(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)
There will be quarter horses and Arabians, Freisians and walking horses, Appaloosas and spotted saddlehorses.
But if you ask owner Marie Lloyd which are her pride and joy, she's just as likely to point out the long-eared cousins of these breeds, the glossy mules taking up their share of the 110 stalls available at the farm.
"One of the first people to stay in my bed and breakfast had Agatha," said Llyod, patting the polished bay neck of the big molly (a female mule is called a molly and a gelded male is called a john -- despite being sterile, the males are still usually gelded.). "I thought she was a dream, and then I found out she was for sale ..."
Within no time, Agatha became part of the Clearview family and she was quickly followed by even more mules.
"There's just something quirky about a mule," she said. "There's something eccentric. The same goes for the people who own them -- they're just fun and laid back and chilled out. They've got a sense of humor.
"You've got to have a sense of humor if you're going to have mules -- they'll make a liar out of you every day," she added, laughing. "The more mule shows I went to, the more people I met and the more I liked them all!"
If that bit about the liars is true, then there will be a lot of inadvertent liars in town this weekend as the Great Celebration Mule and Donkey Show takes place at Calsonic Arena from Thursday through Saturday.
Hundreds of mules and donkeys and thousands of fans will be coming into town. Classes will cover everything from racking and pulling to saddle seat and trail obstacle.
"We like to concentrate on trails and obstacle courses," said Marie. "Just to show what a good all-round ride a mule is."
She even has her own obstacle course built on the grounds of her farm, not just to train horses and mules for shows, but for actual trail rides. The course goes up and down hills, into water-filled ditches and across a booming wooden bridge. The mules learn to step over logs and how to work with the rider, opening gates and closing them.
Marie's trainer is Ronnie Campbell, no stranger to Shelbyville showgrounds.
"I showed Tennessee walking horses for 40 years," he said.
He said he still loves the walkers, but really enjoys working with the mules.
"I've worked with mules off and on my whole life," said Ronnie. "I didn't get into it full time until a couple of years ago."
It didn't take long for word to spread though, especially after he showed Violet last year and took her to a world championship in the 2-year-old halter class. "We're hoping to go for 3-year-old this year," he said.
Since then, others have been bringing their mules to Clearview for training.
There are definite differences between horses and mules, and they don't all have to do with the size of their ears -- or the length of their patience.
"Mules are smarter," said Ronnie. "You could stick a horse on top of this barn and spook it, and it'll jump off the barn and kill itself. You put a mule on top of the barn, and it's not going anywhere."
It seems appropriate that the Celebration's Mule and Donkey Show falls near Independence Day every year, since the long-eared offspring of donkey jacks and horse mares helped the new nation grow as much as the soldiers, politicians and farmers did.
George Washington is said to have bred some of the first American mules from a Spanish jack and two jennets (a mule is the offspring of a mare and a donkey and a hinney is the offspring of a jennet and stallion).
Early records show mules selling for thousands of dollars in the days when farms could be bought for hundreds.
They pulled plows and covered wagons, and until the cavalry became a motorcade, it was mules pulling guns and supplies into battle, from the Revolutionary War even to World War II, when many battle sites in the Asian and Italian landscape were too hilly or muddy -- or both -- for the mechanized cavalry to make it.
Ticket Prices: Adults - $6 a day, 3-day pass - $15; Children (7-12) - $3 a day; Children (6 & Under) - free. These will be available for purchase the day the show begins. Contact The Celebration at 684-5915 or visit www.twhnc.com.