Hoops & Horses: MCHS girl’s basketball coach wins big at The Celebration

MCHS girls basketball coach Chad Spencer and his wife, Scarlett, pose with Into the Badlands after their English Trail Pleasure Championship last Monday. He went on to place third overall in the Owner Amateur Novice Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. (Photo Provided)

As they called his name on Monday night at The Celebration, Moore County High School girls’ basketball head coach and horse enthusiast Chad Spencer admits he got a little emotional.

Spencer and his wife, Scarlett, won big this past week at the the annual Celebration in Shelbyville taking home Owner-Amateur Trail Pleasure Reserved Champion on Sunday night, English Trail Pleasure Champion on Monday night, and placing third in the Owner Amateur Novice Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship on Thursday night on their horse, Into the Badlands. It’s the first time Coach Spencer has taken home a Championship title from The Celebration.

“I’d been chasing that dream for awhile,” he says. “My wife and I really got serious about this four years ago. We’ve worked hard and to see it pay off felt special.”

Into the Badlands is a four year old gelding sired by World Champion NRA and a John F K Pusher mare. Though Coach Spencer and Scarlet train most of their horses themselves, Into the Badlands is actually trained by David Mast of Stonewall Farms.

“His barn name is Teddy because he’s such a teddy bear,” Coach Spencer says. “He looks like a teddy bear when he gets his winter coats on him. He’s not very big but he’s got a lot of heart. He’s very friendly and good with kids.”

In the shadow of The Celebration

Coach Spencer grew up in Bedford County watching his father work horses. Spencer’s dad died young in a horse-related accident and he used the Bedford County horse culture to keep him close. In middle school, his family moved to a neighborhood behind The Celebration grounds.

“To me, they might as well have moved me behind Walt Disney World,” Coach Spencer says. “I always followed the other trainers around learning everything I could, so I could feel a little closer to him. I’d hang out at the barns and work for anyone who was willing to teach me. I just tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could.”

Coach Spencer says The Celebration week was always his favorite week of the year as teenager.

“There was a time when horse owners, trainers, and staff would stay on The Celebration ground the entire horse show week and because we lived so close, I’d just walk across the street and offer to dog walk horses.”

Spencer says some of The Celebration legends like legendary Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Bud Dunn used to pay him $5 a horse to cool down his horses during the event. Dunn trained horses for over 40 years and won his first World Grand Championship at the age of 74 with Dark Spirit’s Rebel. At the time, he was the oldest rider to take home the honor.

“I’d always make a mental note of the horse’s name and after I finished walking him, I’d go watch their class and feel like I’d contributed.”

A life filled with hoops and horses

Though he’s thrilled to finally get a win at the world-famous horse show that happens in his own backyard, Coach Spencer says The Celebration is just one of the many horse shows he competes in each year. He also shows in Walking Horse Owner Association events and won an International Grand Championship at Miller Coliseum just a few weeks before his Celebration win.

“Hoops and horses … that what my wife and I do year round,” Coach Spencer explains. “Luckily basketball season and horse show season don’t overlap too much.”

Coach Spencer also recently showed at the MCHS Spotted Saddle Horse Show. (Photo Provided)

Now that he’s gotten a taste of victory, Coach Spencer says he’s already planning to show at the 2023 horse show.

“I’m hooked for sure now,” he jokes. “I finally got one. I think I’m going to encourage my wife to show next year as well. She rides and does very well. I showed her mare, Look What You Made Me Do, this year at the MCHS Spotted Saddle Horse Show Solid Best in Show Class and won.

In the end, Coach Spencer says his two loves aren’t all that different.

“Training a horse is just like training an athlete,” Coach Spencer says. “It’s just like coaching basketball. It’s all about pressure and release. When they are doing what you want them to do, you let them do it. When they need to adjust, you apply pressure. Both players and horses respond to pressure, that how you inspire their best.” •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently-owned, community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of The Jack Daniel Distillery. We focus on public service, non-partisan, rural journalism. We cover the Metro Moore County government, local tourism, Moore County schools, high school sports, Motlow State Community College, as well as whiskey industry news and regional and state stories that affect our readers.}