Celebration: Celebrating the Tennessee Walking Horse 2006

By Sarah Gee
©Voice, October 2006


The 68th edition of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was held August 23rd through September 2nd, 2006. Once again designated as one of the “Top 20 Events for August” by the Southeast Tourism Society, this year’s edition of the “World’s Greatest Horse Show” was most memorable. With having to reschedule a couple performances and the failure to crown a World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse, the 2006 version of the longest continually running event in the State of Tennessee did not turn out exactly as expected. However, it did provide plenty of exciting moments and pleasant memories for both exhibitors and spectators alike. In addition to the top-quality competition we have come to expect, the 68th Celebration provided plenty of opportunities for wholesome family fun as well as numerous chances to catch up with old friends and make new acquaintances.

The crowd whooped for Whoopin It On Command and Nathan Mills.


The judging panel for this year’s event consisted of Jamie Bradshaw of Union Grove, Alabama, Wink Groover of Longview, Texas, Tommy Loid of Bowling Green, Kentucky, Huck Moss of Trenton, South Carolina, and Ronnie Spears of Tullahoma, Tennessee. With over 2,400 horses vying for Celebration honors in over 160 classes, these five gentlemen definitely had their work cut out for them. The course of the 11-day event saw them award over $650,000 in prizes and awards.

Competition at the latest Celebration was intense. There were several repeat victory passes and a variety of notable winners. The winningest horse at this year’s Celebration was Push N For Pleasure owned by Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch and trained by Jimmy Norris. Push N For Pleasure claimed four lite shod blues including the Owner- Amateur Western Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. Three owners led the blue ribbon count with five. Bruce and Robin MacDonald’s string of horses walked away with four world championships and one world grand championship. Their winning string included It’s Taboo, John FK’s Pusher, and Jose’s Special Edition. The Dan McSwain family also left Shelbyville with four world championships and one world grand championship. The winning McSwain horses were Gen’s Burning Rage, It’s Silver Dollar Time, The American General, and The Golden Sovereign. The other owners to garner five Celebration wins were Jim and Debbie Nichols. Their Armed & Trigger Happy and Pusher’s Beaming Pride picked up two world championships and three world grand championships.

Repeat winners were plentiful at the 68th Celebration. For the fifth time in his career, General Custer claimed the Fine Harness World Championship. It was the fourth consecutive year for Double Java and Scott Benham to claim the Lite Shod World Grand Championship. It’s Up In Arms and Darden Gladney continued to dominate the Amateur Owned and Trained Park Pleasure ranks by picking up their fourth title in five years.

Erica and Maria Derickson were extremely proud of Watch For Glory and their dad after they walked away with the Mares and Geldings (Canter) World Grand Championship.

John FK’s Pusher and Robin MacDonald strolled down victory lane as Owner-Amateur Elite World Champions and World Grand Champions for the third year in a row. Three was also the magic number for Clay Mills and Extra Ebony as they walked away with their third Amateur Owned and Trained Specialty World Championship. The Lady Of The Ritz put on the ritz as she strolled to her third Owner-Amateur Adult Trail Pleasure World Championship and her second Owner-Amateur English Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship in three years. Continuing his success in the lead line division, Shake’s Little Midnight brought home the title for the third year in a row. His first two titles were earned with Jordan Dempsey in the irons while this third award came with Jordan’s little sister, Makena up. It was also the third straight victory for Alex Bumpus in the Auxiliary 15-17 Walking Seat Equitation class. And finally, for the third time in four years, Erin Graf and Silverado Spirit visited the winner’s circle as Owner-Amateur Mares/Geldings World Champions.

The beautiful young mare, In Vogue, exhibited perfect form to win her second straight Model Mares World Championship. The Model Stallions or Geldings class also saw a repeat winner in Generator’s Icy Hot. Winning the Owner-Amateur Pony Stallions World Championship for the second straight year was Olympic Power with Stephanie Gordon up. Rudy Rudiger and Alexandria Holland were also second year winners in pony competition as they claimed the Owner-Amateur Youth 6-14 Pony title. Patti Pollack directed The Concealed Weapon to a second consecutive Owner-Amateur Park Performance Stallions World Championship and also rode Push N For Pleasure to a repeat win in the Owner-Amateur English Trail Pleasure 18 & Over (Canter) World Championship. The trail pleasure division saw two repeat winners with Bluegrass Bandit and Jared Carrier picking up their second straight Amateur Owned and Trained Western Trail Pleasure World Championship and Pitcher Of Gold and Dr. Judy Moore claiming, for the second year in a row, the Amateur Owned and Trained English Trail Pleasure World Championship. For the second straight year, I’m Causin Commotion and John Allan Callaway left the big oval with the Aged Mares (Canter) World Championship and it was deja vu all over again for Private Charter and Knox Blackburn as they picked up their second Aged Stallions (Canter) World Championship. Crowd favorites Armed & Trigger Happy and Patrick Thomas continued their winning ways by capturing their second consecutive Western Park Pleasure World Grand Championship. Creating the perfect picture of horse and rider, Lindsey Landrum earned the blue in the Auxiliary 6-11 Walking Seat Equitation class.

Aging up to a new division is seldom easy but several horse and rider teams accomplished the feat with flying colors in 2006. Shock Jock and Becky Coleman were named 2006 Owner-Amateur Four-Year-Old World Grand Champions after claiming a two-year-old world championship in 2004 and three-year-old world and world grand championships in 2005. 2005 Two-Year-Old World Grand Champions Gen On The Run and Justin Harris came back in 2006 to claim a Three-Year-Old Stallions World Championship and the Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship. Three-Year-Old World Champion Star shone brightly as he an Jackie McConnell strode to the 2006 Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship. Masie McSwain, in her first year in youth 12-14 competition, directed her 2005 11 & under world grand championship mount The American General to a world championship in her new division.

Besides the repeat winners, this year’s Celebration contained a number of notable outcomes. The father and son team of Bobby and BJ Richards directed Drop The Hammer to two world championships and one world grand championship. She’s Push In Command, who walked to a 2005 world championship with Connie Hess, carried daughter Lindsey Hess to a world championship in 2006. The Walking Horse industry is definitely a family affair.

2000 WGC Cash For Keeps collected yet another Celebration blue, this time in the lite shod division.


2000 World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse Cash For Keeps walked to two lite shod world championships in 2006, proving the versatility of the classic Tennessee Walking Horse. Speaking of classic horses (those 15 years old and over), they were definitely out in full force at this Celebration. Horses such as Master’s Gunsmoke, Jubilee’s Star Wars, Mister Pushbutton, Royal Label, Call Me Hytone, and several others all made great showings in 2006.

Kathy Zeis and Texas Joe Black shared a hug after their world championship ride.


Lynn Womack had a big smile on her face as she drove to the winner’s circle in both divisions of Ladies Fine Harness. In the A division she directed Major Miss Understood to the victory and in the B division it was I’m Medusa. Equally thrilled, Robin MacDonald captured both the Elite Owner-Amateur Ladies on Mares or Geldings World Championship and the Elite Owner-Amateur Ladies on Stallions World Championship. The first was with It’s Taboo and the second was with John FK’s Pusher. And then there’s Bob and Mary Medina who watched two of their young horses walk away with back-to-back blues in four-year-old competition. Hey Hey Ole made the victory pass as Four-Year-Old Mare World Champion and Card Trick did the same as Four-Year-Old Gelding World Champion.

Two schedule disruptions occurred at this year’s Celebration. On the first Friday evening of the show two classes were completed before the show was stopped and the remaining classes postponed as the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association, The Celebration, and the United States Department of Agriculture VMOs discussed current inspection procedures. The classes for the following Saturday morning were postponed as well. By Saturday evening things were hammered out and the show continued with the postponed classes rescheduled over the next week. The other disruption occurred on the final night of the show, just before the final class. Only three horses, A Strong Dollar, MG Above The Rest, and Rowdy Rev passed inspection to compete in the class. Based on information from individuals in the warm up area, Celebration officials decided to make the announcement that the final class, the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship, would not be held. It is a true credit to the dedicated exhibitors, trainers, and owners, as well as the devoted fans that the 68th Celebration saw the success that has become the norm for the “World’s Greatest Horse Show.”

Of course, our breed’s premier event provides the opportune setting for special ceremonies, presentations, exhibitions, and guests. Once again in 2006, each evening’s performance was kicked off by Counterfeit Dollar and legendary trainer Bud Seaton carrying the American Flag. Counterfeit Dollar is owned by Curtice McCloy and prepared by Todd Smith Stables.

On the first Saturday, as has become customary; the back number of the previous year’s World Grand Champion was retired. 2005 World Grand Champion trainer Joe Cotten appeared in center ring for the retirement of #1826. Other special occurrences that Saturday included the introduction of 2006 TWHNC Queen Crystal Keith Ennis and the presentation of the Evan Lloyd Adamson Humanitarian Award to Mrs. Frances Langley. As if that wasn’t enough, there were also three special exhibitions that evening by champions from the Great Mule and Donkey Celebration. A Walking Mule named Ruth Ann, a Racking Mule named Fancy, and a Miniature Donkey named Hermes excited the crowd with entertaining trips around the oval.

Stable decorating was the hot topic on Sunday. Following a heated competition, the winners of the stable decorating contest were announced Sunday evening. The three winners were White Oak Farm, Twisting Creek Stables, and Waterfall Farms. The prestigious Mayor’s Award was presented to Rising Star Ranch.

Taking to the big oval Monday evening was Equitation World Grand Champion Amy Nesius and her equine partner Himself. The crowd was absolutely riveted as this beautiful team put on a flawless demonstration of all three gaits.

Tuesday evening saw current congressman and senate candidate Harold Ford, Jr., visit the Celebration. Congressman Ford presented the first blue ribbon of the performance and then spent some time talking with folks in the audience. Congressman Ford is credited with assisting in the negotiations that re-started the show after classes were postponed on the first Friday and Saturday.

The second Wednesday’s performance hosted several notable guests including the Dean of the Department of Agriculture at the University of Tennessee Dr. Joseph DiPietro, University of Tennessee Extension Equine Specialist Dr. Frederick Harper, and Congressman Bart Gordon. The awards for best attire were also presented on Wednesday. The winners were Amy Nesius in the youth division, Carol Lackey in the amateur division, and Johnnie Puckett in the professional division. Bringing some color to the big oval, World Champion Spotted Saddle Horse Tied Into Colors put on an engaging special exhibition during Wednesday’s performance.

It is always a somber occasion on the second Thursday when the names of those deceased over the past year are read during “A Celebration Moment.” This year the second Thursday also saw an exciting special exhibition by World Grand Champion Racking Horse Tragedy and a visit to center ring by Congressman Jim Cooper.

The second Thursday was also Select Sponsor Night for the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ AssociationSM (TWHBEASM). TWHBEASM Executive Board members presented ribbons and trophies throughout the evening and TWHBEASM presented several youth awards at center ring during the show.

The second Friday was the occasion for what was, perhaps, the highlight of the 2006 Celebration. That evening a retirement ceremony was held for 1996 World Grand Champion He’s Puttin On The Ritz. Standing ovation after standing ovation greeted the beloved champion as legendary trainer Billy Gray put him through his paces prior to the retirement blanket being placed on his back. Owners William B. and Sandra Johnson along with Hilda and Patty Gray took part in the ceremony at center ring.

Friday night was also Ladies’ Night at the Celebration. That evening the Celebration honored the three women that have won the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship – Betty Sain, Judy Martin, and Vicki Self. Betty Sain was unable to attend due to health problems, Judy Martin and Vicki Self were honored at center ring and presented with a specially crafted piece of jewelry.

A very special group of Celebration exhibitors were honored Friday evening. These extraordinary folks all showed at the very first Celebration. Upon being introduced at center ring, they received a well-deserved standing ovation. The honorees included Frances Alexander, Billy Beech, Mildred Bobo, Charles Brantley, Frank Evans, William Gill, Jimmy Gray, Bill Harlin, Buddy Haynes, Amie Boyd Marks, Marion Savage, and Dr. Bob Womack.

Several awards were presented Friday evening. The Auxiliary Merit Award was presented to long-time National Trainers’ Show guru Buist Carr. David Landrum Stables and Southern Serenity Ranch placed first and second respectively in the Celebration’s “Best Groomed” awards. Finally, the inaugural Susan Gordon Horsemanship Award was presented to Suzanne Littell. Special guests in center ring on Friday included Miss Tennessee, Lauren Grissom, and senate candidate Bob Corker. Auxiliary Scholarship recipients Matt McMurtrey, Shayna Hughes, and Amanda Black were also honored at center ring.

In what has become a Celebration tradition, the final Saturday evening was once again dubbed Patriotic Night. The Honor Guard from Fort Campbell Army Base posted the colors. Following the posting, Sgt. Ulyssa Keys accepted a framed tri-color ribbon on behalf of the soldiers of Fort Campbell. Boy Scout Troop 370 from Shelbyville presented a larger version of the Stars and Stripes while Counterfeit Dollar and Bud Seaton circled the track as usual. Lori O’Brien of Atlanta, Georgia, sang the National Anthem, which was accompanied by a multimedia display. Closing out the festivities, an Army National Guard helicopter flew over the big oval, inspiring young and old alike.

Trainer of the Year Joel Weaver with wife Kristy, daughters Irelyn and Stratton, and son Lake.

Other happenings Saturday evening included the presentation of the Trainer of the Year award to Joel Weaver, a special exhibition by World Grand Champion Arabian HGHB, and presentation of the WHTA Scholarship recipients Wilson Beard, Kyle Allen Harold, and Tommy Loid. Special center ring guests included renowned clinician Monty Roberts and National Stock Show and Rodeo officials Pat Grant and Dr. Jim Herd. Voice’s own Stan Butt journeyed to center ring Saturday evening to present the Championship Trophy for the 15.2 and Under Walking Horse World Grand Championship.

George Ann Pratt and Beverly Burgess took time to pose for the camera.

As most of us know, the “World’s Greatest Horse Show” is a whole lot more than just a horse show. The Celebration also includes a Trade Fair that this year boasted over 80 vendors selling everything from horse feed to wine. Once again the barbeque cookout was held the afternoon of the first Saturday. In addition to great food, visitors were treated to a DJ and karaoke. For the second year in a row, the Tennessee Education Lottery set up a booth on the Celebration grounds and gave away lottery tickets during evening performances. 2005 World Grand Champion Main Power along with trainer Joe Cotten and owners Neal Holland and Bob Kilgore set up outside the big oval one afternoon to greet visitors and sign autographs. And, let us not forget the WHTA Auxiliary Dog Show. A huge success this year, the dog show attracted nearly 200 entries in classes such as Costume, Trick Dog, Obedience, “I Look Like My Master,” and Best In Show. Add to that the educational clinics and youth clinics hosted by the Tennessee Waking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ AssociationSM and you have more than ample opportunities for family fun and excitement.

The Celebration – it’s the premier event in our industry, it’s an event we all look forward to, and it’s an event that will endure. After all, our industry has the greatest horses, the greatest owners, the greatest exhibitors, the greatest trainers, and the greatest fans. With all that greatness, it only makes sense that we have “The World’s Greatest Horse Show.” Until Celebration 2007...


On the second Friday evening, the Celebration honored the three women that have won the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship – Betty Sain, Judy Martin, and Vicki Self. 2006 marked the 40th anniversary of Betty Sain’s win aboard Shaker’s Shocker, the 30th anniversary of Judy Martin’s win aboard Shade Of Carbon, and the 15th anniversary of Vicki Self’s win aboard Flashy Pride.


Judy Martin and Shades Of Carbon


Betty Sain and Shaker’s Shocker


Vicki Self and Flashy Pride



One of the highlights of the 2006 Celebration was the retirement ceremony for 1996 World Grand Champion He’s Puttin On The Ritz. Legendary trainer Billy Gray put the 15-year-old stallion through his paces prior to the retirement blanket being placed on his back. Owners William B. and Sandra Johnson as well as Patti and Hilda Gray made the trip to center ring to celebrate Ritz’s career. A standing ovation greeted the beloved champion and ushered him into retirement.


© 1996-2008 Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association. All Rights Reserved.
Terms And Conditions Of Use
Privacy Policy