The equestrian world has lost one of its leading lights with the passing on Sunday of US horseman Don Burt. He was aged 82.
Burt, who began training and showing horses across disciplines in California, had a career that saw him give riding lessons to Hollywood royalty, followed by his own achievements as a rider, having won both the national hunter and jumper titles in the same year at the Cow Palace.
After an injury ended his riding career, he turned to judging and lecturing, becoming a well-respected and in-demand licensed official. And then there were the years of service he spent as an administrator and past president of the American Quarter Horse Association.
He was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2004, and was a judge at the AQHA’s World Championship show seven times and served on numerous committees while representing California.
Known for heading the effort to secure the approval of reining as the FEI’s first Western discipline, Burt served on the USEF Reining and High Performance Reining Committees.
His influence reached outside the reining and Quarter Horse circles as Burt showed, judged and bred horses in almost every major breed division. He has also held judge’s licenses from the American Horse Shows Association (now USEF) in Appaloosa, Arabian, hunter, jumper, Morgan, National Show Horse, and Western.
For his decades of services to the equestrian industry, Burt was awarded the USEF Lifetime Achievement Award and the Jimmy A. Williams Trophy in 2007. He was also added to the Honor Roll of Distinguished Officials in 2011. he also received the Equine Industry Vision Award in 2003, and the National Reining Horse Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
At the time he received the USEF lifetime achievement award in 2007, Burt said: “Rarely am I speechless … but this is one of the highlights of my life.
“I’ve have never ‘worked’ a day … I’ve just played cowboy all my life,” he said.
“I want to say how truly blessed I am, and I have an angel on each shoulder,” he said. “My wife really should be getting this award. She is my lifelong friend and partner, and I want her to join me and stand and be recognized.”
Through his writing, Burt shared his extensive knowledge by authoring monthly columns for Horse and Rider and America’s Horse magazines and several books – Horses and Other Heroes, Winning With The American Quarter Horse, and Winning With Arabian Horses.
USEF CEO John Long said Don Burt was a driving force in the sport of reining and advocate for equestrian sport.
“He has left an outstanding legacy and his influence will be felt for years to come.”