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Horseman, judge, industry leader Don Burt dies at 82

From the Newstrader - December 6th, 2012 - Newstrader

USEF photo

Don Burt

PALOS VERDES ESTATES — The equestrian world lost one of its brightest lights with the passing Nov. 24 of Burbank native Don Burt. He was 82.

A third-generation horseman, Burt, began training and showing horses across disciplines in California and 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 the AQHA 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. Burt also was judge of the year for the American Horse Shows Association 10 times, and he presided over national and world championship shows for many breeds.

Burt retired from judging when he was elected to the AQHA Executive Committee in 1992, then became AQHA’s 46th president in 1996.

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, though, 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, Don 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 and he received the Equine Industry Vision Award in 2003, as well as 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.”

He added that he “never ‘worked’ a day — I’ve just played cowboy all my life.”

“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. Most recently, Burt wrote a monthly column, “On The Rail,” for The American Quarter Horse Journal.

USEF CEO John Long said 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.”

In the 1930s, Burt grew up in the river bottoms of Burbank, a horse-showing capital at the time. He, his father and grandfather all made a living raising horses. During World War II, Burt and his friends would ride their horses over the Hollywood Hills to shows, and when he was in high school, he worked at the Marwyck Ranch, which was owned by actress Barbara Stanwyck and actor Groucho Marx. Burt galloped racehorses in the mornings, and worked the show horses in the afternoons.

Burt told The American Quarter Horse Journal. “We would leave our stable at two in the morning,” he said, “ride all the way over the Hollywood Hills, show all day and ride back that night. That’s really wanting to show horses.”

He is survived by his wife, Ardys. Condolences may be sent to Ardys and the family at 79 Narcissa Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275-5952. In his name, donations may be made to the American Quarter Horse Foundation, (806) 378-5029, foundation@aqha.org.

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