Southern Hospitality on the Fourth of July
I have always dreamed of being able to just pack up and spend the Fourth of July weekend in Middle Tennessee. Yet, I was limited by my own imagination. Not only did I not fully understand the magnitude of the top ranked horses competing together, on this trip I also discovered what “Southern Hospitality” truly means.
The competition started on Thursday night as the legendary Tony Rice Center Horse Show would not be denied of its legacy. Rain, wind, and lightning were nature’s way of testing just how important the Tennessee Walking Horse is to its loyal owners ,trainers, and fans.
Most of you already understand the importance of the Fourth of July week end. Much like a chess game owners and trainers use these historic horse shows to prove that they will be worthy of championship honors in late August and on that first Saturday night in September. The “Wicked Master, Line Item Veto, Free to Score, She’s Flawless, Atonement, Daddy’s Cash, Cooperstown Kid, Arms Deal For Real, Command on Parole, Step Winder, I’M Bruce Pearl, I’M P. Diddy, Overpass, and Hello I’m Johnny Cash took long strides in an attempt to prove that they are fully prepared and ready to contend for World Championship honors. And this was just the beginning, the Tony Rice Center Horse Show.
While the competition was immense this weekend and a joy to be a part of, it was the Southern Hospitality that made this weekend so special. On Friday morning a visit to Southern Comfort Stables touched me where it counts. They touched my heart. Spending time with Billy, Tim, and Patti was a lesson within itself. No fluff, no trying to impress you, just down to earth real interaction that describes the transparency that is so important in each of our lives and in our industry. Real gentlemen,a genuine lady, with ultimate respect for each and every person that visits their stables. While I won’t mention by name the customers that came in to the barn that morning, I will say that they took the time to introduce me to each other and continued to make me feel good about my decision to spend the Fourth of July weekend in Middle Tennessee.
Now that was a great start to a day that would lead me to one of the greatest one night horse shows I have ever witnessed. The Money Tree Classic proved to be an outstanding test in this match that will lead to future 2012 world championships.
The Money Tree Classic started out with little Ashtyn Claire Brown winning the lead line class. We usually do not tie the lead line class in Kentucky but this was serious stuff. You should have seen the pride and preparation that went into this class of lead line ponies and riders.
Jennifer Bingham not only found herself on the rail in a large class of Country Pleasure horses but also reported in to the winning circle. And if you think Sylvester is done, you better think again because he had the most magnificent and majestic weanling I have ever seen. “My Diamond Back” definitely put the competition in “Check” for the Bobby Jones Family.
I have witnessed many horse shows through the years and have found that your family and friends will support you no matter what. The support that Howard Hamilton had as he proudly displayed All American Ritz brought not only friends but almost everyone to their feet. Isn’t it great how we appreciate a horse that is not only a show horse but really walks! Not to be out done Tamara Hader dispelled any notion that anyone could have about winning the Trail Pleasure four and under class. And you can always count on that Richards family to make a stand in the Yearling class with “Oh Poncho Oh Cisco”
The Pleasure Horse classes were absolutely poetry in motion, yet I felt a stir in the air as the focus changed. Prime Suspect proved that he would be to contend with in late August. Bill Callaway showed that he and “Ready to Play” will be willing and ready. And if you get “Low on Gin” Lee McGartland will certainly be around when the last bell rings.
At this point, if you looked around the ring at the Ag Center you would notice that the crowd was still thick and the enthusiasm was rampant. You see, everyone knew that our returning three year old World Grand Champion was returning to the ring in class thirty-two. This was not just another World Champion…. Many people are touting him as the best that has ever been. While I, along with you have several favorites, it is important at this point to say in the famous words of Patti Gray. “That was us then, This is us now. ” All I can say is I am proclaiming him as ” The peoples horse.” Regardless of who you talk to and no matter who their personal favorite is, everyone loves Honors.
Needless to say, I had a decision to make. As I began to video the class I had to decide whether to just video him, or to attempt to be inclusive and video the complete class of horses. Well I made my decision to focus on him and as the class came in it was clear that it was a good decision. I kept hearing comments on the side about how the other four year old horses were the best they had ever seen them, but no one could take their eyes off of, “The Peoples Horse” It was a moment in the history of our breed that I am honored to be a part of and am also honored to have captured on video. Literally thousands of people have viewed him and the statistics on Walking Horse Club Ky clearly say that a good decision was made. One can only imagine the expectations from this horse and rider, yet in true Edwards’ fashion the pressure only proved to bring “Honor” to the great horse.
Well I could have just died right there and say that I had a fulfilled life, but the chess game continued as the Stake Class was finally here. It was about two in the morning as a late start, rain and lightning delays, along with a loss of power gave us reason to be very patient. I don’t think anyone declared check mate but statements were made, as Cash on the Line and Tim Smith edged out a true competitor in Jimmy McConnell and A Bruce Pearl.
It was a late night, and yes we here at Walking Horse Club Ky were able to publish one video when I got to the motel that morning.
Oh my, I had promised Sheryl Crawford that I would be at Saddle Crest Farms in the morning. I rolled in to Saddle Crest with coffee in hand at about nine and was once again welcomed by Sheryl, Doug, Winky, Shelia, and several of the customers. Great discussion and genuine love for the horse and industry made Saturday morning a special time for me. I have always loved Saturday mornings and as a horse lover it is especially nice knowing that Woodbury would prove to be the same type of testing ground that the Tony Rice and Money Tree horse shows provided. I will forever remember the great competition and spirit of good sportsmanship that I observed. Yet! I no longer suffer from a lack of imagination. I fully realize the importance of the chess game played out in the show ring. Yet,the most meaningful and heartfelt memory will be the “Hospitality of the South” Thanks to everyone for a most memorable Fourth of July weekend.