"It was rewarding this year to see that 66 percent of the horses that entered (the competition) actually came to the show ring," Thomas said. "This figure is an improvement over the 60 percent that showed in 2006."
Because the entries for the preliminary classes are done weeks in advance of the show, trainers often enter more than one contender per class though it is understood only one of those entered will actually compete. This is one reason that entries may be higher in the program than the number that actually passes through the gate for competition.
Thomas said he commended the judges of the show for the overall look of the contenders this year while in the show ring.
"We are most appreciative of the fine job by our judging panel to eliminate horses, in their opinion, that should not be in the show ring.
"It is a difficult call (to excuse a contender for 'bad image.') It certainly is not easy. It takes a real commitment to getting the job done right and a lot of courage to excuse horses once they enter the show ring. I applaud the 2007 judging panel."
According to Thomas, things were smooth in the inspection area of the show as well.
"The National Horse Show Commission (NHSC) DQP's did a very solid and professional job of "holding the line" on horses that should not pass, yet at the same time rewarding the horses that should be in the show ring. The overall success of the horse show definitely starts in Inspection, and we know that," Thomas said. We congratulate them for working so well with USDA to ensure that the right horses were in the show ring."
Thomas said The Celebration commended Dr. Chester Gipson of the USDA for the diligence he has shown througout the show season in working with the Walking Horse industry. He said Gipson reiterated his support and belief in the breed during the championship show.
"We are proud of our working relationship with the USDA and appreciate their advice and support in implementing many of the changes at this year's show. Dr. Chester Gipson has met and worked closely with us all year and we are most appreciative. Undersecretary Burton Eller likewise worked with us on our plans for this year, and his support was most helpful."
Thomas explained that Dr. Gipson attended the entire show and his staff of VMO's and support personnel were very thorough in working with the DQPs to help protect the horse and make certain that only compliant horses participated."
Polygraph tests for Celebration show management, judges, and industry stewards have been scheduled for September 18-21, according show officials.
The testing procedure is part of an overall plan announced prior to the 69th Celebration designed to ensure the health and safety of participating animals, compliance with the Horse Protection Act, and show integrity.
"Our Board of Directors felt these tests would be a positive statement regarding the integrity of our event and add another layer of confidence to our exhibitors, ticket holders, and the outside world," said Thomas.
The testing dates were moved by one week to accommodate the schedules of those being tested and the outside group administering the examinations. Results will be released following a compilation of the test data.
" After the 2006 Celebration we were prepared that our attendance would be down. We were right," Thomas related. "I'm hopeful that after the success of this 69th Celebration, we have a wonderful base from which to work to regain our crowd support.
Thomas said regardless of the numbers, the wins were what was special about the event.
"Any Celebration blue ribbon is special," said Thomas. "I am of the opinion that it doesn't matter if it is the first one or your tenth one. Each one is special. This year I remember with a smile blue ribbon wins by Jean O'Brien, Suzy Johnson, Buddy Stasney, Billy Young's 3- Year-Old Championship, and the wonderful amateur blue ribbon ride for Paul Livingston. These are moments that we admire in center ring."
Thomas said Charlie Green's recognition as Trainer of the Year was not to be overlooked in those "center ring memories."
There were many moments during this year's Celebration that Thomas considered "highs." Among the overall list was the attitude in the inspection area, cooperation between USDA and DQP officials, balanced media coverage, Drop The Hammer's numerous wins (four World Grand Championships in Lite Shod divisions), 13 entries in the final class, eagered accepted guidelines by trailers, and the overall excitement of the crowd.
"To those who attended this year, we say a sincere and genuine 'thank you,'" said Thomas. "To those who did not attend, we invite you back. We are most grateful for our loyal fans who attend this show to see champions crowned each year. We pledge a complete effort to try and encourage everyone to return each year.
"The product placed in the ring this year by the trainers was wonderful. It was exciting and well received. We want more people to see that. We will build on that and make 2008, our 70th consecutive Celebration, our best ever. "