(Reprinted by permission of The Saddle Horse Report. https://www.saddlehorsereport.com )
The United Professional Horsemen's Association is pleased to award the 2020 UPHA Tom Moore Hall of Fame to Eddie B. Womble.
A special presentation was held Saturday at the Cleveland Tri-State Charity Horse Show in McDonald, TN. The horse show and UPHA Chapter 8/17 graciously hosted a reception in his honor.
A talented horseman, a pioneer, and a friend to many, Eddie B.
as he is known far and wide will now take his place among the industry greats.
Born just down the road on January 9, 1943, Eddie B's life was entwined with American Saddlebred horses from the beginning. When he was five years old his family moved to the Yates family's Pine Acres Stables in Flintstone, Georgia. Eddie B. soon started working in the barn alongside his brothers and their father, LeeAndrew Womble.
He attended his first horse show at age 9 with Jimmy Martin, whom Eddie B. worked for after school and during the summers. When he was 14, Ann and Tommy Yates reopened Pine Acres Stables and Eddie B started working horses and giving riding lessons. Pine Acres had a thriving lesson program and introduced many area children to American Saddlebreds. Amongst the children in the lesson program was Marion "Little Bit" Hutcheson. Her father, John L. Hutcheson, decided to indulge his daughter's love of horses.
In 1966, Mr. Hutcheson built a Saddlebred barn at Happy Valley Farm and hired Eddie B. Womble to his staff. Eddie B. had the honor of leading the first horses, world's champion Lily Merrill and her sire and dam, Indiana Peavine and Ensign's Fair Virginia, into the newly built barn. Other than six months of active duty in the National Guard, Eddie B. remained at Happy Valley Farm for the next 40 years, training countless champions, until his retirement in 2006. Eddie B's career at Happy Valley began in the colt barn. He remembers these happy days typically beginning with breeding 8 to 9 mares in the morning and then working colts the rest of the day. He had the opportunity to work alongside many outstanding horsemen and horsewomen, including Lloyd Teater, Sam Brannon, Bob Vessel, Nelson Green, Don Judd, Royce Cates, Bobby Gatlin, Dede Gatlin, Marilyn Macfarlane, Steve and Julia Joyce, Ray Yoder, David Kerger, Jack Magill, Jimmy Price, Frank Gray, Richard Lacy, and others.
When Don Judd left the Valley, Eddie B. moved from the colt barn to work in the show barn. There he assisted, in succession, Sam Brannon, Bob Vessel, Nelson Green, and Bobby Gatlin in establishing and maintaining Happy Valley's position as a major force in the American Saddlebred world.
The list of horses Eddie B. assisted in training includes such World and National Champions as Lily Merrill, Eyre Lad, Flavor Taste, Precious Princess, Sea Of Secrets, and Half Angel during the Brannon years; Virginia Wolfe, Happy Valley Treasure, Last Dance, Star Scene, and Ann Thompson during the Vessel years; Valley Venture, Contract's Tinker Toy, High Rise Spirit, Merchant Prince, More The Merrier, Enlightening and In Reality during the Green years; and Allege, Cary's Bold Dandy, and Callaway's New Look during the Gatlin years. Eddie B. assumed the position of the head trainer at Happy Valley in 1996 and continued the legacy with Grande Gil, Fortune, and I'm The Prince.
Eddie B. showed at the World's Championship Horse Show for the first time in 1972, placing third in the Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited division with Man of Fortune. He remembers Hall of Fame trainer, Redd Crabtree, helping him get to the ring. World's & Reserve World's Champions personally shown by Eddie B include Wild Luck, Hurricane Lane, Alluring, Priceless, Just My Luck, and Prediction.
Particularly adept at showing In Hand horses, Eddie B. was a fixture at the Kentucky, Tennessee, and Southeastern Futurities, leading many Happy Valley and client-owned colts to victory.
Breaking barriers, Eddie was one of the first of his race to show horses in the Southeast. He was the first black man to show at the Montgomery Horse Show. Riding Mary Jane Gregory's horse, Half Angel, he placed second to Sam Brannon and Princess Blanchita. Thirty-six years later he was inducted into the Southeastern Charity Horse Show Hall of Fame.
It is said if you love your job you never work a day in your life. Eddie B. truly loved riding and training horses, and the camaraderie amongst fellow horsemen. Blessed with natural ability, Eddie B. always remembered his father saying "it's all about the horse."
Former co-worker Nelson Green said, "I think everyone ever associated with Happy Valley agrees the farm would not have achieved and maintained its status without Eddie B. He was the glue that held it all together. Not only could he train a horse but he could fix any piece of equipment, put in hay all afternoon, and importantly, he could quickly change a tense atmosphere to laughter with his quick wit. I'm proud of what we accomplished at Happy Valley and proud to call him my friend."
Eddie B. would like to thank all the trainers, grooms and handlers he worked with who helped make this honor possible. He acknowledges the help and encouragement of Marty Mueller, Claude Shiflet, and Bud Willimon. He gives special recognition to Ann and Tommy Yates, owners of Pine Acres Stables, for recognizing the horsemanship and dedication of LeeAndrew Womble and his four boys: Jimmy, Eddie B., Chaudion, and Andrew.