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Young stars Saturday morning




The first Saturday resumed day classes inside the Calsonic Arena with Lead Line riders 6 and under kicking off the performance, with a lot of buzz around the crowds about the decision to move the class inside the Calsonic Arena from the slot it’s had on the second Saturday night in the Big Oval for the past five years or so. 

“Lead Line used to be on Youth Day and the decision was made as part of the Celebration’s three-year plan to lift it and put it back in its traditional spot. This was done so all the youth class are together,” said Celebration CEO Mike Inman. “After this year we will look all those things from the three-year plan as well as changes made this year and reevaluate.”

My Little Red Wagon carried Boston Kate Tillman to this year’s Lead Line World Grand Championship with proud mom Lauren Tillman helping out. Reese Abernathy had her fan base cheering loudly as she finished as the reserve champion aboard tried and true Rattle & Snap, a classic pony known for carrying at least five riders in the world championship lead line competition, with Claudia Gribble walking alongside. 

Well Hello Darlin’ made an impression during Wednesday evening’s Futurity when she won the yearling fillies class. Saturday morning, the filly earned two more Celebration wins, once with Kelly Richards in the amateur in-hand yearlings class and two classes later with Lynn Womack in the open yearling class for the mares and geldings. 

The focus of Saturday morning was the youth of the industry, with most classes designated for juvenile riders. Kids and young adults were everywhere, inside and outside the ring, enjoying competition as well as camaraderie — the Celebration’s barbecue Saturday was the perfect place for kids and adults alike to socialize on a perfect Saturday weather-wise. 

Inside the Calsonic, visitors enjoyed shopping vendors as they watched youth riders compete. Some spectators were local and others came from afar, like Tara Leith of Ohio, who had four of her 10 children with her as they waited for daughter and sister Cassie Leith to compete.

“My husband started riding walking horses when he was going through medical school and needed an outlet,” Tara said, explaining the family keeps their horses at home most of the year but sends them down to Shelbyville leading up to the Celebration to be tuned up prior to showing. “I don’t know much about horses — it’s more my daughter and husband’s thing, but we’ve been coming down the last few years.”

MacKenzie Lawrence was on top of her game winning the Amateur Youth 12-17 Western Country Pleasure class with Designer Champagne, where Mary Kepplinger and Let’s Get Rowdy made their presence known for reserve prior to another strong — winning finish — in the youth 6-17 English country pleasure class. Carter Gleghorn and Front Nine captured reserve behind Kepplinger’s win. 

Mary’s sister Miranda Kepplinger shared the rowdy star when she finished reserve with Let’s Get Rowdy in the 18-entry amateur youth 6-11 western country pleasure class where Claire Vaughn busted through the competition as the winner of the largest class of the morning with Bustline. 

No stranger to the winner’s circle, Lily Catherine Holland topped the field of qualified youth competitors in the 12-17 youth western trail pleasure class with Honey Badger, her second Celebration win this year. Claire Hankins and Artemis Fowl have also been on point this week with their latest addition to their good resumé coming from their reserve finish in this class. Claire made a comeback later in the morning where her second trusty mount, GiGi’s Lunch Money, earned the judges’ nod unanimously in the youth 12-17 English trail pleasure class in front of Evan Gleghorn and A Rain Delay. 

Claire’s triple threat morning continued when she closed out the show as the unanimous victor in the equitation division for her age group. 

Counti Green is going to have to start counting her blues as she’s won so many, including one Saturday morning aboard a blues star in his own right, I’m King Bee, in the youth 6-11 trail pleasure class where Harper Grider and Mr. Deeds did it right for reserve.

Youth riders 6-17 on lite-shod walking horses were featured in the last class before the equitation classes kicked off and Emily Cotten showed her skills as she rode Lil Wayne to victory with Corbin Parker and Obey My Command walking out with the red streamers.

Three equitation classes served as another highlight of the morning; the nine riders kicked those classes off with the auxiliary equitation medal youth 6-11 riders, which is more entries than this class has seen in several years. Ani Drane of Bowling Green, Kentucky showed for her first time at the Celebration and after a poised and polished performance on both the rail and in her workout she captured a debut blue under the direction of instructor Leigh Stuart. Jessica Lawwell demonstrated style and skill as well and walked out as the reserve champion. 

Stuart was the winning instructor in the next equitation class, for riders 12-14, as well and she greeted Brooklyn Fuss in the winner’s circle ahead of reserve world champions Jayden Jackson. The final equitation class featured the older riders judged on their form and showmanship and Claire Hankins put together a winning package while Alexandra Oddo put forth a good effort for reserve. 

Other entries from Saturday morning outside the youth riders featured the following winners: JFK’s Political Strategy and John Eubank, Most Wanted MCF and Beverly Lamp, Kick Start Jazz and Amanda Manis. 

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