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Colorful, Outspoken, Determined...



If you stay in this industry long enough you run across every type of person known to mankind. Some you just know of, some become good business acquaintances, and others you can’t help but be drawn to on a much more personal level. The Saddlebred world recently lost one of the greatest who fit that third category.

Dorothy Gillenwater lost her battle with cancer on November 21. It was one of the few battles she ever lost and she went down swinging. Those who were fortunate enough to know Dorothy were deeply saddened with her passing yet we all shared a relief that she was no longer suffering and have great comfort in knowing that she lived her life to the fullest. Dorothy’s mission in life was to help and serve others, something she did extremely well. It was always about her family and friends. And while she was very generous with her time, money and energy to local causes, the horse business and its members became her life after daughter Vicki ditched the family’s passion for golf and became a young equestrian.

“Early on when Bobby [Wolfenbarger] and I were getting involved in the UPHA in our chapter it was Dorothy who was the backbone behind the whole thing,” reflected Anne Stafford of Blythewood Farm. “She was the one who was focused, would stay on the phone and get things done. She never took no for an answer.

“Dorothy was a wonderful person, a wonderful family member. Anyone who was ever associated with her considered themselves lucky. She was one of the first customers I had at Blythewood myself. She taught me a lot about life in general and how to treat people. You never had to wonder what Dorothy was thinking - she would always tell you. That’s a quality I’ve really learned to appreciate as I’ve gotten older.”

A lifelong resident of Knoxville, Dorothy was the daughter of a boilermaker and his homemaker wife. She married her high school sweetheart, Paul Gillenwater, at the age of 19. Daughter Victoria was born some time later and as a young child she had at the top of her Santa Wish List, a horse. The Gillenwaters pursued their daughter’s interest and soon found it was much more than a casual interest. After having her take lessons at Sherrils Stables, they decided it was time to make a deeper commitment and moved to Blythewood Farm in Cleveland, Tenn., with with Anne Neil.

When Neil left Blythewood for a while to move to Kentucky, the Gillenwaters also moved their horses to Kentucky. This time it was with Helen Crabtree. Dorothy was now sharing her daughter’s passion and built what became known as Scenic View Farm on their property in Knoxville.

Soon she gave an ambitious young man an opportunity to set up a training stable there and thus began a 20 year relationship with Bobby Wolfenbarger that was second to none. Wolfenbarger and his family became a part of the Gillenwater family and it was Dorothy who constantly pushed Wolfenbarger to pursue his dreams. Much of that pushing came in the form of the UPHA, an organization she could not be a member of because she was “just an owner.” However, over the years Dorothy Gillenwater did as much work on behalf of the UPHA as any three active members put together. With her trademark glasses and unique style she organized meetings, raised money, helped put on national conventions, and was a tireless worker at the Tennessee area shows. Once Dorothy even put her daughter’s juvenile three-gaited horse, Dance Band, through an auction with all proceeds going to the UPHA.

Her behind the scenes work with UPHA Chapter 8 helped pave the way for the UPHA Associate Membership. At last year’s national convention in Indianapolis, the UPHA in turn recognized Dorothy for her tireless contributions to their association and the show horse industry in general. Dorothy was honored as the UPHA Associate Member Of The Year.

As an owner, Dorothy only showed a few times herself. Her love was for breeding and raising foals and watching Wolfenbarger and her daughter Vicki show the Scenic View stock. Some of the horses she enjoyed were the stallion K-Town, So Much More, K-Town Lights, K-Town Magic, and K-Town’s Precious Princess.

Far beyond the blue ribbons and accomplishments of her family’s Scenic View Farm, Dorothy’s greatest enjoyment in the horse business came through helping and inspiring others. I was fortunate enough to call her a friend and be the recipient of her wisdom.

As a very young member of the Saddlebred equine journalists pool, Dorothy had several conversations with me regarding horse show coverage in the different publications. A few years later at the Chattanooga Charity Horse Show she gave me one of the best compliments I have ever received. Even though it was years ago, I’ve never forgotten it. She said, “Bob, I love to read your show write ups because I feel like I was actually there. I know what actually went on, not just everything was great and glorious.”

That was Dorothy’s view of life. Not everything is great and glorious, yet we can work hard to try and make it that way. And above all else - tell it like it is!

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