A Grand Tradition

Updated: May 30, 2019


A family tradition of showing horses continues with Alcorn Central High School students Lilly Beth Harville.

For Lilly Beth Harville, horses are a family affair, and the 17-year-old Alcorn Central High School student has proven to be quite the natural at showing them.

She recalls first becoming interested in horses after watching her grandfather and her mother ride.

“When I was 10, I had a brown horse named Booger, and he was the sweetest baby,” Lilly Beth said.

The bond Lilly Beth formed with her first horse was just the beginning of the awe and respect she has for these incredible animals. Since then, she has begun showing horses and has won numerous awards with her 8-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse named The American Patriot.

Though the excitement of the competitions is memorable, especially the rush from winning the roses in the Big Oval and hearing the crowd cheer, nothing trumps the bond she has created with her horse.

“Whenever I first saw him, I knew that we were going to be a good match together,” Lilly Beth said. “He would nudge me or put his head on me and the first show I did with him, we won.”

Like most high school students, Lilly Beth spends her days split between school and an after school job, but she spends her weekends training at Leatherwood Farm in Tennessee, where The American Patriot is stabled. After many weekends and countless hours training and preparing for competition, Harville chooses a new vest color and design for herself, and a new brow band for her horse, and heads out to pursue another round of championships.

For riders, a typical Tennessee Walking Horse show day includes time spent in the training ring, mounting the horse, and riding for the judges. The judges’ scores are based on the horse’s high step in the front, low squat in the back, and the presentation and poise of the rider.

“I’m excited when I enter the ring,” Lilly Beth said. “It’s like this rush of energy comes over me, and any bit of nervousness that I had in me disappears and it’s just me and my horse. It’s a good feeling, especially when you win and everyone knows your name.”

Lilly Beth has competed in close to 50 shows, but she thinks the most exciting is the World Grand Championship in Shelbyville, Tennessee, “the Walking Horse Capital of the World.”

“My most memorable show was my first World Grand Championship because it’s the first time I won roses in the big oval with my new horse,” Lilly Beth said.

The World Grand Championship takes place during the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, now in its 81st year. The event marks the culmination of the show season, which runs from spring through the end of summer. The Celebration is 11 days long, with show days lasting from early morning to midnight. Two years in a row, Lilly Beth and The American Patriot have taken home both the preliminary World Championship as well as the top award of World Grand Championship in their class (riders 15-17 on mares or geldings).

Fortunately for Lilly Beth, most of her competition days end with a victory lap, and she hopes to continue that tradition this year at the Grand and World Grand competitions.

“The most I’m looking forward to is if I win the big championship this year,” Lilly Beth said. “That will be my third World Grand Championship, and I will get all the trophies retired to me.”

This year’s Celebration takes place Aug. 21-31 in Shelbyville. And although she’s a repeat champion already, Lilly Beth said her show career is just beginning.

“I plan to continue showing until hopefully I get a family of my own to carry the tradition on,” she said.

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