A Daughter Keeps her Daddy's
McGee. Sunday, September 3, 2017. Reprinted with permission.)
Sixty years ago, Vic Thompson was set to ride Sun’s Jet Parade in
the World Grand Championship on the Saturday night of the
Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, but during the night
before the black stallion decided to give an early preview.
“We lived on the Tullahoma Highway and rented a barn from S.W.
Beech that was located where the Duck River Electric Company is
now,” Vic’s daughter, Kathy Thompson, recalled. “The night before
he won the stake we got a call and someone said, `Vic, we think
your good black stud is running up and down the highway. Daddy got
up and went and got him. Someone had let him out of the stall.”
Thompson and Sun’s Jet Parade would win the “big stake” in 1957.
It would be the only time he would ride a winner to the roses and
the world title.
Night to remember
“I was seven years old and that was the night of my seventh
birthday,” Thompson said. “My birthday is Sept. 7. Daddy’s
birthday was Sept. 1. Mother’s was Aug. 22 so we kind of had them
“I can remember Sun’s Jet Parade was black. I remember Daddy made
an excellent show. I remember Daddy showed him back the next year,
and Mother told him not to do it, and of course he got beat. You
win a few. You lose a few.”
In 1969, Marvin Wilson, who was training with Thompson at the
time, guided Ebony’s Senator to the World Grand Championship in
Some of the other trainers who worked for Thompson during their
careers are Joe Martin, Allan Callaway, Dude Crowder, Mack Motes
and Jack Johnson.
“They all did a good job,” Kathy said. “I am leaving so many of
them out, but they all did what they had to do and they all made a
good living working for Daddy.”
Despite being involved with two World Grand Champions, neither
horse was considered Vic’s favorite.
“If my Daddy was sitting here talking to you he would say Mr.
Sensation, a gelding, was the greatest horse he ever had his legs
over,” Kathy said. “He was awesome.”
Vic helped start the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association, but his
legacy would be the large number of juvenile and amateur riders he
worked with and trained.
“Daddy was known for his amateur and juvenile riders,” Kathy said.
“That is the way I want him to be remembered.
“He was a very good teacher. To teach us to be balanced on a horse
he took the stirrups away from us. You learned to grip real hard
from your knees up.”
Judy Tillett Young, Deedy Decker, Burt Daugette, Ann Daugette,
Kathy and her sister Vickie Lynn, Shirley Schleicher and Juanita
Darby are just some of the riders who collected world titles
through the guidance of Thompson.
“Daddy was not a selfish person,” Kathy said. “A lot of people
thought he was. A lot of people didn’t like him. And that was
Kathy points to the rules of the barn that Thompson made sure
“The rules were the rules,” Kathy said. “If you worked for him you
got there at 7 a.m. and worked until 4 with an hour off for lunch.
When he was ready to leave to go to a show you better be ready to
go. He wasn’t going to wait.
“When you came out to the barn to ride your horse you didn’t wear
shorts. You didn’t go into the show ring chewing gum. You didn’t
go into the show ring with your hair hanging down. He would
whistle from the box if we were doing anything wrong. And when he
would whistle you better be listening.”
She credits riders strictly adhering to those rules as one of the
reasons they were so successful.
It would take some time before Kathy decided to ride.
“I had a horse fall on me as I was sitting and watching the
Wartrace Horse Show,” Kathy said. “In the box seats back then they
would spread out blankets for the kids to sit on.
“I think it was Ed Carothers who came around the corner and slid
into us. I was around 5 or 6. After that you couldn’t get me on a
I dare you
One day, during her freshman year of high school, Kathy walked
into the barn which was then located on the Unionville Highway and
Deedy Decker dared her to ride a horse.
“I was in high school then and you didn’t dare me,” Kathy said.
“Daddy was on the phone and someone went into his office and told
him, `Vic, Kathy is riding’. Daddy said, ‘I’ve got to hang up.’
After that they couldn’t keep me off them.”
Nothing was easy for Vic and his wife, Marilyn, as they started
their walking horse business. In addition to a training facility
they also operated an extensive breeding operation.
“When we first got here to Shelbyville we didn’t have anything,”
Kathy said. “Mother and Daddy worked hard for every penny and
everything they owned.
“It was hard for them. But they succeeded and did well. I was
lucky to be raised the way I was.”
Kathy has not ridden competitively in a couple of decades, but she
is seriously considering a return to the ring.
“I have only won one Celebration blue ribbon and that was on a
horse named Air Gun,” Kathy said. “I just went into the ring to
have a good time and ended up winning the class.
“It might be time to see if I can still ride. The last person to
put me on a horse was Ernest Upton who was working for Marvin
Wilson at the time. I don’t have the confidence I used to have. I
am sure it is like riding a bicycle, but I want to make sure I can
do what I am supposed to do. Once it is in you, it stays in you.”