Skip to content

Temple Stephenson - Forever Remembered For Loving A Young Horse

by Bob Funkhouser

He was from the old school: a southern gentleman who had a gift for starting and developing young horses.
Temple Stephenson left a lasting impressing on the lives of hundreds of horses throughout his long career as well as many, many people and organizations.

Stephenson died on August 13 due to complications from a tractor accident. Six days later his ashes were scattered over the farm in Woodstock, Ga., on what would have been his 89th birthday.

He and his second wife, Jayne, have operated Stephenson Stables in
Woodstock since 1988. Previously it was located in Marietta.

“We were soul mates,” said Jayne. “We worked and lived closely together, that’s what the horse business does to you. We were not only partners, but best friends.”

Stephenson began his career in the horse business working for David Neil at Happy Valley Farm in Rossville, Ga., when John L. Hutcheson was just starting out. When Neil married Betty Mayfield and moved to Blythewood Farm in nearby Cleveland, Tenn., Stephenson went with him. During that time he did a little of everything on the farm including working with many top horses. One of his favorites was the great wagon mare Sioux City Sioux.

“At that time there weren’t any specialties,” explained Richard Witt who went to work at Blythewood while Stephenson was there. “You were an ‘employee’ and did whatever was needed. That might be working horses, breeding mares, or bailing hay.”

Stephenson was with David Neil for nearly 20 years and during that time they had an array of show ring champions including Blythe Spirit, Happy Guy, Gifted Lady’s Cameo, Alabama Belle, Bourbon Starlight and Anna Held. Stallions like Secret Society, King of Rose-A-Lee, Kalarama Command, Cameo On Parade and King Coe stood in the breeding shed.

It was while with Neil that Stephenson got his appreciation of starting and selling young horses.

“We thought an awful lot of him,” said Betty Neil of Stephenson. “He was always on the go and he loved what he did. He was very industrious.”

Temple was a country boy that did very well,” added Richard Witt. “He was very oriented to his work and there were no shortcuts.”

In 1958, with the recommendation of David Neil, Stephenson went to work for the famed Jolie Richardson at her Broadland Farm in Atlanta. He purchased My My for her, and then Frank Bradshaw guided her to a record-tying six Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championships.

Also during his stint at Richardson’s the show horses which were with Garland Bradshaw wintered in Atlanta under Stephenson’s training. The list of stars there included Garrymore, Lady Carrigan, Broadland’s Captain Denmark, Fluffy McDuffy and Broadland’s Patrician Lady.

After 10 years with the country’s best horses and a great owner, Stephenson ventured out on his own and set up shop in Marietta. He never made it to a lot of shows outside of his area and never had aspirations of having to be in the winner’s circle at Lexington or Louisville. He did, however, enjoy developing young horses for others to take on to stardom. Stephenson also found great joy in working with young people and molding their lives as well.

He was a man of great belief and his caring for young people went beyond the boundaries of the horse show arena, as he was one of the founders of the Greater Atlanta Christian School, the top private school in Atlanta.

Some of the people Stephenson mentored in the business included his son Terry Stephenson, Karen Medicus, Steve Old, Randy Stoess, Lesley (Sodel) Miles, Stacy (Sodel) Womack, Kristian Taylor, Kathy Poole, Susan Forester and Michael, Pam and Cathy Haury.

“I learned you could use hay string to fix anything,” chuckled Karen Medicus. “Temple was a great person, friend and teacher. He didn’t use gimmicks. He could get more done with a pair of chains. He rarely used stretchies on anything. He also had as nice a set of hands as anyone I’ve ever watched ride.”

Stephenson didn’t often take a lot of horses to the bigger shows, but when he did, they were good ones. According to his widow, Jayne, his fondest show ring memory came in 1978 at the Southeastern Charity Horse Show.

“He always wanted to show against Tom Moore,” recalled Jayne. “We had this horse that we bred and raised, named The Only Game In Town (not to be confused with Oak Hill Farm’s Only Game In Town). Temple showed him in the Novice Five-Gaited class and it was the best class of the show. There were 18 in it and they had a four-horse workout. It was Temple with Bob Gatlin, Dianna Rannells and Tom Moore. Temple won it and Tom was fourth.

“It was his proudest moment. That colt [The Only Game In Town] was tough to break and he really got close to Temple. He talked more about that class than any one he ever showed in. He didn’t care much about a made horse, he preferred to start them.”

Stephenson and his wife had some nice ones over the years. Stars like Shoeshine Girl, Noon Day Society, Happy Valley Peavine and Jolly Jerry received the Stephenson education. His last show ring appearance was in 1997 at the Pro-Am Horse Show aboard a very green, but talented colt named Nice Doin’ Business. As he left the ring, he told the announcer this was his last show ring ride and the people gave him a great ovation. Nice Doin’ Business went on to win a junior gaited class at Lexington Junior League with Bob Gatlin and was then sold to Mike Schallock who has shown him to countless titles under the direction of Rick Wallen.

His health had declined drastically over the past two years and he wasn’t able to be as involved with the training operation. However, Jayne had a few youngsters to start recently and asked him to help her.

“The last three weeks of his life he had more energy and felt better than he had in a while,” said Jayne. “He started helping me with these colts, so instead of laying around saying that he wasn’t feeling well, he woke up every morning asking, ‘Are we ready to work those colts?’

“I lived a blessed life having Temple. No one has ever loved me the way he did. We had so much fun doing things together. He was in on the ground floor when UPHA Chapter 17 was formed. He was a founder of ASHAG. He was there for the beginning of Southeastern Charity and Pro-Am. He helped get the Dewey Henderson Benevolent Fund started. There are a lot of fond memories.”

Today Jayne continues on with his memory and his knowledge. She teaches 55 riders a week, attends several one night shows so she doesn’t have to be away from the farm and also finds time to trail ride a lot. Of course that’s in addition to raising and starting a few colts.

wouldn’t have had it any other way.

More Stories