The world has lost one of the most renowned horse trainers.
Dean Smith passed away September 20, 2023, at Council Grove, Kansas.
Whatever the occasion anywhere in the United States and beyond, mention the name Dean Smith and anybody with horse interests would share their most positive affiliations with the horseman.
Marvin Dean Smith was born January 6, 1933, in Valencia, Kansas, to Robert and Rinda Smith. Dean, the youngest of four brothers Harley, Fred, and Robert Jr. graduated from Silver Lake High School.
While in school, Dean enjoyed playing football, as he was quite the runner. There were many who raced against him, but few could ever beat Dean in a foot race.
On October 17, 1954, Dean married Donna Gifford from Burlingame. Next year would have marked 70 years of their marriage.
Son Rickie Dean, and daughter Catherine Kay were born in 1955 and 1958, respectively. After a brief stint of working at the Goodyear plant in Topeka, Dean returned to his true calling, training horses.
Those who have ever owned or ridden a Dean Smith trained horse are forever grateful that he followed his heart. His first professional training job was riding Morgan horses for Stuart Hazard at Wakarusa, Kansas. In 1961, the family moved to Eureka, Kansas, where Dean trained Quarter Horses for the Sutton Ranch.
Building his reputation as a professional horse trainer, Dean moved his family to Hutchinson, Kansas, where he rented a training facility. In 1967, Dean purchased his own facility at Council Grove.
The year 1969 is considered a milestone in more than one way for Dean Smith. In March, the family added the final member, daughter Tricia Rae. Later that same year, Dean won the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity aboard Miss Sue Skip.
He followed up this win by taking the mare back the next year to win the NRHA Derby, a feat that had not been duplicated by any trainer until recent years. These monumental wins helped solidify Dean Smith as one of the top all-around horse trainers in the country.
With additional top performance horses throughout the 1970s, Dean decided to leave the all-around show horse world behind and started focusing primarily on training cutting horses.
Many of the bloodlines that are showing today can be traced back to horses that Dean Smith raised, trained, and/or showed. With more than 60 years of training horses in multiple disciplines, it would be impossible to list all the lines of horses that graced Dean Smith’s barns and were trained by his hands.
Dean took great pride in his horses, which everybody could tell when he unloaded them at a show. They were “showstoppers” and everything, tack included, would normally turn heads.
Just a few of the great horses trained by Dean Smith include Harlans Tyree, Docs Eldorado, Docs Tom Thumb, Docs Chita, Keeners Skip, Deans Choice, Ottago, Go Comet, Imapeppysandoc, Smart Mate, Peppy Sandorado, and Smart Alexa.
Exhibitor of multiple world and state titles, Dean was inducted into the Kansas Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2008. He also traveled and offered clinics to help people better understand their horses.
Recognized as “The Trainer’s Trainer,” other top trainers sought his advice and wisdom. But Dean was just as eager to share his knowledge with the weekend rider who wanted a nice horse to enjoy.
An “icon” in the horse industry, Dean Smith’s loyal customers and friends made through the years is “nothing short of amazing.”
As Dean got older, he realized there was life beyond horses that being four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, all his pride and joy.
Dean loved going to their soccer games, baseball games, and would spend time coaching horseback riding. When Dean could not be somewhere in person, he enjoyed watching all the family videos and pictures. Jessie Prichard is following in his grandpa’s footsteps as a professional horse trainer.
As Dean eased into retirement, he enjoyed spending time downtown having coffee and a sweet treat or his favorite chips and salsa. With his contagious smile, Dean loved to sit and visit with people.
Dean was proceeded in death by his son, Rickie Dean; his brothers, Harley, Fred, and Robert, Jr.; and his parents, Robert and Rinda Smith.
He is survived by his wife Donna Smith of the home, daughter Cathy (John) Pritchard of Council Grove, daughter Tricia (Mark) Hickey of Council Grove, and his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life with lunch and remembrances of Dean Smith will be October 15, 2023, 1 o’clock, at the 4-H Building, Council Grove.
Memorials have been designated in Dean Smith’s name to the Kansas Quarter Horse Youth Association (KQHYA) or USD 417 Athletics and can be sent to Sawyer Funeral Home at Council Grove.