Photo by Tayhlor Stephenson / Lifestyles Editor
Story by Kristen Brothers / Contributing Writer
It’s the ride of all rides in the small town of Shelbyville, Tennessee.
As Saturday night slowly gives rise to Sunday morning, a crowd made up of people from across the nation fills with enthusiasm leading up to the crowning of a new World Grand Champion. It’s a tradition like no other.
Each horse and its rider enter the ring, and they are all riding for that final spotlight ride, decorated with the coveted blue ribbon and floral horseshoe. The moment is complete with a light organ melody and announcer Mark Farrar echoing, “Let ‘em walk on. Riders, call on your championship horses, and show ‘em at a running walk!”
The atmosphere is electric. It’s not just a horse show, it is the World Grand Championship for the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration. It’s a special night for everyone in attendance, but no more so for competitor and MTSU alum Bill Callaway.
“I’m a Middle Tennessee grad and a hometown Shelbyville guy that maybe has a chance to bring the World Grand Championship title right back home,” Callaway said.
The two-time Three Year Old World Grand Champion looks to add the title of Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion to his resume tonight.
Callaway graduated from MTSU with a degree in agriculture business. And for him, the choice to attend MTSU was pretty simple.
“I had always been over there (at MTSU) and showed horses on campus growing up, and it was always a dream of mine to attend college there,” Callaway said. “It is close to my hometown here in Shelbyville, (and I am a fan) of MTSU football and basketball.”
With an agriculture business degree in hand, Callaway was faced with many potential job opportunities post-graduation. However, being a Shelbyville native, Callaway couldn’t quite escape the family tradition: training walking horses.
And because he resides in the Walking Horse Capital of the World, the Celebration provides him with ample opportunities to capitalize on his degree.
Although he didn’t start training until his degree was completed, the Celebration has always played a huge role in Callaway’s life.
“I was born into it,” Callaway said with a chuckle. “My dad’s been training horses since 1973, and I grew up watching him, and then my brother went to training, and as soon as I got out of college, I stepped in and went to training with them. I was born and raised in the horse business.”
The Celebration is invaluable to Bedford County and the city of Shelbyville, but it doesn’t only affect the small walking horse town.
“Not only Shelbyville, but a lot of other communities benefit as well,” Callaway said. Murfreesboro included — it supplies a whole lot of jobs.”
Despite the Celebration fighting restrictions by government-appointed laws, (last year’s show was said to be the final time a World Grand Champion would be crowned,) the famous horse show stands strong.
“A lot of horses showing. Our numbers are up,” Callaway said. “We’re having a top year in the horse industry, and I think (tonight) could be one of the biggest nights we’ve had in a long time.”
But Callaway is also hoping tonight will be a show he’ll never forget for another reason. When the crowd stands to welcome the World Grand Championship Class, Callaway won’t be watching. Instead, he’ll be showing his three-time World Champion, “Gen’s Black Maverick.”
The horse and trainer pair won the A Division Age Stud Qualifying Class last Saturday night at the Celebration and were also Reserved Grand Champions in the World Grand Championship last year. The stage is set, and it’s Callaway’s for the taking.
“I feel he has a strong chance at winning,” Callaway said of his beloved horse.
Callaway will ride alongside his brother, John Allan Callaway, who will be competing on “Jose’s Cold Chills,” the winner of the Reserve Champion Spot in the Qualifying B Division Class last Saturday night, which adds another special detail to the night.
Whatever happens, though, the Callaways are a team.
“I am very blessed with the opportunity to work with my father and my brother,” Callaway said. We’re a team deal, and I can’t do one thing without those guys. It’s not an ‘I,’ it’s a ‘we’ deal, and for me to be in the situation I’m in has a great deal to do with what they’ve done for me.”
“It’s a hard challenge and you got to have a lot of luck and a lot of support, and maybe I can pull it off,” said Callaway.
Tonight’s show will begin at 7 p.m. at the Celebration Grounds in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Onsite tickets will be available to purchase at the gate.
To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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