Reference: Shaker's Shocker

Shaker's Shocker
Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration at Shelbyville, Tennessee. "Betty Sain with 'Shaker's Shocker,' a 1966 Celebration Grand Champion."

Shocker of a Lifetime
by Franne Brandon, Petersburg, Tennessee

This story was first printed in the April 2012 Canadian Walking Horse News and later in the Heritage Highlights Magazine

Shakers Shocker 1975It was September 3, 1966, and the darkened arena at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration grounds in Shelbyville, Tennessee, heralded the moment when the judges’ cards would reveal the new World Grand Champion. As the spotlights flashed on, announcer Emmett Guy’s voice reverberated with the traditional monologue “And the 1966 Grand Champion of the World is number 35…..” The roar that went up from the crowd drowned out the rest of the announcement, words that marked the culmination of a feat not duplicated within competition in the Tennessee Walking Horse breed from the 1939 blue ribbon win by Strolling Jim to 2011. The story began almost twenty-three years before the championship competition. On November 20, 1942, in Manchester, Tennessee, a baby girl was born to Henry Pearl and Virginia Wright Sain. The Sains named their new daughter Elizabeth Faye. Three years later, the family moved from Manchester to Bell Buckle, a small town in a rural area of Bedford County, Tennessee. Having grown up in a small town in the forties, Elizabeth Faye, now known as Betty, recorded her memories in a hand-written, as yet unpublished, journal. She writes “Growing up in the 1940’s was a lot different than the life of today. Radio was your source of news, and word of mouth, and newspapers. We had an eight party telephone line, and each had their own number of rings. It was before TV.”

She also writes “The big Saturday night treat was to go to Manchester, to see Gene Autry and Roy Rogers movies, while the parents visited with Grandmother Sain. My brother and I would fuss and fight over who was King of the Cowboys. I was Gene Autry and Champion, Gal – even named my special filly of Polly, a black and white pony, Champion. However, Brother insisted that Roy and Dale and Trigger were the best – so many debates which did not ever get a compromise from either of us. Riding all over the farm, and creeks, and hills were the greatest way to grow and dream. Riding on the backs of my steeds gave great learning and confidence. Each and every animal taught you some things to remember. You could ride the roads to neighbors, or town, or kinfolks, and the people in the vehicles respected animals on the road.” (Journal,”Forward”)

In that much simpler time, she recalls that “Fairs and horse shows were real social events all over our areas”, and that “People would go on a Ridea-Thon and prided their horse, and dress, and picnicked.” The times changed, however, and by the late fifties, the main avenue for use of the Tennessee Walker was the show ring. The Sain family had a select group of walking horses at this time. In the spring of1962, Pearl Sain and Betty learned that Tom Barham of Lewisburg, Tennessee, had bred his Hunter’s Allen linebred mare named My Darling to Mack K’s Handshaker.

They greatly admired Handshaker as an individual, and so My Darling’s foal was “spoken for well in advance to his foaling.” Breeder Barham registered as Handshaker’s Nodder, and the youngster went to his new home in Bell Buckle in October of 1962. Betty, however, did not particularly like the colt’s name. She states emphatically that “Handshaker’s Nodder did not suit him. He was too regal. And he did it.” – that exemplary loose and flashy movement that people looked for in that era in a show prospect. Betty changed the colt’s official name in the TWHBEA records from Handshaker’s Nodder 621314 to Shaker’s Shocker.

Many fine youngsters by Mack’s K’s Handshaker, the 1960 World Grand Champion, were successful in the show ring in the sixties. What set Shaker’s Shocker in a class by himself was his lifestyle. When Shocker was coming two, he was not sent to any of the trainers in the area in preparation for two year old competition. Betty Sain herself started Shocker under saddle, and trained the colt for two year old classes. He had a successful show season as a two year old. On June 6, 1964, he placed third at the Baxter Show in Cookeville, Tennessee. Although he failed to earn a ribbon at the Goodletsville show on June 19th, he took first at the prestigious Wartrace show on August 1, and a week later, earned another blue in Geraldine, Alabama.

In 1965, when Shocker was three, all three year old horses were still considered Junior Horses in the show ring. They were required to canter, but not compete with the Aged Horses that were four and over. Shocker also had a very bright junior season in 1965. Starting on May 21st, he received first place at Lewisburg,. On June 29, at Lafayette, he got fifth. On August 6, at the highly regarded Belfast show, he earned another blue ribbon. After placing fifth in the junior stallion preliminary, his Celebration competition culminated in winning the Reserve World Championship at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, with owner-trainer Betty in the irons for this significant victory. In the past, holding the title of Junior World Champion or Reserve Junior World Champion walking horse marked these youngsters as major figures to be watched in competition the following spring when the first gates opened for Aged Walking Horse competition.

The rules changed before the first shows of 1966, however. For the first time, in 1966, all four year old horses were considered “Junior Horses”. Shocker and his foal crop would compete yet another year as junior horses, and not be required to compete with the older, more experienced animals. The former junior horses would now be exhibited in classes for three year olds, and not required to canter. Instead of being an important contender for World Grand Championship honors, Shocker became a leader in the race to be crowned the first Four Year Old Junior World Champion.

Shaker's ShockerWhatever the goal, however, Betty Sain approached his training in the same way. She explains that to train a champion, one must “start with a good horse. Then it is patience and common sense. He was a big, powerful horse.” Even as a four year old, Shocker had height, size, and bone. Betty took advantage of his strength and determination to fully condition the big stallion with workouts six days a week. She recalls “our workouts were an hour and a half, at least, ...in a great, big, open field.” Since the show shoeing for the sixties was much smaller and tidier than the stacks wore by show walkers in the 21st century, Shaker’s Shocker could readily travel through weeds and over small rocks while maintaining balance and that wonderful four beat rhythm. Sain emphasizes “He was never in a ring except at a horse show.” Over time, the black stallion developed a powerful way of going and the stamina to produce this show gait far longer than other contenders whose shorter workout times generally involved circles of a practice ring or trips up and down a barn aisle.

 As the Celebration competition began in on Friday, August 26, 1966, the shock of the show proved to be not only the horse’s name but his management as well. Betty Sain had elected not to exhibit Shaker’s Shocker at any of the one night shows that served as precursors to the Celebration. She realized as others also did that one judge’s opinion at a show in May or June could adversely affect the big horse’s status when he was entering the ring in August. When the class for Junior Stallions was announced on Wednesday night, August 31st, an untested Shaker’s Shocker entered the ring with the other four year old stallions, and emerged with the blue (1st place) ribbon and the silver. He became the favorite horse to win the Junior World Championship, to be held two nights later, on Friday, September 2 nd. That was when owner/trainer Sain made a second “shocking” decision, to withhold her big black from the junior championship and to pay the larger entry fee for the World Grand Championship on Saturday night, for which they had qualified, according to Celebration rules, by winning the Junior Stallion blue ribbon.

Shaker's ShockerIt was standing room only, all boxes, reserved seats and general admission seats filled, when the contenders for the 1966 World Grand Championship entered the Celebration arena on the night of September 3rd. Sain was competing against other well-known black stallions, winner of the Aged Stallion class Johnny Midnight and that class’s reserve champion Go Boy’s Royal Heir. Also in contention were Duke’s Handyman, trained by Hershell Talley, and Go Boy’s Sundust, shown by Bud Dunn. The bright bay Go Boy’s Chatterbox was also among the horses that made the final cut to the workout. When the dust settled after three grueling workouts and the roars of the crowd settled to the expectant silence preceding the announcer’s change from conversation to class results, the lights darkened, the spotlights swept the ring, and it was Betty Sain and Shaker’s Shocker, only a four year old but obviously in charge in terms of strength, stamina, and ability, who were announced as the winners. At the time, Betty was twenty three years old, the second youngest rider to win the World Grand Championship, and the first woman to ride for the roses. Only two other women, Judy Martin Wiser and Vicky Self, both professional trainers, have ever duplicated her success in the ensuing years.

Betty Sain chose to not retire Shaker’s Shocker the year following his historic victory. She continued to campaign him throughout the Southeast until his formal retirement ceremony in Montgomery, Alabama, at the Southern Championships, in 1970. While his first foal crop had arrived in 1969, in 1971, Shocker was no longer in show training, but focused on a new career in the stud. The times in the seventies were changing, though, and unlike many of her contemporaries, Betty Sain, ever a woman of vision, recognized the importance of these changes and adapted her mission to embrace them and a new outlook for the Tennessee Walking Horse breed she loved so well. To be continued…..

Sources – interview with Betty Sain on February 29, 2012 Sain, Betty. Journal. The Nashville Banner, Celebration coverage, 1966 (author’s scrapbook)

http://pleasuregaits.com/images/Heritage_Highlights/July%202012%20Heritage%20Highlights.pdf

Shaker's Shocker 

shaker's shocker

TWHBEA #621314
born: 6/05/1962
DieD: 10/13/1981

COLOR: black
markings: none
MACK K'S HANDSHAKER
TWHBEA #561320
COLOR: BLACK
MARKINGS: STAR
Click here for more information!
MIDNIGHT MACK K.
TWHBEA #490450
COLOR: CHESTNUT
Click here for more information!
MIDNIGHT SUN
TWHBEA #410751
COLOR: BLACK
Click here for more information!
PANOLA
TWHBEA #390027 COLOR: SABINO
MARKINGS: FOUR STOCKINGS, NEAR   JAW, BALD.
DEEP PURPLE
TWHBEA #411908
COLOR: BLACK
MARKINGS: OFF HIND FETLOCK, STAR.
TROUBLE
TWHBEA #370306
COLOR: CHESTNUT
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BLACK NANCY MC.
TWHBEA #441895
COLOR: BLACK
MARKINGS: FOUR FETLOCKS, STAR, SNIP.
MY DARLING
TWHBEA #510526
COLOR: CHESTNUT
MARKINGS: STAR
ROOSTER ALLEN
TWHBEA #480426
COLOR: CHESTNUT
MARKINGS: NEAR HIND SOCK, STAR.
WHITE LIGHTNING
TWHBEA #370059
COLOR: SABINO
MARKINGS: FOUR STOCKINGS, BALD,   WHITE MANE AND TAIL.
ALLEN'S MABEL
TWHBEA #360142
COLOR: GREY
MARKINGS: SNIP
EULA DARLING
TWHBEA #443368
COLOR: CHESTNUT
MARKINGS: STAR, MIXED MANE AND TAIL.
MAUREY ALLEN
TWHBEA #380010
COLOR: CHESTNUT
MARKINGS: SNIP
ESTELLE DARLING
TWHBEA #400411
COLOR: BAY
MARKINGS: OFF HIND CORONET

 


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