By K.C. Hensley

FRANKLIN,Tenn. - The first weekend in December is a always a celebration of the holidays and the great horses of the past show season. The annual Walking Horse Trainers’ Association Banquet was yet again held at the Cool Springs Marriott Dec. 6.

Bill Carrington again served as master of ceremonies. There was one difference in the way the awards were announced this year, however. The trainers who make up the board, accompanied by their wives, made their way one at a time down to the podium. Together the couple announced the reserves and winners in two to three different divisions.

History was indeed made at this year’s banquet for horses, as well as, riders. There were also several ties this year for the high point and for reserve high point awards and even a tie for Assistant Trainer Of The Year!

The Trainers' Banquet is also a time for the youth of the industry to shine. The officers of the Youth Council were asked to stand and be recognized. President of the Youth Council, Joel Johnson, stood with First Vice President Brad East and Second Vice President Maria Derickson at his side. The directors of the Youth Council, Erica Derickson, Erica Hartlein, Zack Hendrixson, Kathryn Ramsbottom and Catherine Simpson, were also asked to stand.

There was a three way tie for Youth Council Member of the Year. The winning trio was Brad East and Erica and Maria Derickson. Between the winners, two new English saddles and a Marsha's riding suit were awarded.

Three new inductees were welcomed to the Friendship Club this year. They were Ed Breedlove, Freda Dean and Sherry Johnson.

Each year the Trainers' Association recognizes its officers and directors. During the Trainers meeting held Friday morning new officers and directors were elected to hold office for the 2004 season. The 2004 WHTA President is David Landrum. The new First Vice President is Allan Callaway, and the new Second Vice President is Mickey McCormick. The new directors are Bill Cantrell, Jamie Hankins, Link Webb and Mack Motes. All of the new and old officers and directors were honored and stood as their name was called.

The Assistant Trainer of the Year Award is recognition of an individual's determination and hard work throughout the year. The award is voted on by his peers. This year there was a tie for the award. Bill Callaway and Sam Martin were the two deserving individuals that shared the award.

The next award to be given, the Trainer Of The Year Award, is seen as one of the most prestigious awards a trainer can receive. Joe Cotton, last year's honoree, presented this year's winner with the trainers' ring. The 2003 Trainer of The Year was none other than Bill Bobo. Bobo made history this year by being the first trainer to be honored three times by the WHTA as Trainer of the Year.

The Ladies Auxiliary was next to present their four special awards. The Man of Pride Commemorative Award is given to the Celebration Auxiliary class winner. Dru McCormick was this year's recipient. The Auxiliary also recognized their three high point winners for the year. The presentations were made in gold, silver and bronze. The bronze award went to Ashlea Wheelon; the silver award went to Joyce Marie Green; and the gold award went to Dru McCormick.

The Auxiliary Member of the Year Award is a special award that recognizes commitment, dedication and hard work. This year's winner, who is also the Ladies Auxiliary president, was Freda Dean.

The fourth and final awards to be given by the Auxiliary were the equitation awards. The 11 and under division winner was Lindsey Landrum; the 12-17 division winner was Alex Bumpus; and the Adult division was a tie between Christy Coon and Susan Shemwell.

During the Auxiliary members meeting held Friday morning new officers were elected. Those new officers were acknowledged during the awards banquet. For the 2004 season the Auxiliary president will be Iris Schuman, and the first vice president will be Dale Martin. Beth Young will remain as second vice president; Joyce Marie Green will remain as secretary; and Kristy Kirkpatrick will reamin as the Treasurer.

This year officially marked the end of the second year of MASCUP. The top 10 contenders were acknowledged and awarded checks. The 10th place winner, Don Crum, and the ninth place winner, Joe Cotton, were each awarded $1,000. The eighth place winner, Bill Bobo, and the seventh place winner, Jackie McConnell, were each awarded $2,000. The sixth place winner, John Allan Callaway, and the fifth place winner, Larry Edwards, were each awarded $3,000. The fourth place winner, Link Webb, received $5,000. The third place winner, Dick Peebles, was awarded $8,000. The reserve winner, Knox Blackburn, received $10,000. And the first place winner of MASCUP for 2003 was Jimmy McConnell. He received an amazing $15,000!

The industry publicaitons were next to be recognized because as Bill Carrington said, this industry could not do without advertising. David Howard and The Walking Horse Report were acknowledged for their support of the walking horse industry. The Voice Magazine was also recognized for their continued coverage for the industry.

The WHTA Horse of the Year Award is always presented to the 2003 Trainers' Show Stake Champion. This year's recipient was also the Aged Horse of the Year and the 2003 World Grand Champion, The Whole Nine Yards.

Bill Carrington kicked it off the Horse of the Year Awards with the Weanling of the Year category. The reserve award went to Our American Idol for MTSU. Our American Idol was exhibited this year by Tracy Boyd. The winner in this category was So U Wish for Ty Irby. So You wish was handled this year by Bobby Richard.

The two yearlings recognized fpr Yearling of the Year have been battling it out all season. Reserve was presented to Encore's Magic Lady for Hoyte Eakes. Encore's Magic Lady's handler this year was Eake's grandson, Nathan Mills. The winner in this category was the well-known Texas Lexus for Dr. Roger Richards. Texas Lotto's handler this saeason was Lynn Womack.

The two-year-old division is always a competitive one. The reserve winner for Two-Year-Old of the Year was Pride's Heartbeat. Image of Ritz was crowned high point champion in this category for Larry Edwards. Edwards is the first trainer to ever win the World Grand Championship in every open division.

The award for the three-year-old division had the audience at the edge of their seats. When the votes were tallied the reserve award went to Ted Williams for Jim and Kay Green. Joe Cotton directed the beautiful bay for the Greens this season. The high point award in this category went to the big black stallion NYPD, who was ridden by Tim Gray to the Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship title.

In the Four-Year-Old Horse of the Year competition Gold Picture claimed the reserve title. Gold Pictire has been under the direction of Bill Bobo this year. The Four-Year-Old of the Year title was given to Main Power, who was under the direction of Joe Cotton in 2003 for owners Jim and Kay Green.

The 15.2 and under division has been gaining popularity this year. Claiming the reserve high point award was Johnny Walker Red. He has been ridden by Sammy Day throughout the 2003 season for the John LeGate family. The 15.2 and Under High Point Award was presented to the well known Private Charter. Knox Blackburn has been at the reins this season for Bud Moore and Suzanne Littell.

There was a tie for reserve in the show pleasure category. Reserve in this category was awarded to Insomnia for the Keith Johnson family and I'm Armed And Lethal for the Rosser Wall family. The horse at the top of the show pleasure high point standings was Coinmaker for Bud Moore and Suzanne Littell and under the direction of Knox Blackburn.

There were several great horses to choose from for the Plantation Park Pleasure Horse of the Year Award. But only two were selected. The reserve winner was Gen's Sundancer for the Hastings families. The first place award went to Lit Up's Double Time for Randall and Gloria Dixon.

In the Plantation Park Specialty division Paris Rain was titled reserve high point winner. Captive Heart claimed the honor of high point champion.

The lite-shod classes are becoming more and more popular. There were several dominating horses in this division. The two most competitive horses at this year's Celebration were Double Java and Pusher's Beaming Pride. Double Java claimed the reserve high point award this year, and Pusher's Beaming Pride was awarded the honor of high point champion for the Lite-Shod Plantation division.

The same two horses were battling for the Lite-Shod Specialty High Point Award. This time they swapped placeswhen the votes were tallied. Double Java received reserve, and Pusher's Beaming Pride was crowned champion.

The Youth 11 and Under division was next to receive awards. Pusher's Clown claimed the reserve in this division with rider Tyler Baucom. And tiny Amy Ann McCormick with her big black mare Collector's Mindy collected not only the high point award, but also the hearts of all who watched her show during the season.

In the Juvenile Horse of the Year category, Pushin The Limits claimed the reserve with Madison Holloway and under the direction of Baucom Stables. Pusher's Special Design and Kathryn Ramsbottom were crowned high point champions for the Bob Ramsbottom family under the direction of Link Webb.

One of the most competitive classes in today's show rings are the ladies classes. This year's reserve award in that division went to Miracle At The Ritz for Bill and Sandra Johnson and under the direction of Landrum Stables. This year's high point winner in the ladies division won his 38th and 39th Celebration blue this year. Gen's Fire and Ice was named the high point champion for the Arthur Gordan family.

In the Two-Year-Old Amateur Horse of the Year category, the reserve and high point champion now have new owners and riders. Stephanie Gordan's newest mount, FDR, was named reserve high point champion. Beverly Sherman's newest addition, Witch's Jazz, claimed the title of high point champion.

In the three-year-old category all of the nominees won a blue at this year's Celebration in either open or amateur compeititon. The reserve award went to Texas Salsa for Wink and Nancy Groover. The winner of this Three-Year-Old High Point Award was I'm Silver Too for Dr. David Ranson.

The competition got thicker as the divisions mounted up. For the Four-Year-Old Horse of the Year category He's Wild Eyed And Wicked was awarded reserve high point. Gen's Black Gin, who continues to be a favorite in both open or amateur competition, claimed the high point award for Bill and Sandra Johnson.

There was a tie for reserve in the Amateur Specialty Horse of the Year category. And oddly enough the two horses that were tied were both from the same stable - Baucom Stables. The two reserve winners were Electrifying and Cut Above All. The high point winner was A Specialist for the Arthur Gordan family.

In the 15.2 and under division Capone claimed the reserve high point title for Mike and Mitzi Hooper. John FK's Delight brought home the first place award for Bill and Sandra Johnson.

In the Amateur Horse of the Year division Generator's Champion was honored with reserve for Rusty Hyneman and Caresse Mills. Jubilee's Star Wars accepted the award of high point champion for Daniel Groover.

The Youth division was back to centerstage for the Walking Pony of the Year Award. Late Night Jazz was given the reserve high point award for the Jim Baum family. Accepting the award for Walking Pony of the Year was Silver Design for the JR Partnership.

In the Fine Harness division the well-known Master's Gunsmoke claimed the reserve high point award for the Broderick and Coleman families. Another well-known favorite, Genius' Gold Spirit Being was crowned high point champion in this division for Dr. Robert Keenan.

There are so many great shows to choose from in the Middle Tennessee area for the One Night Horse Show of the Year Award. This year's reserve winner went to the Tony Rice Center Horse Show. The award was accepted by Samantha Kovalick. The award for best One Night Horse Show of the Year for 2003 went to the Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show. The award was accepted by the show chairman Clayton Glenn.

For the Best Multi-Night Show of the Year The Gulf Coast Charity received the reserve award. The National Walking Horse Trainers' Show, in its 35th year, was crowned the Best Multi-Night Show of the Year.

The grand finale of the night was next. It was now time for the Aged Horse Of The Year Award. Reserve went to the notorious Black Night Shade for Tom and Judy Waite. The Black Night Shade was under the direction of Jimmy McConnell this season. The Aged Horse of the Year Award for 2003 went to this year's World Grannd Champion The Whole Nine Yards for Bob and Luanne Sigmon. Nine was under the direction of Bill Bobo in 2003.