Each year on the night preceding the first night of the Celebration, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association hosts its annual National Futurity. Commonly called “the Futurity,” by any title, it is a horse show featuring all select young horses up to and including three-year-olds with each year having a colt and filly division. The fact that only horses three-and-under are presented is one of the distinguishing factors that sets this presentation aside from the others.

This was the 54th presentation of the Futurity, exactly the same number of years as the Celebration. The Futurity and Celebration have not always been together with the first Futurities being held in Nashville. They were soon moved to Shelbyville to coincide with the Celebration and have continued to share many things with the Celebration, including judges, announcer, and production staff.

Again this year, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store was the title corporate sponsor. Other sponsors were Lincoln County Bank, Harlinsdale Farm, Walking Horse Trainers’ Association, and the owners of Iron Works, Pride’s Stormy Night, Ebony’s Bold Courier, Stormy’s John Mack, The Pushover, Flashy Pride, Pride’s Jubilee Star, Coin’s Hard Cash, and Pride’s Generator. Each of these stallions were presented to the audience between classes at the show. All the stallions were under halter except Ebony’s Bold Courier and The Pushover who gave a spectacular display with many commenting they had never been better.

The $145,00 prize money awarded, a $15,000 increase over last year, is a record for the Futurity as well as considerably more than its next closest competitor. But then there is no competitor. No other show in the Walking Horse industry is required to meet such stringent standards and requirements prior to the entry being accepted.

To be eligible to compete in the Futurity, the sire, the dam, and the individual colt itself must by “nominated.” What is “nominated?” To be nominated and eligible to compete a fee is required by each to the National Futurity program. These fees are over and above the regular cost of registering and transferring of registration papers.

The added fee is the weeding out process for the mass stallion and mare operations as well as the smaller operations with one or two mares where quality is not necessarily the issue but rather the end results of a pleasant hobby. The owner of most every well recognized stallion of the breed pays his part to assure that his offspring are eligible to be a futurity colt. That only leaves the mare owner to take a long hard look at only his best mares and then pay the yearly fee to keep her “nominated” year-in and year-out as she produces some of the best-bred colts of the industry. Once the colt arrives, he must decide if the colt is worthy of the extra fee to be eligible. Here again, the fee must be paid yearly on the mare and then another fee paid for the colt. The colt’s fee must continue to be paid each year up until and through his (or her) three-year-old year.

A colt may be dropped from the program at any time along the way. For instance, a particularly good weanling may not grow to be good enough size or may not be fat enough to show as a yearling. Two-Year-Old numbers drop off drastically for a variety of reasons. Many really good yearlings never make it to the ring under saddle. Another drastic drop happens between the two- and three-year-old year as the show ring performers display their style.

For the second year, the Futurity opened the door and offered an avenue for colts that weren’t nominated as weanlings to be able to enter the Futurity program. Prior to 1991, a colt that was not nominated as a weanling and the fees paid on a yearly basis could not enter the later divisions of the futurity. Now with a substantial financial penalty, if a person feels strongly enough that he has an outstanding individual, for a fee he can be brought current even for his three-year-old season. To keep a colt nominated from weanling through three-year-old is less than $1,000 but to wait until the three-year-old year, the fee would be in excess of $5,000.

The Futurity is self-supporting as far as the prize money is concerned. Fees collected from the nominations are pooled before deciding the amount to be awarded. Once the total is determined, a complicated formula is used to determine the amount for each class (which varies) to be divided. The funds from the corporate title sponsor Cracker Barrel, and the individual class sponsorship used to pay for the usual show expenses such as judges and ribbons.

Twelve awards are made in each class. The richest class this year was the Yearling Colt class with a first place award of $3,571 and 12th place prize money of $465. The least paying class was the Three-Year-Old Mares and Geldings with a top and bottom of $2,248 and $293. The 12th place winnings are more than the majority of first place awards in the Stake class at a regular Saturday night horse show.

Eddie Arnold, famed country music star, was this year’s honorary chairman and was brought into Calsonic Arena for opening ceremonies in a carriage ably pulled by Gone To Glory, a World Champion Plantation Driving winner with trainer, Wayne Hackney at the whip. Gone To Glory was loaned for this noble purpose by Kathy Wallace, owner, who has a variety of championship contenders both plantation and performance.

The TWHBEA has recognized the importance of the youth in the walking horse business as being the future leaders of the breed. With this in mind, two classes have been set aside for the younger exhibitors to present their colts in the Youth Weanling and Youth Yearling classes.

As a matter of fact, the Youth Weanling class was the first on the 12 class program. Maxie Choice, that went on to become a multi-titled weanling in both the Futurity and Celebration, was the winner with Nathan Mills at the lead for Hoyte and Jane Eakes. She is the product of the Hidden Acres Farm of Mr. and Mrs. Eakes and is by one of their many champion sires, Pride’s Choice Cut. The reserve placement was earned by Jewell’s Choice Pearl, another product of the Hidden Acres Farm that was sold to Dr. Roger Richards earlier in the season. She, too, is a filly and was lead by Jessica Jackson and is also by Pride’s Choice Cut.

The growing popularity of the Plantation Pleasure Walking Horse has no better proof than the fact that 27 were nominated and all fees paid for entry into the Plantation Two-Year-Old Open class. The plantation contenders must meet the same stringent standards for entry as their fellow performance horses. The class marked the entrance into under saddle competition for My Lady Darling, last year’s Futurity Yearling Filly champion, World Champion Filly and World Grand Champion Yearling. She was directed to this victory by Danny Wooten and had only been under the direction of Russ Thompson Stables for two weeks. She was owned at the time by Lute and Leona Riley. She is by Pride’s Generator. Reserve in this fine class was Expressive Gold and Robbie Grantham up for Sylvia Becraft. They, too, were presented by the Russ Thompson Stables. She is also by Pride’s Generator.

The winner of several yearling classes this season, Shop Around, was again in the center ring for winning presentations in the Youth Yearling class. He was presented by Jennifer Dunn for Sarah Dunn. He is by Motown Magic. Reserve to this champion was Dashing Delight with Meredith Cato at the lead for Mr. and Mrs. Charles Brantley. He was sired by Delight Of Pride.

Another of the Futurity blues went back to California. Coin’s Pushin’ For Gold was the winner of the Three-yEar-Old Plantation Open class with Mike Erickson in the saddle for Mike and Pam Erickson. he is prepared by Golden West Farms, Scott Benham and Brian Martin. He is by Pride’s Gold Coin and out of a Pusher mare. The big sorrel reserve winner was Gen’s Wild Thing that was presented by Bobby Patterson for Ginny Winfree. He is by Pride’s Generator.

The Weanling Filly class featured the same winner as in the Youth Weanling class earlier in the evening. Maxie Choice and Hoyte Eakes earned the blue for the breeding program at Hoyte and Jane Eakes’ Hidden Acres Farm. She is by Pride’s Choice Cut, one of the leading sires at Hidden Acres. Reserve went to Final’s Pretty Woman with Libby Christmas Lawrence at the lead for Christmas and Smykal. She is a product of the Oakwood Farm breeding program and by their leading sire, Pride’s Final Edition.

A consistent winner in two-year-old classes throughout the season was the winner of the Two-Year-Old Mares and Geldings class. Ernest Upton was aboard Pusher's Party Valentine for the win. The great young mare is owned by Judith Burgess and is by the leading sire, The Pusher C.G. Bill Bobo made his entrance to the top two winners with Beam's Misty Pride, owned by James Roy Smith, for the reserve. She is by Pride's Beam.

For the second consecutive year at least, the winner of the Futurity Yearling Filly class was also the World Champion Yearling Filly. This year the honor went to Final's Sweetross with Tommy Wilson at the lead for Billy Randall. She has won all over middle Tennessee and added to her total. She is by Pride's Final Edition. Reserve only to his outstanding winner and outstanding in her own right was Fashion's Black Satin presented for E.M. Derryberry. She is by Saint's Hi Fashion.

The first class for the three-year-olds was the Three-Year-Old Mares and Geldings. By Magic Fashion K.W., Prime Event led the way straight to the blue for Ann Bailey. Spencer Benedict was in the saddle and handles the training duties. Gen's Breakdancer and Winky Groover rode in for the reserve for J.W. and Jackie Whatley. The reserve winner is by Pride's Generator.

The Weanling Colt class offered no surprises but underlined what the judges at several of the late summer horse shows had stated. Down And Out On Gen and Bobby Richards were the winners for Doug and Sheryl Crawford. He is another of the winners by Pride's Generator. Reserve also went to a Pride's Generator sired entry, Generator's Cobra with Charles Gleghorn at the lead and Charles is also the owner.

The Two-Year-Old Colt class marked the first time that many had ever the opportunity to view Beam's Rapid Transit, the winner. in only his second show ring appearance, he and trainer Wink Groover made it two wins in a row. This team has been the subject of many knowledgeable horsemen as one of the greatest young horses to come along in years and lived up to all expectations. He is by Pride's Beam is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Branch. The reserve winner was Senatorial Privilege and was presented by Joel Woosley for Mr. and Mrs. Ben Downing. He is by Ebony's Senator.

Fancy's Hi Fashion had won Fun Show and International titles prior to his winning performance in the Yearling Colt class. This made it three for three with one to go, The Celebration, which he also won. He is owned and presented by Dr. Roger Richards and is by Saint's Hi Fashion. The full brother to the Two-Year-Old Plantation winner, My Lady Darling, was the reserve recipient in this class. Richard Wilhelm lead Gen's Mr. Ebony to the title for Mr. and Mrs. James Estes. He is by Pride's Generator.

The final class of the evening was the Three-Year-Old Stallion class with Stormy's Desert Storm winning in grand style for David Haygood. He is by Pride's Stormy Night and was presented by Sammy Day. The acquisition last winter of Making Money by Mrs. Gladys Owen and her daughter, Kathy Wallace, proved to be a wise one as they were the very good reserve. Scott Beaty handles the training and showing duties.