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Tim and Shirley O’Gorman - It’s All In The Journey

by Tim Doll


Tim and Shirley O’Gorman


There are many inviting traits regarding Tim and Shirley O’Gorman. They are comfortable to be around, fun loving, talented, knowledgeable and compassionate. They join a stellar list of couples who over their years have been both successful in marriage and at the barn sharing training duties. It takes a special connection among training couples to feed off one another’s talents and make things happen.


Yes, it’s wonderful winning those tricolors and trophies, but perhaps more importantly is the mutual respect they find in one another’s abilities: the great togetherness for success both in and out of the show ring.


Shirley was born in Wheeling, W.Va. Her parents were not at all horse enthusiasts, however, her aunt and uncle, the late Shirley and Jim Stewart of Lookaway Farm fame certainly were. In fact, she was named after her aunt.


Shirley would usually spend a couple weeks during the summer helping at the farm; a treat she really looked forward to. It wasn’t long until one Christmas there was a real live pony wrapped in a bow by the tree, aptly named Charlie Brown. Her aunt and uncle had brought the pony down in their station wagon.


As you might have guessed, Shirley was beside herself. She hopped on and rode him through the living room and kitchen, out the back door where she was politely bucked off in the snow. Shirley said, “I guess you might say that’s how I got my beginnings in the horse business. I got bucked off then and I am still getting bucked off after all these years.”


Shirley gives lots of credit to her Uncle Jim. “Not because he’s my uncle, but he is a really good teacher, he is so patient and takes time to explain things.”


Jim Stewart’s background was also Saddlebreds and Standardbreds. There have been many stars that came from Lookaway Farm. Some notables are: Lookaway’s I Command, Lookaway’s Summer Smoke, C–Nine Charmaine, Lookaway’s Osas and Lookaway’s Sabrina to name a few. Jim’s son, Brian, still trains there.


While Shirley’s knowledge and abilities grew, as of yet she had no horse of her own. She would work several odd jobs and by the ripe old age of 13 she purchased her very own horse, a half-Morgan half-Saddlebred from the hills of West Virginia.


The dream of getting her very own horse with her very own money showed the drive and determination she carries within her to date. She worked patiently with her, trained her and even gave her the name of “Babe”.


By that time Shirley had matured enough to start helping with youngsters of the horse kind. Shirley said during that time Tom Butler was hired at the farm. “He was the most precious person. He taught me some of the old masters’ ways, ways I could only hope some trainers today were fortunate enough to utilize and be part of. Some might think in today’s horse world they are outdated but I still to this day use some of those medicines and methods.”


As Shirley matured she had the opportunity to work for George Knight at his stable in North Olmstead, Ohio, where he had Zeberdee and Butterfly Meadow. Shirley was in awe! To further that expression, she was also introduced to the late Mrs. Alan R. (Isabel) Robson.


Shirley said, “I learned even more while at George’s. He was and still is ultra-talented and has been one of my idols.”


Shirley’s first triumph came at the Brecksville Horse Show as a youngster when judge Carl Yenser gave her third place. According to Shirley that was almost like winning at Louisville. “ I had on homemade denim jodhpurs, my two uncles had bought me a pair of boots, I had no coat so I wore my school jacket and no hat.”


When asked what urges her on Shirley said, “To be able to work with something living, that responds. I love going out into the pasture, looking at all the youngsters. I say to myself, that is going to be this, and that one that. So one day you bring them in, start the process of breaking them to lead, ride, drive, bring them up through the ranks, hopefully place them with their owner and see if it clicks. When it does, that is the ultimate for me.”


Her first partial training job was at the highly regarded Carousel Stables in Belleview, Ohio, where the late Owen and Addie Price along with their son Phil and daughter Penny called home. Carrousel Stables played a large role in Tim and Shirley getting together.


Carousel Stables was a pivotal point in both

their careers and personal lives. Pictured

here the late Owen (O.B.) Price and Shirley.


From the other end of the spectrum, Tim was born in Potsdam, N.Y., amidst the beautiful Adirondack Mountains. Like Shirley’s parents, his had no interest in horses, nor did Tim’s five other brothers and sisters. However, Tim was so headstrong over his love for horses, his parents, according to Tim, thought he had a disease. However, his grandfather was ever supportive.


Tim’s first pony entered his life when he was nine or ten years old, a spotted pony named Jigger. “I would go to local hunter-jumper shows, come home and teach Jigger to jump over these fences,” Tim laughed. “I would ride this pony all over, trail ride, ride him to shows. I can’t believe the things I put him through, but he seemed to love it. I know I did!”


Tim enjoyed great success with

his parade pony Prince Patrick.


As Tim’s aching for horses was evident, so was his time to head to college at the University of Vermont where he received a bachelor’s degree in animal psychology. His parents absolutely forbid him to do horses while at school, no matter how unfair it seemed to Tim.


Around his sophomore or junior year he had the fortune to work for Fred and Jean Herrick’s Empyrean Stables near New York’s Catskill Mountains. His next opportunity came when he took a position at Carousel Stables.


According to Tim he learned a great deal at Carousel. “I soon realized just how little I knew. I worked with Phil Price. I’d like to think we sort of helped one another perhaps in different ways. I was so amazed at the opportunities Phil and I had. That farm was a fountain of good things. I felt very lucky to work with Phil and Owen-O.B. as he is fondly remembered.”   


Some of the top horses at the stables during that time were Big Bend H-Bomb, Schenectady, Eaton’s Talisman and Overlook Timbalier to name a few.


“Can you imagine what is was like for a young man like me to touch some of these horses. I felt like I earned my master’s degree there. What a life lesson!”


Tim even missed his college graduation so he could get back to the farm. Feeling a little restless, he ventured out for a while to Mike Goebig, Bob and Judy Whitney’s, and then Roy-El- Morgan Farm, owned by the Honstein family.


Tim had gotten his feet wet but felt the urge to go back to Carousel. Owen always seemed to have the door open. “I so appreciated that.”


Although Tim and Shirley had known one another for a while, the extent of their involvement was going out with all the other employees at the farm. It wasn’t until they were separated they realized how much they missed each other.


Shirley said, “Tim called and asked if I was going to the Trophy’s Jade party at the beautiful Cedar Creek Farm, then owned by Bob Burger, Larry Bolen and John Wehmeyer. I told him I didn’t think so, but for some reason, call it divine intervention, we went. I had not a clue how Tim felt, not a clue!”


She continued, “But all during the party Tim would come up to me and say things like ‘Nice party!’ then leave. A few minutes later then he would come up again and say, ‘Great day for a party,’ then leave. I thought to myself what’s wrong with this person. The weather was awful outside, he was acting so nervous and strange and talking so nonsensical.”


“I practiced all the way from Chandlerville, Ill., to Perrysburg, Ohio what I was going to say,” said Tim.


Shirley continued, “He came back once again, took me by the arm, where by now we were standing in front of Serenity Fleetwings’s stall, and Tim said, ‘Are you going to marry me or not?’ I said, ‘Are you serious?’ How romantic here we are in front of Serenity Fleetwing’s stall and he’s the first to know. I told Tim ‘let’s go to dinner and talk.’” Well, they must have agreed because 25 years later here they are.


After they were married they headed to Brentwood Farm, home of Royal Oaks Andrew, Waseeka’s Skylark, Royal Oaks Annton and Brentwood Bacardi. A who’s who list in any book, the farm was dispersed after owner Mr. Arthalony passed away. Upon their departure from Brentwood they headed back to Medina, Ohio where Uncle Jim Stewart helped them establish their very own stable at T and J Farm.


Although a little tough in the beginning, they managed to gather a nice group of customers. One of which was the best selling author, the late Kathleen Woodiwiss, who graced the couple with Heart To Heart and Steppin Jessica, who were no strangers to the winner’s circle.


Tim and Reserve World Champion Roadster

to Bike Steppin Jessica


With the barn nearing 45 horses, one day they decided after long deliberation that financially they were not doing as sufficient as they had hoped. They ultimately made the decision to take a private job and go to Meadowland Farm in Mesquite, Nev., an hour and a half from Las Vegas. They were there for seven years until Meadowland dispersed.


The opportunity to come back home was at hand. Thus Kohler Stables of La Grange, Ky., became their workplace for three years.


“Tom Caisse has done such a remarkable job for Kohler. He is especially great with a harness horse. He taught me a great deal. He also gave me some valuable insight on life. If Tom was your friend, you knew it! He’d move Heaven and Earth for you if he could,” Shirley said.


Shirley and Tom Caisse

taking HVK Bell Flaire for a workout.


Feeling that angst for a business of their own, they headed back to the Midwest, and they now reside at the famed Cedar Creek Farm in Perrysburg, Ohio, another pivotal point in the beginning of their relationship.


“I feel like we’re home,” Tim said.


“Bob [Burger] and Larry [Bolen] are so great. I feel such comfort here, it’s very peaceful,” added Shirley. The facility is first class. Bob Burger and Larry Bolen have put much effort not only into the look and workability of the place, but a place ideal for any horseman.


Now in the business for many years, Tim gave his thoughts on how the industry has differed from earlier years. “To me, the industry was lots more accessible back then, more open. In part it has become a little elite. It’s so expensive; I feel we are losing some of our grassroots. Our goal at O’Gorman Stables is to let our customers enjoy their horses and not put pressure on them about the big impending shows. We try to encourage our customers that regardless of what their objectives are, we try to make it as enjoyable and a learning experience regardless of their journey.”


Watch Me Dance, one of Tim and

Shirley’s current show stars.


Another show star for the O’Gormans,

Cum Laude Nell shown here with Shirley.


They both feel that the increasing expense plays a vital role. Shirley said, “I honestly believe there are so many outlets today compared to several years ago, people are choosing differently.”


“We’re all competing for the recreational dollar,” Tim continued.


Families, according to Tim, are having to make different choices. Perhaps it’s always been this way just on a smaller scale.


“Kids have so many more things to grab their interests: MP3 players, iPods, video games, all kinds of sports and unfortunately for some, horses are not where they once were-a priority. That’s my take on it!” said Shirley.


“We try to make the O’Gorman experience something special for the whole family. If a customers schedule doesn’t work with ours, we try to re-adjust when possible. Our doors are open to accommodate. You have to be flexible, the world has become so hectic we work hard to keep our customer in a good place.”


The horse industry can mean many different things to many different people. “That’s why Shirley and I are in the business in part is because we like and enjoy the whole creative process,” Tim said. “I think it’s important for people (customers) to take part in and experience the whole creative process.”


When asked if he thought the customers reaching the pinnacle too soon and not experiencing the process has been the demise of several exhibitors, owners and some trainers. Tim said, “I think it could be the demise of some. I think if they reach that pinnacle without taking advantage of the whole creative journey, boredom sets in and some people leave the business. That’s not a healthy or a good thing.


“We attempt to get our clients to look at the little picture not the big picture. It’s a step-by-step process. OK, you didn’t win the blue or place well, but you did get the correct canter lead. That’s part of the smaller picture we’re trying to put across. A step is a step no matter how small it seems. The point is it’s a significant step of the journey.”


Shirley said, “I whole-heartedly agree with Tim. If the customer reaches the pinnacle and doesn’t know how they got there, let alone know how to maintain it, they will eventually leave. We all need to do the homework. If a customer comes in the barn with a good sum of money to buy a nice horse and only win a world championship what does that really mean? Look what they missed. The titles are nice, don’t mistake that part, but it seems to mean more to everyone if it happens to be a homebred, trained - the total project, than going out and buying one that is already been there and done that.”


Shirley continued, “What Tim and I are basically saying is a reflection of how we deal with our customers. If by chance we have a customer who has been on the journey, and at the pinnacle then we still talk with them, refresh in them what it took to get there and how all three of us are going to work to ensure they stay there. None of us ever stops learning. Sometimes it’s a good thing even for us to get a refresher coarse. It’s healthy.”


“If a potential customer comes to our barn with the attitude all they want to do is win and not work at it then perhaps we’re not the trainers they need to be with,” Tim said.


“I’m not sure we even attract those type people,” Shirley added. “We’ve been in the business long enough I’d hope people know how we work and what we stand for. The customers we have are genuinely interested in the breed, they love their horses on any level, and are anxious for the journey.”


“You don’t see Shirley or me on the rail yelling at our customers. We prepare them to be able to handle any situation. Why yell ‘you’re on the wrong lead,’ by the time we get our riders to the ring they should know they are on the wrong lead and correct it,” said Tim. “Yes, there are many circumstances that caused them to get on the wrong lead, but our riders are prepared as best we can enable them to correct situations, their fault or not.


“We take our riders to school shows time and time again and build from that. It’s a willingness from our customers to learn their job well. That’s what makes a successful and enjoyable venture for all of us, and makes the end rewards even sweeter.”


Over the years in business they have been noted to have a definite love for working colts. They find great joy in this. “Both Tim and I seem to have a strong feeling of accomplishment when molding a youngster,” Shirley said. “We love to bring a colt along whether it be to eventually bring together with their owner/rider to show or to take home to trail ride, to market, or just the thrill for an owner watching us to show it. We try to keep the customer wanting to be involved, that’s part of our makeup, who we are as trainers.”


This down to earth couple show a slightly shy side when talking about themselves, however, Tim couldn’t for a second hold back a big grin on his face when he talked about taking the talented Ling Fu (Wiley) several years ago to the AMHA Medal and Steppin Jessica to a reserve world roadster to bike title.


“One of the most dramatic world champions for us would have been Marin City Lights,” Shirley said. “The story goes like this: the mare didn’t ship into Oklahoma City the best, so we made the decision to ship her to the clinic. She was cleared to work the day she was supposed to show. Doc said, ‘Don’t worry, she’s ready and will do just fine.’ We took the chance and showed her without her having worked since she left home but won the Grand National Four-Year-Old English Pleasure Mares. Her championship was two days later, so we decided to only hand walk her the next day and ride her back in the championship, where she won the Four-Year-Old English Pleasure World title. In the entire two week period before and during the show, the only times she worked were in her two classes. What a great-hearted filly, and what a thrill! Such, such fun!”


World Champion Marin City Lights
and Shirley


When asked when was the first time they actually felt they made it in the business, Shirley laughed and said, “We haven’t made it yet. I think when you feel you’ve made it, there is more out there for us to accomplish and learn no matter how many years we’ve been in the horse industry.”


“Being able to be a little more selective and having sort of a financial safety net may fall in that making it category. We’re fortunate to be there, humbled, but never take anything for granted,” Tim said.


Of Tim and Shirley, Larry Bolen said, “They are a joy to have here, they are great to work with, they are good with the horses and even though we have pretty much stopped training here at the farm on a personal basis, it is wonderful to see the activity back in the barn”


This terrific couple is taking two important journeys, one in the horse industry and one in their personal lives. Although the horses take up a giant part of their lives, both are certainly glad they do, neither finds a great deal of time to do things on a personal level.


Tim loves breeding, raising, and showing his Giant Schnauzers. In fact, his prized dogs have won numerous top honors. He and Shirley both enjoy the dogs immensely. When time permits, Tim is an avid reader, loves a wide genre of music and they both enjoy going to concerts. Shirley is a big NFL fan, especially her Super Bowl Champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers. She was fortunate to be at the Super Bowl when they claimed victory.


Tim and his Giant Schnauzer, “Turner”


Parallel lines, heading in one direction with one thing in mind. Doing it, side by side, hand in hand and traveling on their life’s journey together! When it comes right down to it…. it’s all in the journey.


Their journey is far from over. But don’t think for a moment it has reached its destination, the sky is the limit! This is an honest and true story that even the late Kathleen Woodiwiss would have loved to have written about.




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