Though a Florida native, Pat Close’s heart resides in the West, and this Colorado transplant made her mark on the hearts and minds of Western Horseman’s readers for 40 years.

From her first taste of riding at a horse rental stable in Miami, Florida, Pat’s life centered on horses, and they led her to Western Horseman in 1961. As the magazine’s first female editor, she had big boots to fill, and fill them she did.

Pat Close horseback
Photo by Darrell Dodds

MY FATHER HAD FRIENDS IN MONTANA who owned a cattle ranch, and we would go up there summers. We just had a wonderful time. Rode horses, played cowboys and Indians and shoot ’em ups.

DURING HAYING SEASON, I drove a team that pulled the dump rake. That was my introduction to the West, and I decided that was the only place to live.

IN JUNIOR HIGH, MOTHER GOT ME A HORSE. He was a grade gelding. I got exposed to horse shows and knew I had to be on the junior high riding team. All the horse show stuff was English. The instructor said I couldn’t canter until I learned my diagonals. I said, “What are diagonals?” Then I learned leads. That was the beginning of my true education on how to ride correctly.

I SHOWED MY HORSE in the open Western classes. When I saw my first barrel race, I thought, “I have to try that.” My poor horse; he did everything!

I WANTED TO LIVE OUT WEST, so I applied to Western Horseman and got the job. I’ve only had two jobs in my whole life. I was fortunate. Once I was at Western Horseman, all kinds of doors were opened [to riding].

A LOT OF OUR MAIL was about problem horses. When I first started, we would offer advice on what to do. As years went by and litigation became more common, we suggested they take their horse to a competent trainer. We got some incredible letters, and often people just didn’t use common sense!

THERE WERE ONLY THREE of us working in editorial at the time. I did everything! I helped proofread, edit and rewrite. I answered mail, and we got tons of mail. It was quite an education.

IT WAS ONE BIG FAMILY. We all got along great, even though there were bumps in the road. When Chuck King came on board, he said, “This is just like living in a bunkhouse, but with some women here.”

FOR A GIRL WHO LOVES HORSES, working at Western Horseman was like having a tiger by the tail—living with and writing about horses nonstop.

I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT PAINTING, but I learned over the years. Dick Spencer and Chuck King were excellent teachers. In the old days, artists would ship us their paintings. We all learned to critique Western art, but sharp-eyed readers would call things to our attention. Our readers’ critiques kept us on our toes.

WE STARTED TO DO THE FEBRUARY VACATION ISSUE, and got invited to go on rides at ranches and on trails. I got to travel to Banff National Park and ride. Their mountains go straight up. That was the only time I went on a trip and our mountains looked ho-hum.

WE GOT ONE COMPUTER, and it was big, awkward. Nothing was automatic. I went back to my IBM Executive typewriter. I resisted a computer until one day they put one in my office and said, “Learn!”

IN 1990, AQHA WAS CELEBRATING THEIR 50TH ANNIVERSARY. We thought it would be a nice tribute to AQHA to do something [for them]. We decided to do thumbnail sketches of the early sires. That issue was very successful; it sold out on newsstands across the country. The light went on that that was a book idea—Legends. There was some skepticism as to whether such a book would sell, but it was highly successful.

WE ALWAYS TRIED to have something for everybody in every issue. That was our philosophy.

I KNEW DIAMONDS SPARKLE when she was a weanling. Some friends of mine showed her as a yearling, and then when she was 2, Dick [Steward] asked me to suggest a trainer. I suggested Sunny Jim Orr. No one had an inkling of what a producer she would turn out to be. That’s probably the most famous horse I’ve had anything to do with.

IN 2004, THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN Quarter Horse Association asked me to help out with their magazine, and I’ve been helping ever since. I oversee production and do a lot of proofreading.

HORSES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN MY VOCATION AND AVOCATION. Every major step in my life has been influenced or caused by horses and friends I’ve made through horses. I’d rather clean the barn than clean the house.

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