New marker honors Shaker's Shocker, Sain family

Sunday, April 25, 2010
While the crowd watched from the porch, Al Simmons, left, of the Bedford County Historical Society, and Phil Coop, president of the Webb School Board of trustees, unveil an historical marker for the Sain home. (T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)

Despite the wet weather -- with worse yet to come -- dozens of people turned up at the Sain House at the Webb School. The event was to dedicate a historical marker commemorating the Sains and their 1966 World Grand Champion Tennessee walking horse, Shaker's Shocker.

Although the Bedford County Historical Society has helped research and verify other historical markers, this one has a unique place in the annals.

"This is the first one with the official logo," said Al Simmons, president of the BCHS. "It is appropriate that it be for a family -- and an animal -- who had so much impact on Bedford County."

Many members of the Sain family were present, including Rick Sain, who spoke about Shaker's accomplishments and those of his rider, Betty Sain, who could not be present.

"She's living in Lynchburg now," said Rick. "No horses, but she has her 'critters,' as she calls them."

Betty and Shaker broke many records the night the big black 4-year-old won the World Grand Championship," said Rick. She was not only the first woman to win the big stakes class -- she was the first woman to even enter it.

"She didn't enter it until five minutes before it started," he said.

Rick Sain addresses a full house at the old Sain Home in Bell Buckle during the dedication of the property's historical marker. (T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)

While the crowd supported the petite 23-year-old and the massive colt -- at the time, the biggest horse to ever win the WGC -- some of those in the industry were less than thrilled. The judges ordered three grueling workouts for the contestants and the class took an hour and a half to conclude, Rick said. But Betty and Shaker prevailed and rode out of the ring and into history.

After the 1966 show, the celebrity status increased, said Rick. Shaker became the only Tennessee walking horse to receive an award of merit from Sports Illustrated, and he served as a mascot for UT for many years, with Betty riding him at the football games.

Betty herself was approached about books and movie deals, but never considered any of them. She raised and trained the colt from a weanling and turned down many lucrative offers for him as a champion. Long before the Horse Protection Act, she spoke out against soring, the now-illegal practice of injuring a horse to make it step higher. She was determined to protect the breed she loved.

After Shaker's death in 1981, at the age of 19, Betty wrote a farewell to him. As Rick read the letter at the dedication, he found himself in tears -- along with many members of the audience.

"You were greater than life itself," he read. "You were the impossible dream come true."

The horse, the house and the girl -- all are commemorated in the marker outside of the Sain building. Built on property originally owned by Webb school founder Sawney Webb, the school bought it from its most recent owner last fall and is in the process of remodeling and renovating it.

"We'd like to use it as a reception center," said Phil Coop, president of the Webb School Board of Trustees (and the only native Bedford Countian to ever hold that position.) "We'll redecorate and it will be a place to use for meetings and special events. We've been needing a place to do this on campus. The house has got good bones."

"Thank you for buying it, thank you for bringing this house back into the Webb fold," said Rick Sain.