New venue … same great celebration of people and horses

Thanksgiving has come and gone, bringing behind it time to put up the Christmas tree, shop for all the gifts for loved ones and time to spend with the people we hold dear. This time of year, of course, also includes making the trek to Middle Tennessee for the annual Walking Horse Trainers’ Association Convention and Banquet. This year, the Blue Ribbon Circle, on The Celebration grounds, was selected as the location for the event, with the banquet being held Saturday, December 3, 2022. 

The WHTA again opted to have the voting for the prestigious Horse of the Year honors cast electronically. They hope this new process, that has been implemented for two years, has made the process easier for trainers to vote, thus resulting in a greater participation in the voting process. This seems to be the case as more ballots were cast this year than last year, and last year was up 66% from previous years.

The annual silent auction was once again the perfect place to shop for the last minute Christmas gift or even a gift for yourself. Lots of different items were offered for bidding. This year, in conjunction with the regular silent auction, an online auction was offered as well. There is still time to make your bids for these items as bidding does not close until December 15, 2022. To view the selection and bid, go to

Mark Farrar has become a staple as the emcee for the night, handling all the announcing duties, and in his usual fashion, he kept the crowd fully entertained. Starting out the evening, Farrar took a moment to recognize several organizations that play major roles in the walking horse industry, as well as a few individuals that helped make this weekend fun and successful. 

The Living Legend Lifetime Achievement Award was next. This year, Steve Aymett was presented with the much deserved honor.

The 2022 Scholarship winners were acknowledged next. In their 12th year as scholarship sponsors, the Glenn C. Dowell Jr. family awarded scholarships to Will Derickson, Evan Claborn and Lane Webb.

Allan and John Allan Callaway were called to the stage next so John Allan could, again, be presented with his green blazer in recognition of his 2022 world grand championship win with Justified Honors. This now makes it three years (2020, 2021 and 2022) that are embroidered on the chest of the coveted green blazer to commemorate the wins with Justified Honors and Master’s Razzle And Jazz. The blazer continues to be proudly donated by Frank and Shirley Neal in honor of 1992 World Grand Champion Dark Spirit’s Rebel. This tradition was started in 1995.

Next up, it was time to recognize the National Trainers’ Show Grand Champion. Jimmy McConnell directed Mach 1 to the victory to become the 54th Trainers’ Show champion for the Molly Walters Family.

The Performance Trainer of the Year award went to R.M. Kellett, while the Pleasure Trainer of the Year award went to Laurie Toone. Kellett was unable to attend the banquet, but was presented this honor earlier and Dean Johnson Video was able to capture the presentation from Spencer Benedict.

Who couldn’t use a new, custom riding suit from Marsha’s on the Square? Scott Shepard from Marsha's has been, and continues to be, a valuable supporter of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association. As the trainer of the World Grand Champion, John Allan Callaway was presented with a beautiful, custom saddle-riding suit.

The Assistant Performance Trainer of the Year award went to Kayla Baucom, while the Assistant Pleasure Trainer of the Year award went to Krysta Allen.

Next up was the presentation of the Groom of the Year, Performance Youth of the Year and Pleasure Youth of the Year. Chris Alexander from Formac Stables was named Groom of the Year. The Performance Youth of the Year award was presented to Jessica Lawwell, while Harper Grider was honored with the Pleasure Youth of the Year award.

This year the Amateur of the Year award went to Sister Milligan, who also had a prior commitment and was not able to attend. 

Carlyle Johnson was selected to be inducted into the WHTA Friendship Club. Members of this club are individuals who have gone above and beyond serving our horse and industry. 

Sarah Smith, president of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Auxiliary, Susan Coleman and Heather Beard were next to come to the stage to present all the Auxiliary awards. Following the Auxiliary awards, it was time for the Riders’ Cup presentations. Sponsors and division winners were recognized, and Jimmy McConnell and Laurie Toone were presented with their large checks (in size and amount) for claiming the top spots on the performance and pleasure charts, respectively.


WHTA Horse of the Year Recipients

Performance Trainer of the Year
R.M. Kellett

Pleasure Trainer of the Year
Laurie Toonie

Assistant Performance Trainer of the Year
Kayla Baucom

Assistant Pleasure Trainer of the Year
Krystal Allen

Groom of the Year
Chris Alexander

Performance Youth of the Year
Jessica Lawwell

Pleasure Youth of the Year
Harper Grider

Amateur of the Year
Sister Milligan
Best One-Night Show
Money Tree Classic

Best Multi-Night Show
North Carolina Championship

Lead Line
Winner –Wylder Way
Reserve –Piper Anne Teague

Amateur Two-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner –A Dixie Lady
Reserve –Conover

Winner – Charlene Darling
Reserve – La Diamante

Amateur Two-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Dixie Dare Devil
Reserve – Eric C. Conn

Winner – The Golden Ticket
Reserve –Tee Martin

Two-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – I Am Sweet Maggie May
Reserve – I'm A Dixie Dolly

Lite-Shod Specialty
Winner – Big Time Bandit
Reserve – Roscoe Jenkins

Two-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – I'm Choobaca
Reserve – Honky Tonk

Youth Show Pleasure
Winner – Annie's Lined With Cash
Reserve – I'm Coach Cal

Youth Pony
Winner – Time To Tease
Reserve (tie) – I Am Big Enough and Skywalk’s Threat

Trail Pleasure
Winner – Machete
Reserve – Blacklist

Adult Pony
Winner – Dark Rain
Reserve (tie) – As I Am and Pappy Van Winkle

Country Pleasure
Winner – Line Item Veto
Reserve – Slingblade

Winner – Fly Dragonfly
Reserve – Grayton Beach

Amateur Three-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Ultra Grey Pistol
Reserve – My Tanqueray

Elite (50 & Over)
Winner – All About Jose
Reserve – Mr. Heisman

Amateur Three-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Sam I Am Jose
Reserve – Born A Maverick

Youth Flat Shod
Winner – Checkpoint Charlie
Reserve – Diamond At The Ritz

Three-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Smoking
Reserve – My Tanquerady

Western Park Pleasure
Winner – A Titleist Masterpiece
Reserve – Papacito

Three-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Cavender
Reserve – Honor Of The Ritz

Fine Harness
Winner – In Ted’s Image
Reserve – Lt. Horatio Caine

Winner – Throw Me A Curve
Reserve – Back In The Saddle Again

Ladies Amateur Specialty
Winner (tie) – All About Jose, Manning and She’s Limitless
Reserve – A Pink Floyd

Men’s Amateur Specialty
Winner – Uptight Jose
Reserve – Hole In My Pocket

Amateur Canter
Winner – Honor My Country
Reserve – I'm Jordan

Amateur Four-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – He's Ballistic
Reserve (tie )– Honor And Salute and My Honey Bee

Amateur Four-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Glory JC
Reserve – Black Gin's Scout

Amateur Park Pleasure
Winner – Custom Chrome JB
Reserve – Papacito

Amateur Lite-Shod
Winner – Roscoe Jenkins
Reserve – Big Time Bandit

Four-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – Pappy Time
Reserve – Honor & Salute

English Park Pleasure
Winner – He's A Dixieland Delight
Reserve – Dose'

Four-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Mr. True Blue
Reserve – Honor And Remember

Five & Under Country Pleasure
Winner – Sabotage
Reserve – BP's Captain Jack Sparrow

Amateur Park Performance
Winner – Do Right
Reserve – A Touche’

Amateur Show Pleasure
Winner – Epic
Reserve – Acclaim

Five & Under Trail Pleasure
Winner – King Mojo
Reserve – Resurgence

Professional Park Performance
Winner – Praise And Honor
Reserve – So Real

All Day Pleasure
Winner – Petal Pushin’ Jazz
Reserve (tie) – 401K and Miss Belle Starr W

Amateur Five-Year-Old Stallion
Winner – Smoky Mountain Strong
Reserve – I Am Fearless

Juvenile 11 & Under
Winner – Miss Ebony Rose
Reserve (tie) – Cole Haan and It's The Medalist

Two & Three-Year-Old Country Pleasure
Winner – Shipwrecked
Reserve – He's Off The Wall

Professional Show Pleasure
Winner – The Honor Code
Reserve – Georgia Florida Line

Amateur Five-Year-Old Mare or Gelding
Winner – A Code Of Honors
Reserve – My Ticket To Ride

Amateur 15.2 & Under Mare or Gelding
Winner – Punisher
Reserve – He's For Real

Youth 12-17
Winner – Nevermore
Reserve – The Dixie Label

Amateur 15.2 & Under Stallion
Winner – Marty McFly
Reserve – A Kingpin

Amateur Specialty
Winner – She's Limitless
Reserve – All About Jose

15.2 & Under Mare or Gelding
Winner – I Am Bold And Spicy Jose
Reserve – I'm On Good Behavior

15.2 & Under Stallion
Winner – He's Made In The USA
Reserve – Form A Line

15.2 & Over Mare or Gelding
Winner – Nevermore
Reserve – Jose's Solid Pusher

15.2 & Over Stallion
Winner – Justified Honors
Reserve – Minor Ordeal