SHELBYVILLE -- The annual 11-day Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration started here Wednesday, including the National Futurity presented by the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association that's headquartered in Lewisburg.
"They had one of the best attendance they've had," said Tom Sumners of Lewisburg, a long-time observer of the breed and its shows such as the display of young horses Wednesday. "Maybe it's because of the free admission (to the Futurity) but I've been to a lot of them and this had the largest crowd I've seen in a long time."
Meanwhile, there are 2,874 entries for the preliminary round of competition. That's down 340 from last year's show. Celebration chief executive officer Doyle Meadows felt confident numbers in the championship part of the competition would be strong, he said earlier this month.
The Celebration's day classes continue inside Calsonic arena through Monday. Night classes started Thursday in what's called the big oval, the outdoor arena which seats 28,000.
The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration concludes on the evening of Sept. 3, the Saturday before Labor Day.
Naming a World Grand Champion Walking Horse for 2011 is the grand conclusion of the annual Celebration, but early in the multi-faceted show of horses is the 5-year-old and older stallion preliminary class. That Saturday night class is the one to watch to see winners that night because they have indicated which horse has the best chance of winning top honors the following Saturday night.
"It's an important class - it has A and B divisions - because the World Grand Champion has come from that class annually since 1961," Sumners said. "In 1961, it was Major Wilson, an amateur class horse that won and, in 1954, it was an aged mare with a professional rider up on White Star that won."
Among the Marshall County horse stables represented in Shelbyville are: Wayne Dean Stables; Summerhaven, owned by Donna K. Gowan; Link Webb Stables with El Nino, a recent World Grand Champion; Ray Beech at Belfast; and Dr. Randall Baker's. The veterinarian stables his horses at his clinic at Farmington.
Placing first on Wednesday night in the Lite Shod 3-year-old Open Class was a horse named IM Gunn Powder. The Celebration program listed the horse as owned by Dr. Baker, but "The Walking Horse Report" listed it as "for Charlie/Peggy Moore; Lewisburg."
The horse, Sumners concluded, "may have changed ownership since it was entered." That could not be verified on deadline Thursday.
In the Classic Park Pleasure 2- and 3-year-old horse class, Dr. Baker's horse, Touch This Gunn, placed second, the WH Report stated, according to an announcement from the Celebration's spokesman. Besting Baker's horse in that class was Lined With Promise from Corinth, Miss., the Report said.
Placing third Wednesday in the Country Pleasure, English and Western 2- and 3-year-old horses was Bobbin That Head listed by the Report as "for James/Evelyn Durant; Cornersville."
Horses have been brought from Germany, Kentucky, Georgia, Washington, North Carolina and across Tennessee from Manchester, Hendersonville, Readyville and Nashville, among other locations.
The Tribune's sister newspaper, the Shelbyville Times-Gazette (www.t-g.com) presents more current reports on the Celebration.