by Sara Engel


            SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – The National Walking Horse Trainers Show has been the annual season kick-off event for 38 years now. Current tensions within the industry due to speculation about the USDA’s use of vapor analysis and TWHBEA’s decision to pull out of the NHSC, lent an air of uncertainty leading up to this year’s show. If the first night of this four-day event is any indication about the outcome of the show, then one can expect for the show season to continue on an optimistic, if cautious, note.

            Nineteen classes were on the schedule for the first night with 167 entries, down from 250 entries in 2005. NHSC DQP inspections reported five violations: two unacceptable, two unilateral, and one scar rule.

            “The show is real good,” stated co-show chairman Benny Johnson. “The horses were excellent in the warm-up ring with minimal problems. We again encourage all trainers to get out there and show. We hope we have more entries in the next three nights.”

            With many world and world grand champions on the night’s agenda, judges Tommy Howell, Justin Jenne’, Tommy Loid, Chris Messick and Ronnie Spears had their plates full.

            As usual, the night’s festivities got under way at 6:30 p.m. Carrying in the nation’s flag and the Trainers’ Association flag were the mother-son pair of Laurie Toone and Hunter Morgan. Laurie directed world champion Princess Speed while Hunter displayed his multi-world champion Royal Sparkling Gen to the crowd’s delight.

            Trainer Herbert Derickson sang the National Anthem and performed a flawless rendition for everyone to enjoy.

            The first class on the agenda was the Model Park Pleasure Open class with 11 entries walking through the gate. For the third consecutive year in a row, world champion Generator’s Icy Hot and Jeff Givens were awarded with the top honor. This marks two year’s in a row the pair received unanimous marks. Generator’s Icy Hot is owned by Jack Heffington of Shelbyville, Tenn. Walking to the second place award was 2004 Yearling World Grand Champion I’m Shania Twain. This winning mare was lead by Leigh Bennett for owner Dr. Roger Richards of Hendersonville, Tenn.

            Two ladies were next to hit the ring with their Fine Harness competitors. Claiming the top spot and receiving the prestigious blue ribbon victory lap for Womack Stables of Murfreesboro, Tenn., was the team of I’m Medusa and Lynn Womack. This win came as another unanimous decision from the judges. Ritz’s Luke The Drifter and Anne Marie Couch claimed the red ribbon for Royce and Anne Marie Couch of Franklin, Tenn.

            Opening up the WHTA Riders’ Cup classes for the show was the Walking Mares and Geldings 15.2 and Under class. Twelve trainers directed their entries in front of the judging panel. Hosanna and Larry Edwards walked away with the blue ribbon for the Louis Hawkersmith family of Tullahoma, Tenn. Second place in the good class was the newly acquired Jazz Man’s Echo and Herbert Derickson for the Mickey Adcock family of McMinnville, Tenn.

            Topping her reserve win in the Walking Horse Auxiliary Equitation, Adult 18 and Over class in 2005, Susan Shemwell showed perfect form to claim the blue ribbon this year.

            Eight entries made the gate call for the Show Pleasure Open Specialty class. Last year’s winner’s showed they still had the right stuff. Jackie McConnell guided The Great Escape to a repeat win and a unanimous decision from the judges. Camille Akin of Collierville, Tenn., owns the winning entry. The reserve honor again went to Charlie Green and Music In The Sky for the second year in a row. Music In The Sky is owned by WhitLei Green of Shelbyville, Tenn.

The Donald Knight owned entry of Calvin Klein’s Obsession continued his undefeated 2006 season with a victory in the Plantation Pleasure Lite Shod Open Specialty class. Trainer Jeff Givens was at the reins for this flawless ride. Current world champion C’mon Turn Me Loose and Howard Hamilton graciously accepted their red ribbon award for Red Eagle Farms of Dacula, Ga.

Eight talented, young entries made their way into the arena in the Amateur Two-Year-Old Walking Mares and Geldings class. As a repeat of last year, Robin MacDonald of Atlanta, Ga., and Shelbyville, Tenn., once again led a young up-and-comer to the winner’s circle. This time the victory was claimed aboard Jose’s Special Edition. She’s Armed With Poison and Jill Derickson proved they were two ladies not to be messed with either. The pair walked away with the reserve honor.

This year things were changed up a bit in the Pro-Am class. It was decided that the trainers would ride the first way of the ring with the amateur taking over the reins on the reverse. Four top entries and eight riders entered the ring with Goodbye Joe, George Ann Pratt and John Allan Callaway walking away with the blue for Don Pratt of Shawnee Mission, Kan. He’s Dr. Cash, Farrah McAlexander and Jimmy McConnell earned the reserve award for Larry and Farrah McAlexander of Oxford, Miss.

Another unanimous decision was made by the judging panel on who the top horse  and rider were in the Amateur Walking Stallions, Mares and Geldings class. Keith McSwain cantered The Golden Sovereign to the top spot for the Dan McSwain family of Alpharetta, Ga. Second place honors went to Dr. Perfect and Sandra Hodgson for Roger and Sandra Hodgson of Omak, Wash.

In the Walking Mares and Geldings, 15.2 and Over class, numerous well-known and decorated horses made the nine-entry class one to watch. Jimmy McConnell once again directed a Bob and Mary Medina owned entry to the winner’s circle with a unanimous tie. This year the win belonged to They Call Me Sir. My First Dollar and Allan Callaway captured the reserve honor for owner Don Pratt of Shawnee Mission, Kan.

Following right on the heels of his trainer and other entry, Bob Medina and Walking All Over walked straight to victory lane in the Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, 50 and Over class. Current world grand champions John FK’s Pusher and Robin MacDonald happily accepted the red streamer for Bruce and Robin MacDonald of Atlanta, Ga., and Shelbyville, Tenn.

Several current world champions went head-to-head in the Amateur Pony, Riders 18 and Over Specialty class. Repeating last year’s victory, reigning world champion Olympic Power and Stephanie Gordon exited the ring with a blue ribbon following their victory pass. World champion Prime Poison and Brenda Carlon put on a solid performance to claim the reserve position for Harv and Brenda Carlon of Lowell, Mich.

Eight amateurs directed their mares both ways of the ring in the Amateur Mares Specialty class. After recently being moved to be trained in Tennessee, JFK’s Irish Dream made her debut performance at the Trainers’ Show a blue one. Sue Harrington directed JFK’s Irish Dream to the winner’s circle for Joe Harrington of LaQuinta, Calif. Sunrise At Midnight and Debra Coleman of Clemmons, N.C. and Shelbyville, Tenn., claimed the reserve position.

Off to a great show season already, the team of Judge’s Red Alert and Jeff Givens added another victory to their resume; this one being a unanimous decision. This pair topped the seven-entry field in the Park Pleasure Open Specialty class for owners Ralph and Elaine Pinner of Senatobia, Miss. He’s Lynnard Skynard and Webby Burch also continued their season on a positive note walking away with the red ribbon for Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Luna of Bethesda, Tenn.

Fourteen top amateurs entered the ring to vie for the blue ribbon title in the Amateur Three-Year-Old Mares and Geldings class. Only one team could be victorious and that honor was given to Kay Adcock and Miss Demanding for Kay and Lee Adcock of Shelbyville, Tenn. Beverly Sherman of Dallas, Texas directed Worth A Buck to the reserve award and kept their 2006 season rolling in the right direction.

Steel Watch and Howard Hamilton walked away with the top award in the Western Plantation Pleasure Lite Shod Specialty class. Joey Manos of Santa Rosa, Calif., owns Steel Watch. Reserve honors were happily accepted by owner/rider Laurie Toone of Oakland, Tenn., and Red Sunday’s Best.

Sixteen strong entries entered the gate to vie for the trip to the winner’s circle in the Amateur Four-Year-Old Mares and Geldings Specialty class. The top spot was awarded to Beverly Sherman and her entry of A High Dollar Charge. Reining world champion Hey Hey Ole’ and Bob Medina put on a strong performance to capture the second place position.

In a class full of past and present world champions, Charlie Green directed current world champion Jazz King to the victory in the Walking Stallions, Mares and Geldings, 15.2 and Over class. In 2005 Jazz King topped the Amateur Men’s Specialty class with Ed Breedlove for owner Keith Breedlove of Buford, Ga. Reserve honors went to Doctor Liz and Herbert Derickson for the Mickey Adcock family of McMinnville, Tenn.

Wrapping up the first session of the 38th Annual National Trainers’ Show, was the Amateur Men’s Specialty class. Six entries made the gate call. Bruce Vaughn directed I’m Mr. Threat to a unanimous decision and the winner’s circle for Linda Vaughn of Valley City, Ohio. The recently acquired, reigning world champion Gotti claimed the reserve honors with new owner Bob Lawrence of Thomasville, Ga., in the irons.

Jimmy McConnell and Mary Medina join Bob Medina and Walking All Over after the Amateur 50 & Over Specialty class.

A very happy Kay Adcock is joined by Irelyn and Kristy Weaver, Lee Adcock and Josh Jackson after their win in the Three-Year-Old Amateur Mare and Gelding class with Miss Demanding.