placed third with co-owner Andy Stooksberry riding for co-owner Alex Luttrell. Smith was the call judge. Eleven of 13 listed entries answered the gate call. 

Six of six programmed entries were led into the “Big Oval” for the Yearling Fillies  National Futurity class with Derek Bonner serving as call judge. Charlene Darling, sired by Walk Time Charlie and out of She’s Trinity, earned top honors with handler Robert Nelms for owners Lisa Teel and Lisa Washburn of Fayetteville, Tennessee. They have won two blues in four classes this year. Second place went to Doja Cat with Ronald Morton at the lead for Cindy Calhoun. Meet Beth Dutton tied third with Jaron Dotson guiding for Rocky Bowden.

Ashley Case rode Chaotic to the blue for owner Judy Case of Madison, Alabama, in the Five & Under Show Pleasure class. It was their third blue in six classes in 2023. Honor My Word and owner Lisa Baum were reserve, which Charlie Watts 4G drummed his way to third with owner Jannie Chapman at the reins. Twelve of 21 programmed entries competed in the class, where Leah Boyd was the call judge. 

Sweet Georgia Brown J&R won the blue in the Weanling Colts & Fillies National Futurity, Foaled Fall of 2022 class. Chris Richards was the handler for Bobby Jones of Manchester, Tennessee, and Roger Richards of Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Sweet Georgia Brown J&R is undefeated with five wins in 2023. I Am Robert Nelms was guided for second by Robert Nelms for owner Joe Link. Shade Of Honor placed third with Jaron Dotson handling for James Campbell and Dotson Brothers. Nine of 12 expected entries competed for call judge Nathan Clark. 
Smoking was doing just that with a unanimous blue ribbon ride in the Four-Year-Old Mares & Geldings (Canter) class. Jimmy McConnell was in the irons for Beverly Sherman of Shelbyville, Tennessee. I Am The Lady placed second with Tyler Baucom up for Alex Luttrell. Kid Can Do and R.M. Kellett took home a yellow ribbon for Robert Deutsch. Five of eight listed entries answered the gate call. David Sisk was the call judge. 

The Reckoning WTC and handler Robert Nelms took top honors for owner Joe Link of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, in the Yearling Colts National Futurity class. The winner was sired by Walk Time Charlie and out of Master’s Country Song. They are undefeated with four wins in four classes this show season. Kenny Smith called the class with all seven program entries competing. Handler Marty Warren and Broadway Miracle tied reserve for owners Steve and Denise Smith, Me And Julio School Yard received a yellow ribbon with Chris Richards leading the young contender for Bobby Jones and Roger Richards.

Hey Charlene rode to the blue ribbon in the Amateur Owned & Trained Country Pleasure class. Owner Amanda Manis was in the saddle for co-owners Justin and Walker Manis of Shelbyville, Tennessee. They have three blues in four classes this year. She’s X’s And O’s walked out with a red ribbon with owner Darrell Collins. Jose’ Grand Muchacha was third with Allison Thorson Newman riding for ThorSport Farm. Nine horses competed, but only eight were listed in the program. Derek Bonner was the call judge.

For the second year in a row, Honor My Country and Stephanie White walked to the winner’s circle in the Owner-Amateur Mares & Geldings (Canter) class. They were the unanimous selection. They are three-for-three in blues this summer for owner Toni White of Eatonton, Georgia. Charlie Paycheck was reserve for owner-rider Steve McLaurin. Stoned On Gin earned the yellow ribbon for owner-rider Maria Bobo. Leah Boyd called the class with six of seven program entries competing.

Owner Bruce MacDonald and Uptight Jose scored a three-peat in the Elite Owner-Amateur Gentlemen on Mares &  Geldings class for co-owner Robin MacDonald  of Shelbyville, Tennessee. Uptight Jose was also a world champion in 2020 and 2019. Unreal placed reserve with Dr. Jim Baum riding for Lisa Baum. Mr. For Real was third with owner Paul Simmons riding for co-owner Tiffany Simmons. Nathan Clark was the call judge with 10 of 12 listed entries competing in the “Big Oval”. 

Perfect War Hawk won the Yearling Fillies & Colts National Futurity, Foaled Fall of 2021 class. Robert Nelms was the handler for owner Chavigny Beasley of Shelbyville, Tennessee. Unbeaten in four classes this show season, Perfect War Hawk is sired by The Perfect Hawk and out of Afinada. Fire’Em Up Charlie was reserve with Claire Hankins guiding for Bruce Vaughn. Me And Mrs Honors placed third. Lynn Womack was the handler for Bobby Jones and Roger Richards. Seven of eight program entries competed. The call judge was David Sisk.

A Shade Of Jose and owner Buck Buchanan made the winning show for co-owner Donna Buchanan of Advance, North Carolina, in the Owner-Amateur Four-Year-Old Stallions class. They have three blues in four classes this season. It was the largest class of the night with 17 of 27 listed entries answering the gate call. Primo was second with Justin Harney in the stirrups for the Lackey and Harney partnership. Born A Maverick placed third for owner-rider Bob Adcock.