GoHorseShow is honored to have interviewed many people whose lives were touched by ultimate professional horseman, Timothy Beau Whitney, who passed away in his sleep on September 2, 2012. Born 60 years earlier in Santa Monica, California, Whitney's love for horses developed in the early years at his maternal grandfather's citrus and avocado ranch.
"I am the trainer I am today largely because of his guidance," says California native, Charlie Cole, who met his now business partner, Jason Martin, at Whitney Ranch. "He was tough but he put me on some of the best trail and western riding horses I have ever ridden."
Several top trainers and exhibitors in the industry worked or were
coached by Whitney. They are forever indebted to his ability to find
good horses for them to ride and show. This illustrious list includes Carol Metcalf, Charlie Cole, Jason Martin,
Vicky Holt, Shawn Hays, the Blecker sisters, Casey and April Devitt, Jason Wanderer, Erica Lang, Nancy Chapman, April Salisbury, Karen
Graham, Debbie Kail, Debbie Cooper, Patty Vatterott, Susie Hutchinson,
and Ellen Francisco.
Many of the top horses he was involved with include: Cue Stick,
Boogers Jewel, Tanquerey, Lucky Diamond Dell, Flashy Attraction, OK Im Zipped, Eras
Spectacular Zip, Barpassers Cody, After Eight, Ima Top Leaguer, Hyline
Jubilee, Shine My Zipper, and Cant Stay Zipped.
In his teen years, Whitney was known as an exceptional stock seat
equitation, cowhorse and trail rider, but at the age of 19, his life
changed forever when he was in a car accident that left him a
quadriplegic. Despite not having the use of his arms or legs, Whitney
became one of the most sought after coaches, instructors and mentors in
"Riding with Tim, I was able to witness what others viewed as a disability to actually be a great ability," says Jason Wanderer, who trained with him several years ago. "He would sit and watch every class at every show and watch and watch and watch from the first class of the day to the last. By watching, he was able to pick up on the most subtle nuances of horse and rider from approach to position to cues to clothes and dissect what worked and what did not," Wanderer reveals. "This detailed eye made him highly critical of his students. For Tim, there always could be a refinement or improvement no matter how good the go--which he was quick to point out even if you won. He always wanted you to know there was more work to be done in pursuit of perfection with his quintessential smirk on his face which means you did well."
Showing in California, everyone could always tell which kids trained with Whitney.
"I will always remember Tim at his ranch in Carpinteria– giving lessons to ten to 15 people at one time," says former rider for Whitney and AQHA judge, Casey Devitt. "His ranch reminded me more of a horse show, and he had an amazing eye for detail and matching horse and riders."
Close friend and trainer Nancy Cahill remembers that Tim could do more with words than the trainers that had the physical capabilities of riding and actually showing their clients.
"I will remember Tim as a wonderful horseman with a brilliant dry sense of humor," Cahill says. "I will also remember that he was a stickler for cleanliness and perfect grooming of his horses."
Trainer, judge, and show manager Larry Gimple from California remembers that he was often disgruntled when it came to Tim and his clients. "I kept asking him why his clients were so far ahead of mine and he told me that my time would come some day," Gimple says laughing. "I never saw his disability. I never saw his client's riding in the middle of the night like I did trying to fix problems. I just ended up resorting to buying his horses for my clients because they were more broke."
Former pupil, Erica Lang, remembers training for the Mac McCue Medal Finals, a highly coveted horsemanship class that was more important to Tim than most classes at major shows. The class was held at a huge open show in California and involved three days of very intricate horsemanship patterns.
"I remember training with the other girls for the class and Tim giving us these insane patterns that none of could remember. He would make us switch horses, ride for hours without stirrups, and being so exhausted both physically and mentally that I could barely function. However, all of that was worth it when Tim told us he was proud of us. His compliments meant the world to me," recalls Lang. "I would have blisters on my hands and feet and be so sore that my legs would spasm. He was a tough teacher but he truly cared about his students and their success. He made champions and left a lasting impression on everyone who was lucky enough to work with him."
Client and close friend Nancy Chapman started riding western horses again after an accident on a hunter horse paralyzed her temporarily. "We both bonded over our accidents, but I always wondered why me and not him--as far as being lucky and having the ability to recover from my accident," Chapman reveals. "I remember one of his techniques that I think helped people become skilled riders was that he would ask his riders questions, 'What did you think about your circles? or 'What did you think about your approach to those lope logs?' He helped his riders work it out themselves and become better riders because he didn't tell them or show them what to do. He was tough and told it like it was, but he made you want to be better."
Whitney was also very special to the Blecker girls. Former student Tricia Blecker says that he was a remarkable man, but he could be "snarkier" than anything and loved them with the same intensity as he drove them to strive for perfection--including lessons without a cinch to keep them in the middle of their saddles. Their relationship with Tim started with Tricia in 1975, Marcia in 1976 and Lala in 1978 with riding lessons on his retired show horses.
"If we had only known then what a privilege and honor that was that evolved into each of us having successful youth careers with him and Marcia coming back to work for him as his rider. We were a part of his family, and he ours with holidays, birthdays and trips to Lake Arrowhead in addition to the hundreds of horse shows," Tricia reveals. "Marcia was married at the Whitney Ranch and he gave Lala away at her wedding. He has been a proud Uncle Timmy to our children, provided us with a tremendous amount of opportunities and life lessons that we will forever remember. We are fortunate to have had him by our sides until his passing and will miss him terribly."
"Tim Whitney was my friend from an early age growing up showing on the
West Coast," says trainer and AQHA judge Debbie Kail. "I respected him
so much as he was the most beautiful western equitation rider I had ever
seen. He had a great eye for horseflesh and I will truly miss him. The
industry has lost a great member of our family."
Chapman mentions that even though he couldn't ride physically, Tim told her that he would ride in his dreams and school her horses in his sleep. Cahill adds, "I am glad he is now free to ride the best horses that Heaven has to offer."
Click here to view slideshow of pictures of Tim throughout the years. Thanks to Tricia Blecker and everyone else who provided these fabulous photos.
From Sandy Arledge:
Tim's place of operation was in the Santa Barbara area, and for years, he hauled 20 or more clients to Earl Warren Fairgrounds for the horse show. We felt it fitting, therefore, that he be honored at the upcoming FALL CLASSIC QUARTER HORSE SHOW...
A CELEBRATION OF LIFE TIM WHITNEY Saturday, September 15, 2012 Earl Warren Fairgrounds Santa Barbara, CA Celebration will begin at 5:30 or at the conclusion of the day's classes.
I was lucky enough to end my 10 year, very successful riding career with Tim of Timmy as I called him (which he hated, lol). I am so saddened to hear of his death and feel so unfortunate that I was unable to attend his memorial and pay tribute to a man that truly knew what riding horses was all about. I was 13- 15 and heading into some terrible teenage years when I rode with him, and he did NOT let me get away with anything. He pushed me to be the best I could be and I will always be grateful to him for that. The last time I visited him was about 15 or so yrs ago at the ranch. I stopped by on my way to SLO, he and I shared some laughter and memories, good and bad! I am a better person for knowing Tim and I have a love of horses, that I truly believe only he could understand.
As a teen in the 70's, My horse Wishful Thinking and I stayed a stretch at the Ranch. Always yearning to achieve more, Tim was tough, but fair with me, and I remember him telling me "honey, you'll never go far on Wishful, but you can certainly try!" Haa..well he even put me on ne of his horses so I could win my Medal Class one year. I moved on and out with my life, but never forgot Tim, and having started showing again in my later life, take with me principles (and strict grooming regiments!) that just helped me win some classes , plus Res. Halter champ this weekend as a matter of fact!...I will always remember you Tim, Ride On!
I was lucky enough to have been introduced to Tim Whitney by my good friend, Penny. Morgan, Penny's daughter also trained with Tim and is a beautiful rider even today. She can get on a horse and look like she never stopped riding.
Shortly after meeting Tim, I started training with him. As mentioned above, Tim was an incredible trainer and watched over all his clients at the shows. Tim was on the show grounds by 6:30 a.m. making sure everyone was ready for Showmanship. When we saw his golf cart coming everyone jumped so fast you would think someone was giving away trophies or money. It was Tim making sure we were all practicing and ready for the show pen.
Even though I was in training for a year, maybe a little more, I learned so much from Tim. Not just about riding but, hard work, getting it right. Tim was very particular about what his clients wore. How our horses were groomed, etc. Kathee also made sure our horses were perfect. We all stood out. Thank you so much Tim for giving me the chance to know you, train with you, have lunch and dinner with. Going over my trail patterns over and over again. Backwards and forward. And being a friend. I was so proud to be in training with you. Thank you so much.
I enjoyed the times visiting with you and your Mom, Pat, showing me all your photos, etc. The funny stories about Casio. Thank you so much for sharing a part of your life with me.
I will never forget you!
Kathee Zurian you were such a wonderful friend to Tim. I remember when you called before a show asking if I had my Navajo - I didn't know what in the world you were talking about. Of course, I do now.
I called Tim one day and while speaking with him he told me "Kathee is outside planting flowers". You were a true friend and I know how much you will miss him and how you loved him. I know he also loved you and thought of you as family.
The horse community will never be the same without the Tim Whitney The Legend. Tim you will never be forgotten
It is not often you have a chance to spend time with a person who inspires you everytime you are with them. I was so fortunate and blessed to have ridden with Tim for several years, and experience his generosity, kindness and wisdom whether I was on a horse or just sitting with him talking about life. He was an extraordinary teacher, friend and horseman to countless people. He touched my life and made me not only better rider, but better human being for just spending time with him. He gave everyone courage, hope and desire to live with greatness in our souls. My condolences to his family and friends. It is a great loss, but his spirit will remain in the hearts of those who loved him.
I was so blessed to have a lovely visit with Tim in August 2010 when he came to watch Nancy and Ellen ride at the Pink Championship circuit in Burbank. That was the last time I saw time, and although his wicked sense of humor was still strong, there was a real "sweetness" I had never seen before. We reminisced about the "old days" on California PCHJ&SHA open circuit, and talked about great horses, showing both in the past and currently. I had hoped to run into him again sometime soon, and am so very sorry to hear of his passing. It is a great loss, he was a "once in a lifetime" horseman, and a truly kind human being. My condolences to his family, and to Nancy and Ellen who both loved him so.
I've known Tim since before his accident, when he was the most incredible show rider I had ever seen.I was in awe of him on his many gorgeous horses. Then after the accident to watch how he handled everything with such class. I've been to his ranch many times over the years and watched him in action. He was truly a special man and in incredible horseman, on or off a horse. He will be missed in this industry..