Seldom in the history of any breed has a horse come upon the scene who caused as much interest, controversy and discussion as did the incomparable JOHNNY MIDNIGHT; a Tennessee Walking Horse of rare ability and merit. Johnny, as he was affectionately known by his many fans, died on March 20, 1969.  This is his story.

Johnny Midnight first came on the scene as the heralded full brother of Sun's Delight D., 1963 World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse. He came close on his brother's heels and attracted much acclaim as a three-year-old with trainer Neal 'Shorty' Branscum riding him.  He climaxed the season tying ninth in both the Class and the Junior Stake in 1963.

'Shorty' had also ridden Sun's Delight as a junior horse and in many people's minds, he had come up with an even better horse with Johnny. Speculation grew as the merits of this fine black stallion, by the great Midnight Sun, and out of the famous Wilson Snip's Chance. He was bigger than his illustrious brother, and he was black. In 1964, still in training with 'Shorty' Branscum, and owned by Dean and Beckler, he was shown sparingly. By Celebration time there was growing interest and he was given close scrutiny by a lot of horsemen, as he was ridden to tie third in the Aged Stallion Class (then four years old and over) and fifth in the Championship Stake.

By spring of 1965, the word was out that Johnny Midnight had been purchased by Gribble and Eaton of McMinnville, Tennessee, and had been placed in training with Sam Paschal of Murfreesboro. Sam, rider of three Celebration Grand Champions including Sun's Delight, appeared to be the logical prospect for Johnny Midnight. They were a perfect team and all observers had them billed as incomparable. Johnny Midnight appeared on the cover of VOICE in April of 1965 in full color - the first time a Tennessee Walking Horse had been promoted on such a grand scale.

As the season developed, so did 'the saga of Johnny Midnight". In his usual manner of showmanship, Mr. Paschal worked the big black stallion in secret. Reports stated that Sam carried Johnny to his farm every morning at five o'clock and worked him in the early morning silence and darkness. We were privileged to receive a personal invitation to see him work one morning, and were dumbfounded. Johnny Midnight was fat and slick and worked with the ease of a well-oiled machine. We had never seen a horse work so well or do as much as he did that morning in a pair of small boots. He moved with enthusiasm and carried his head high. His flat foot walk was big and bold, and his running walk... well, you had to see it to believe it!

Johnny Midnight was tied third in the Aged Stallion Class in 1965, and was Reserve behind the great Triple Threat in the Grand Championship at the Celebration that year. Sam Paschal and his owners were not to be denied, however, and they embarked upon a program aimed at 1966. For a horse that cost a figure reported to be in excess of $50,000, Johnny Midnight was naturally of some concern to many of his supporters.

In late 1966, Johnny Midnight was put into training with Elmore Brock of Sparta, Tennessee, who showed him successfully in late season shows. Shortly thereafter, he was placed at the Vic Thompson Stables with Mack Motes training and riding him.

What happened in 1966 is history. He won the Aged Stallion Class on Thursday night, and came back to tie fifth in the Celebration stake, a long way behind Shaker's Shocker.  Many observers state that he had reached his peak too early in the year.  Others say he was always over-rated. He was a mystery to Walking Horse enthusiasts.  Reportedly, he was heavy and had to have a special diet.  Other reports say that he had a 'mouth and foot' problem.  No one really knows except the men who rode and showed him.

Throughout 1967, Mack Motes showed Johnny Midnight almost every time the gate opened. He won a lot and lost a few, giving rise to the speculation that he would again be a contender for Celebration honors. Always a controversial horse, he was placed by one judge in the workout with the culls, and was worked only one way of the ring, in order to beat him. He was tied seventh. The week later, he defeated some of the top contenders in 1967.

At the Celebration that year, he tied fifth in the class and third in the stake with Mack Motes riding for Larry and Clinton Gribble of McMinnville, Tennessee. He had been there before, and the crowd felt a little remorse for their beloved Johnny Midnight. Watching him stride around the ring, making every effort to compete, one could not help but be reminded of some of the heroes of the sports world who 'stayed too long'.

In 1968, Johnny Midnight was retired to stud at the Stallion Stables in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He was a popular breeding horse and attracted much attention from Walking Horse breeders. Toward the end of the year, barn talk had picked up the rumor that he had been repossessed by his original owner, A. S. Dean.

In February of that year, it was reported that he was to be put up for public auction on the square in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. A crowd showed up, but the horse wasn't there.

There is still much confusion as to what actually happened with regard to the ownership of Johnny Midnight from 1965 until 1969. How much was paid by whom and to whom, we do not know. Whether he was repossessed, we do not know. We do know that he died in obscurity on the farm of A. S. Dean in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on March 20, 1969 of a twisted intestine.

And so ends the 'saga of Johnny Midnight', one of the most discussed and perhaps most misunderstood horses of this or any other era.  A lot of people tried.  Johnny tried!   It just wasn't meant to be.

If you wish to print off this pedigree, click HERE to load a black and white copy.
If you have a story or photos of Johnny Midnight  that you would like added to this page, 
please forward them to Walkers West.


Site Meter