February 22, 2019
The National 2018
[view ALL photos here]
For the second year in a row, the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) brought their National Championship show to the Show Place Arena in Memphis, Tenn., September 16-22, 2018. This year the organization celebrates its 20th anniversary – 1998-2018 with a show that truly celebrates the versatility of the Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH).
A TWH show would not be complete without music. Providing live organ music accompanying the classes was Charles Ritchie, organist and senior pastor at Agape Baptist Church in Memphis – when he’s not playing at a horse show. Ritchie’s vast repertoire offered a familiar tune for every phase of the classes – whether it be calming sounds as the horses were lined up waiting for the class placings, or “movin’ on” music when the judges called for a faster pace. If you watched the horses closely, you could see many of them moving in time with Ritchie’s music. If you weren’t at the show, you can watch videos of some of Ritchie’s toe-tapping tunes on his facebook page: Charles Ritchie. You won’t be able to keep your feet still! He can’t either.
The show began on Sunday afternoon with Dressage classes, following on Monday morning with Western Dressage, then Trail Obstacle. “We had an awesome trail obstacle course,” said NWHA Secretary Katie Tanner.
On most show days there were several categories of pleasure classes, including country, all day, trail, plantation, and bareback. There were plenty of lite shod classes, too, and many classes were ridden Western style. There were showmanship and equitation classes in English, stock seat, and walking seat. Reining, barrel racing, and pole bending were on Friday afternoon, as well as the famous water glass class. How fast and far can you go without spilling a drop?
Thursday’s schedule included the Racking Horse, Open Division, Regional Grand Championship and, that evening, the Trail Pleasure Regional Grand Championship. For excitement, there were speed racking classes, with the Speed Racking Championship on Saturday evening, September 22.
The show finished on Saturday with division championships, presentation of the Sportsmanship Award, followed by the Closing Ceremony. This ceremony honored all branches of the military, featuring exhibitors carrying flags from each branch of service. In fact, this show benefits the Wounded Warriors Project, and Saturday evening was the Wounded Warriors class. “We might expect at least 30 entries in this class,” said Tanner.
This show attracted over 120 horses and riders (620 entries) from all across the nation – 20 states. Show personnel said some from North Carolina came early to escape hurricane Florence. There were exhibitors and horses from Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California.
Tanner explained more about the NWHA, a 501(c)(3) organization. “The horses are all flat shod and we promote the sound and natural Walking Horse. We are volunteer run and member driven.” The organization promotes the general welfare of the Walking Horse and advocates for the horse against abusive and inhumane treatment. “Sound Principles – Sound Horses” is their motto.
Tanner described several programs the organization offers. “We have a robust trail riding program,” she said. TRIP (Trail Horse Incentive Program) is open to any gaited breed of horse and offers awards for Trail Horse of the Year, Trail Rider of the Year, and Youth Trail Rider of the Year.
CHIP (Competitive Horse Incentive Program) “is for people interested in competitive trail riding, trail obstacle courses, and field trials,” Tanner said.
They also offer the Dressage Horse of the Year program. Exhibitors can submit their dressage tests from USEF recognized gaited dressage classes to vie for that award.
LSAP is the Lifetime Superior Achievement Program. “This rewards the versatility horse,” Tanner said, with qualifying classes in western riding, reining, barrel racing, pole bending, equitation, water glass class, trail obstacle, dressage, and jumping.” I asked Tanner about gaited horse jumping. She explained that the horses do canter the fences and their jumps range in height, up to a maximum of about 3ft.6 in. The pinnacle of the versatility horse is achievement of The Order of the Equinus award.
Tanner said the organization also does demonstrations throughout the year, at events like BreyerFest and Equine Affaire in Ohio and Massachusetts. In the summer they offer Youth Camp. This year it was in North Carolina, June 28-30. The organization also offers several scholarship programs to youth members: the Neil Clark Scholarship, the NWHA Scholarship, the NWHA Youth Achievement Award, and Youth Versatility.
Official photographer for the show was Ken Siems (www.psdphoto.net). Rail and Versatility Judges for this show were Ronnie Sapp, Lori Snyder-Lowe, and Shannon Gibbs. Dressage Judge was Beth Barritt, USEF R. For more information about the show and the organization, visit: https://www.nwha.com/the-national.html and facebook: The NWHA National.
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