Government, Industry Officials Mark Transfer Of Walking Horse Museum From Shelbyville To Lynchburg Government officials joined industry representatives on May 7 to mark the official relocation of the Tennessee Walking Horse Museum from Shelbyville to Lynchburg. The ceremony began at 10 a.m. on the Lynchburg city square. The museum unofficially opened here last week. Officials admitted there is some sadness in Shelbyville, where the museum has been located on the Celebration grounds, but the 200,000 visitors who annually tour the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg are expected to dramatically increase visitation to the museum. Located several miles off both Interstates 24 and 65, Shelbyville draws far fewer visitors annually. Speakers included Bob Garner, chairman of the Celebration's board of directors; Bob Cherry, executive director of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association in Lewisburg; and Shelbyville Mayor Geneva Smith. Moore County Executive Bill Thomas also spoke and served as master of ceremonies. "Obviously, we hate to see the museum leave Shelbyville, but it couldn't go to a better place," Smith said. "Lynchburg has been a good neighbor and the increase tourism will be good for the museum." Cherry, executive director of the Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association echoed Mayor Smith's comments. "I'm excited about the museum's move," he said on a warm spring day n this town that clings to its rural past like glue. "Literally thousands more people will be able to see it in Lynchburg." He cited federal government statistics showing Tennessee currently ranks third behind Texas and California in its equine population. "Texas ranks first and has about 600,000 head. California has 240,000 head and Tennessee has 190,000. That about blew my mind. "Kentucky, where the Kentucky Derby was run on Saturday, turns up about eighth." The horse industry in Tennessee has about $4.9 million in assets, including horses, barns and equipment, and $4.6 million in annual expenditures, Cherry noted. Garner, the Celebration chairman, said the museum is "just too beautiful not to be seen by more visitors." The museum was built in 1933 and dedicated to the entire Walking Horse industry. It tells the history of the industry from its humble beginnings to the present through pictures and actual clothing and artifacts. By moving approximately 15 miles down State Route 82 from Bedford to Moore County, the industry has taken another step in extending its "Hands Across The Community" program, that program seeks to string together all the small Middle Tennessee towns associated with the active development of the Tennessee Walking Horse as a breed. The industry began during the depression when hard times gave rise to several practical pastimes, including horse-related competitions. Since many families owned at least one horse, it naturally followed that the abilities and qualities of those horses would be a matter of discussion and occasional dispute. Horse racing had been a staple of county fairs and local trade days for years. But, these practical Middle Tennesseans were not ones to sacrifice endurance and a comfortable ride for speed. So, gradually a certain type of horse began to gain favor in the region of Nashville. That horse was sturdy, with strong legs and well-shaped feet. His back was short and his croup well defined, giving rise to the comfortable, ambling gait that was his most notable feature. This horse became the Tennessee Walking Horse. In 1935, a group of area residents interested in preserving, improving and promoting the animal established the Tennessee Walking Horse registry in Shelbyville. The Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association added even more status to the breed. It was in this atmosphere that the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was first conceived. It is now draws thousands of fans to Bedford County in the fall.
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