Patricia A. “Pat” Close, horsewoman, journalist, editor and friend to so many in Colorado and across the nation, died peacefully at her home near Elizabeth on November 6, 2022, following an extended illness. She was 87.
1935 – 2022
Born in Miami, Florida, to Cecelia and George H. Close on July 26, 1935, Pat grew up enamored with horses and an ever-deepening love for the American West. Her father had an old friend with a Montana ranch, and she and her older brother, George II, spent two summers there as children. Days were filled with exploring the ranch, fishing in the Madison River and riding horses. Pat loved it and decided at a young age that the West was the only place she ever wanted to live.
Pat’s first horse was Smoky, a grade gelding she received at age 12, and whom she rode in just about every discipline offered at local Florida shows – from gymkhana to western to English classes. From then on, horses would always be a part of her life.
In 1953, Pat entered the University of Florida. To those who knew her, it is no surprise she plunged right in, first as the only female student in its animal husbandry program, and soon as a member of the university’s livestock judging team – the only woman along with nine young men!
Determined to spend more time with horses, Pat spent several summers as a riding teacher at Alpine Lodge, an Alabama camp for girls. Then, when a job came up at Steads Ranch, near Estes Park, Colorado, Pat jumped at the chance to go West. While working as a waitress there, she had the opportunity to ride in the Rockies and spend time outdoors. That clinched it; the only place to be for Pat Close was Colorado.
Following her graduation with a bachelor’s degree in animal science, Pat set off on a career closely associated with agriculture. She first worked for the USDA at the University of Illinois–Champaign-Urbana, all the while dreaming about Colorado. During that time she bought Kahok Red Boy, aka Red, an American Quarter Horse gelding she later claimed was her favorite horse of all time.
In 1961, she decided to contact Dick Spencer, editor of Western Horseman magazine in Colorado Springs, to see if there were any job openings. When offered an editorial assistant job, Pat wasted no time. She loaded Red and drove straight to Colorado, stopping only to sleep in her car while the gelding was tied to the trailer’s side for the night. Upon her arrival, she simply put Red in the barn the magazine had on the grounds and went inside to begin a career that would be filled with 40 years of adventure, writing, and friendships.
Pat’s tenure and accomplishments at Western Horseman quite simply rival those of legendary journalists across many genres. She wrote hundreds of articles, and for the 11 years she was editor, she oversaw the publication of 132 issues. Pat was behind the launch of Western Horseman’s highly successful foray into book publishing, beginning in 1990, when the idea for the Legends series was born. From there came books on famous Quarter Horses and Arabians, and training tomes from some of the top horsemen in the nation. As a natural born teacher, and superb interviewer, Pat worked closely with many of the authors, as an editor, to help produce the best possible books for the horse-loving community who devoured them.
When Pat retired from Western Horseman in 2001, she wasted no time going on to new adventures. She chaired the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association’s magazine committee, overseeing its monthly publication, and soon began showing in ranch horse versatility events and as a Non Pro in National Reining Horse Association shows. She was especially proud of her reining mare Wimparette, by top stallion Wimpys Little Step. Shown by Shane Brown in reining, and by Camille Courtney in working cow horse events, Wimparette became Pat’s last great horse – now a broodmare with Camille.
Retired Western Horseman publisher Randy Witte, who had promoted Pat to editor, once observed that her “vocation and avocation were the same – horses. She raised and trained them, competed with them and wrote about them. She was invaluable to the Western Horseman editorial department, the go-to person for answers concerning horse shows, bloodlines, top trainers, horse health care – and even spelling and punctuation!”
Pat Close is survived by her brother, George Close II, of Florida; sister-in-law Nancy Close; niece Karen (Close) Patton; and great-nephew Cole Patton; her longtime housemate Kathleen Holmes; and a long list of special friends and colleagues better described as a supportive, loving family.
A Celebration of Life memorial service for Pat is planned for the Spring, possibly in April, 2023. More information is forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Pat Close Equestrian Editorial Scholarship. Contributions may be sent to Pat’s executor: c/o Camille Courtney, P.O. Box 711, Franktown, CO 80116.