Skip to content

Longtime Exhibitor Steve Macfarlane Remembered


by Bob Funkhouser

Known from coast to coast as a complete horseman, exhibitor Steve Macfarlane died Jan. 11 as a result of a brain hemorrhage. He was 59. Macfarlane had been on a strong blood thinning medication to prepare him for an upcoming heart test. As a result, doctors were unsuccessful in relieving the pressure.

Macfarlane grew up around show horses in California as his mother, Georgene Olin Rowan, showed as a youth. He began showing with Bill Rowan and Rob Tanner. His first good Saddlebred was Heavenly Moonglow and his first roadster was the celebrated champion Tinker Bell. He would have other top Saddlebreds including Ferrari, Peppermint Desire, Manhattan Airs, Rosetta’s King, Barter System, Shadow Run, and the 1982 Amateur Five-Gaited World’s Grand Champion King Of Siam. Macfarlane was the first male rider to win the amateur championship at Louisville. Although Macfarlane had several top Saddlebreds, the roadsters would prove to be his true love.

Along the way he has had some pretty good stock in that division. The mare Rightly Surprised was a show ring champion and would later produce many of Macfarlane’s greats including Geothermal, Heart To Heart, My Heart and his all-time favorite Shining Brightly.

Shining Brightly’s career began on the west coast as a young horse and then Macfarlane brought him home to Walnut Way Farm in Simpsonville, Ky., where he trained him himself. Together they won 13 amateur world’s champion titles and then Shining Brightly took two more in the open division with Macfarlane’s wife Marilyn. Together they also had some great ponies including Whiplash, Flamethrower and Top O’ The Mark.

Later in life Macfarlane developed another passion outside of fishing and driving champion road horses. He turned his attention to competitive driving and soon became highly revered in that industry as well. Known for his beautiful team of Friesians, Macfarlane won Coaching titles at Devon, the Royal Winter Fair, Walnut Hill, and the Florida State Fair.

“He was the best,” said Macfarlane’s former trainer Rob Tanner. “His grandfather had Thoroughbreds. His mother was a fine lady who knew Saddle Horses. Steve had a lot of natural ability. He was a hell of a rider and driver. That King Of Siam horse was not easy to ride. He had a huge motor and could jump at any moment.

“We had a lot of nice horses together. It’s hard to believe he’s gone.”

Macfarlane is survived by his wife Marilyn; a son, Stephen Jr.; two grandchildren and a sister Joan Macfarlane. Services will be held Jan. 13 at the Centenary United Methodist Church in Shelbyville, Ky., with a reception at Walnut Way Farm following the service.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Heart Association or the Hazelden Foundation.

More Stories