Honors is named World Grand Champion

Sunday, September 4, 2016 ~ Updated 1:47 AM
Honors, Larry Edwards up, leaves the show ring after winning the World Grand Championship. See more photos at http://www.t-g.com/gallery/28007/. (T-G Photo by Jason Reynolds)

Honors, Larry E. Edwards up for Keith and Dan McSwain of Milton and Gainesville, Georgia, was named Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion at 12:46 this morning, concluding the 78th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

There were seven entries in the class, and they entered -- as always -- to the beat of organist Larry Bright's "Flat Walk Boogie," which ring announcer Mark Farrar referred to as the "national anthem" of Tennessee Walking Horse competition.

Unanimous pick

The crowd reacts as Honors' name and number are announced. (T-G Photo by Jason Reynolds)

Honors was the unanimous choice of the judging panel.

Reserve honors in the class went to He's Shady In Black, Jimmy McConnell up for Richard Donner of Dyersburg, while Jose's Power Broker, Keith Blackburn up for Dan and Susan Erwin of Olive Hill, Kentucky, placed third.

Honors, a clear crowd favorite, won the 4-Year-Old World Grand Championship (Canter) class in 2012, and won the B division of Stallions, 5 Years and Over, on the first Saturday of this year's Celebration. The divisions of that stallion class are normally considered the most important preliminary to the World Grand Championship, and in fact all seven of the entries in this year's World Grand Championship came out of that stallion class.

Honors' owners have been active in opposing what trainers consider to be unfair enforcement practices by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and in May obtained an injunction against the USDA which prevents the horse from being disqualified by USDA without due process until the matter has been resolved.

Owner-Amateur title

I'm Mayhem, Susan Coleman up, took the honors as Owner-Amateur World Grand Champion (Canter). The entry is owned by Jo Ann Dowell and Susan Coleman of Powell, Ohio, and Unionville.

Reserve honors went to Led Zeppelin, owned and ridden by Abby Fox of Cookeville. Jose It Ain't So, Benjamin Bowen up for Larry Russell of Pontotoc, Mississippi, placed third.

There's also a separate Owner-Amateur World Grand Championship, awarded on Friday, which does not require the challenging canter.

Edgar Abernathy of Mississippi was named the 50th Trainer of the Year by the Walking Horse Trainers Association. For the first time, WHTA also named a Pleasure Horse Trainer of the Year, Hannah Pulvers Myatt.

13,000 attend

Farrar announced the Saturday night attendance as 13,000, and total paid attendance for the 11-day event as 118,000. While the 13,000 is a far cry from the days when the Celebration arena would be full on both Saturday nights, Farrar pointed out that it's still likely the largest crowd that will watch any equine breed championship this year.

The night was filled with long-standing traditions. Farrar recognized both first-time visitors and those who had attended the very first Celebration in 1939. Bright played a sequence of state songs, giving visitors from each state the chance to cheer.

A newer tradition was the annual "Stars of the Future" exhibition, featuring the winners of youth division world grand championships during this year's show taking a celebratory pass around the ring.

Throughout the 10 nights of the show, speakers have promoted a legal fund intended to defend the industry against proposed new federal regulations which supporters say would devastate the popular and high-stepping performance division of walking horse competition.

It was announced that $431,000 had been raised towards the $500,000 goal by about 10 p.m. and speakers urged the crowd to contribute even more in hopes of meeting two challenges set by two different pledging donors.

Inman speaks

While the World Grand Champion entries were parked in awaiting a result, Celebration CEO Mike Inman announced that the challenge had been met and the full $500,000 had been raised.

Inman also said that this year's entries were up for the second straight year, after several years of decline. Last year, 84 more entries entered the ring than had done so in 2014. This year, said Inman, there were 250 more entries than in 2015.

"The Celebration is like nothing else," said Inman. "God bless every one of you and God bless the great Tennessee walking show horse."

Community High School won a $1,000 prize from the Celebration in a competition among local public schools to see which one could encourage the greatest use of complimentary tickets provided by the show.

Class winners

Other classes from Saturday night:

* Shake's Little Midnight, ridden by Sterling Woodruff with Emily Woodruff on the lead line, won the Lead Line Ponies, Riders 6 and Under, World Grand Championship. The entry is owned by Gleghorn and Woodruff of Fayetteville.

* The Lady's Man, owned and ridden by Maisie McSwain of Gainesville, Georgia, won the Owner-Amateur Riders on Ponies World Grand Championship.

* B.B. King's Jazz, Mickey McCormick up for Stephens & Womack of Grayson, Kentucky, won the Park Pleasure World Grand Championship

* Etta James By TJB, Kathy Zeis up, won the Owner-Amateur Riders on Trail Pleasure Horses, 4 Years and Under, World Grand Championship. The entry is owned by for Steve Zeis of Shelbyville.

* He's Starbucks, John Allan Callaway III up for Bud and Suzanne Moore of Franklin, won the Show Pleasure Horses World Grand Championship.

* Miss Belle Starr W, handled by Beverly Lamp, won the Weanling World Grand Championship. The entry is owned by Jacob and Brittany Baum of Shelbyville.

* Jose Miss Dolly, Lori Riddley up for Alan Riddley of Shelby, North Carolina, won the Owner-Amateur Riders on Mares or Geldings World Grand Championship.

* Ain't He Grande, Suzanne Moore up, won the Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Performance Horses World Grand Championship. The entry is owned by Bud and Suzanne Moore of Franklin.

* Maroon 5, Jim Baum up for Luke Baum of Shelbyville, won the 3-Year-Old World Grand Championship.

* Honey Badger, owned and ridden by Lily Catherine Holland of Decatur, Alabama, won the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders, 6-17, on Trail Pleasure Horses World Grand Championship.

* Jimmy Choo won the 2-Year-Old World Grand Championship. Jimmy McConnell rode the entry for Bill and Karen Bean of Tomball, Texas.

* Roscoe Jenkins, owned and ridden by Susan Coleman of Unionville, won the Owner-Amateur Riders on Lite Shod Horses World Grand Championship.

* Mr. Trump, Molly Walters up for Kelsey Andrews of Rancho Mirage, California, won the Owner-Amateur Riders on 4-Year-Old Horses World Grand Championship.

* Allison Thorson and Liz Gassaway rode Fuego to a win in Amateur-Amateur Riders on Trail Pleasure Horses, the evening's only non-championship class. The entry is owned by Allison Thorson and MacKenzie Morgan of Murfreesboro. In Amateur-Amateur classes, one rider starts showing the horse and then switches off with a second rider midway through the class.

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