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TWHBEA World Versatility Championships:


Shawnee Stewart

Bullet's Surefire Shake
By Allison Armstrong Rehnborg

People value the Tennessee Walking Horse for its smooth gaits, but Tennessee’s favorite breed is capable of much more. On July 25-28, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) World Versatility Championships showed that Walking Horses can run barrels, weave poles, rein, and even jump with the best of them.
“Walking Horses are a very versatile breed,” said Sarah Gee, copy and features editor for The Voice, TWHBEA’s magazine. “A lot of people don’t realize that, but they were originally bred to be versatile. Trail obstacles are great for showing their temperament. Things like reining show their agility. Barrels and poles show off their speed.”

TWHBEA’s Versatility Championships debuted in 1998 as a one-day show, designed for riders to showcase the versatility of their flat-shod Tennessee Walking Horses. Over the years, the show has expanded from one day to three days, and this year marked the highest number of entries yet.

“This is the biggest one we’ve had,” confirmed Kristen Stegall, marketing and programs coordinator for TWHBEA. “We are 60 entries over what we’ve ever had before. Last year, we had 557, and this year, we were at 630. That’s a huge increase, and we only hope to get bigger. We had a lot of new exhibitors come that hadn’t before, and they said they will be back.”

Held at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Tenn., the Championships offered nearly 60 classes, ranging from dressage to western dressage to hunter hack and beyond. Throughout the weekend, horses and riders could be found performing nearly every kind of feat, including egg and spoon races, catalogue races, pole bending, barrel racing, and driving.

Shawnee Stewart, a 12-year-old exhibitor from Centerville, Tenn., competed with her neighbor’s horse, Bullet’s Surefire Shake, a black 20-year-old Walking Horse gelding. Bred, raised, and owned by Mary Beth Pruett, “Bullet” has earned the title of TWHBEA Supreme Versatility Champion, which means he has completed TWHBEA’s Versatility Program. He has also earned a Register of Merit Versatility Championship through the Walking Horse Owners’ Association.

“He’s done everything, from jumps to driving a cart to reining, trail, English, and Western,” Pruett explained proudly.
While Bullet and Stewart have only been riding together for two years, they placed first in the pole bending, barrel racing, and catalogue racing for the youth-11-and-under division.

“The show’s been going really, really good,” Stewart said. “I’ve had fun, and he’s won a lot with me.”

The show concluded with high point awards for various divisions. In the youth 11-and-under division, Patricia Crisp took top honors with Heavenly Vision. For youth 12 to 17, Morgan Hodge won with Count On Spirit O’Three. The amateur high point award went to Jennifer Batts on My Sophia, while Jessica Schultz and Shesa Summer Breeze took the professional high point award. In the elite division, for competitors over 60, Julie Clare won with My Yankee Doodle Dandy. Jennifer Batts and My Sophia were also the overall high point winners.

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