AMHA Golden Reins Award

I have nominated Tim & Shirley O’Gorman for the Golden Reins Award.  The nomination had to be accompanied by an essay of 400 words or less.  I had a hard time reining in (no pun intended) my enthusiasm, so I would like to share the uncut version with the Above Level community.

                It’s All About the Horses and Their People

They were born with the passion.  Proximity made it Morgan horses.  Fate brought them together.  Love and mutual respect made them a team.


Separately and together, Tim and Shirley O’Gorman having been training horses, supporting the Morgan breed, and parenting young grooms for long enough to be eligible for this award.  They are trainers who epitomize integrity, honesty, and professional ethics. They work to model and enhance the Morgan industry, and they have a deep respect, care, and love for their people.

Tim started as a kid in his backyard (Adirondack State Park) in Colton, NY, buying, training, and selling horses with his grandfather’s support and advice.  That experience, with any horse he could get his hands on, taught him to treat every horse as an individual with its own particular strengths and weaknesses.  Living in upstate New York, not far from the Vermont border, he naturally came into contact with Morgan horses.  While still in high school he spent a summer learning from the venerable Fred Herrick.  He later gave up a full academic scholarship to Cornell University to attend college at the University of Vermont.  While at UVM he participated in programs at the Morgan Farm where, as a senior student, he won the annual yearling colt contest with Helicon Hermes.  The contest was judged by Dr. Paquette who was very impressed with Tim’s talent and encouraged him to pursue his passion.  This association, through Dr. Paquette’s daughter Conky, led Tim to Carousel Farms in Bellevue, OH where he had the opportunity to work with and show some of the great Morgan champions of the seventies.

Shirley’s first horse was a Christmas pony that she hopped right on and rode around the kitchen table at 4 years of age.  Growing up, she spent as much time as possible at her Uncle Jim Stewart’s Lookaway Farm where she spent summers riding and showing many of his horses.  Her natural athletic talent gave her the ability to “stick” on just about anything, although she says that back then, even though she would jump on anything (much like that Christmas pony) she frequently ended up on the ground.  Now she does it differently.  During that time, Shirley worked with “old” Tom Butler who was training for Lookaway Farm, and later with George Knight, with whom Jim had horses in training.  After graduating high school, she gave up an athletic scholarship to college to learn to become a horse trainer.  Her education led her to Carousel Farm, where Tim & Shirley fell in love, although neither one seemed to know it at the time.

After Carousel, Tim moved on to Roy-El Morgan Farm in New Mexico as the Trainer where he came into contact with the Fu family and coached Ling Fu to the AMHA Gold Medal for Saddleseat Equitation.  From there he moved to Brentwood, IL and created O’Gorman Stables where he started and made the horses Brentwood Baccardi, Bracelet, Lady Magic, and Brentwood Alicia.  After the untimely death of their owner resulted in their dispersal, those horses went on to win Regional and World titles. 

In 1982 Tim made sure that Shirley would be attending the Trophy’s Jade bash at Cedar Creek Farm and proposed to her in front of Serenity Fleetwing’s stall.  They were married the very next month.  They set up housekeeping and started their career as a team.  As trainers, it is all about the horses and their people.  Over the years they have trained for novelist Kathleen Woodiweiss, the Reverend Dr. Sandra Brown, Las Vegas businessman John Lonetti, plumbing magnate Herb Kohler, and noted designer Don Arhar, as well as for a host of friends you have probably never heard of.

They are patient and giving with all of their horses and clients, and they are always generous with their time, their talent, and their money. Whether it’s an untouched yearling or an aged rehab project, or whether it’s the most experienced or the least experienced, yet passionate, amateur owner, they are supportive of their horses and clients in all of the most important ways. They do everything from listening to the trials of parenting teenagers, to dealing with non-horsey husbands, to being right at your side with everything you do with your horse.  As a client, you have the freedom to participate as much or as little as you like, and they do the rest.  In the show ring, you always have one of them at each end of the ring, telling you exactly what you need to hear.

Tim and Shirley were molded as trainers by the likes of Bob and Judy Whitney, Fred and Jeanne Herrick, Owen Price, Tom Butler, George Knight, Helen Crabtree, and Bunny St. Charles, from whom they learned classic horsemanship and to ride saddle seat.  They have worked side-by-side with contemporaries Mike Goebig, Phil Price, and Tom Caisse.  They learned to allow the horses they trained to develop their talent over time rather than to go for the flash in the pan.  They treat every horse they train as if it were their own, with an eye to a long career as a show horse or as a family horse. 

As neither of them was born with a silver spoon in their mouths, or even in the house, they are keenly aware of the expense of having a show horse in training, and frequently absorb many of the costs themselves.  They know that they are competing, not only with other Morgan trainers, but also with other breeds and other activities for our recreational dollars.  For me, the end result has always been worth the investment.  I am proud to have them as my trainers and as my friends.  As Tim has said, “I can’t see myself doing anything else.”





4 Responses to AMHA Golden Reins Award

  1. colwilrin says:

    Mocha mom,

    What a great tribute to two wonderful people who can always make me laugh till my sides hurt.

    You may have to find a way to add a comment about a “rabbit on a ferris wheel”…just for Tim’s amusement (as well as Tina’s and mine!)LOL

  2. Mocha Mom says:


    Sorry, that story didn’t make the cut, but YOU could tell it.

  3. sally says:

    Fabulous job Mocha Mom. Being with Tim and Shirley for many years they have always had my trust,support and a way into your heart.They are two great people and deserve this award.

  4. nightmusicfarms says:

    Boy, I cannot think of two more deserving people than Tim and Shirley. Well done and good luck!

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