May 10, 2013
This American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer is known for his success in horse breeding – and in raising great horsemen.
Greg Whalen was one of the 10 horses and men to be inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum in March during the Hall of Fame banquet, part of the 2013 AQHA Convention in Houston, Texas.
Let’s learn more about this successful horse breeder and horseman.
Summing up the life of Greg Whalen is pretty daunting and can’t really be done without mentioning his life partner, wife Mary. They lived through the Golden Era of the American Quarter Horse, when it came of age as a breed and an industry.
They’ve fitted world champion halter horses across four decades, beginning with AQHA’s first world champion aged mare Opie’s Pride in 1974. Known for “making” horses, they had numerous high-point horses and AQHA Champions.
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As coaches, they “raised” horsemen who would shape the business. Their former youth include AQHA Past President Bob Kieckhefer’s daughters Susie Johns and Kathy Tobin, life-long amateur exhibitors; AQHA director from California Lori (Pabst) Pfaff; and the Whalens’ own daughter AQHA Professional Horsewoman and judge Debbie Kail. AQHA Professional Horseman and judge Casey Devitt and breeder and exhibitor Dennis Buccola got their starts in the Whalen barn.
Throughout the ’50s, Greg rode broncs and bulls in a successful rodeo career that extended to Madison Square Garden. In 1952, Greg was drafted and spent 11 months in Korea on the front lines in the 35th Regimental Combat Team.
Greg was raised in San Jose, California. Mary showed horses, and that’s how she met Greg. They dated on and off for a few years, when Greg’s rodeo schedule allowed. When he came home from Korea, he wanted to settle down. He finally convinced Mary of his plan, and they married in 1955.
In the early 1960s, Greg judged the first televised Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo. He quit rodeoing in 1962, and that’s about the time horse showing took over. Gradually, people began sending horses to them. They fit and showed horses for six AQHA past presidents (Marten Clark, Robert Keickhefer, William Verdugo, Rick Johns, Howard Weiss and Tom Finley), as well as Don Pabst, MBJ Quarter Horses, Buck Fulp, Jerry and Gwen Vawter and Zan Parr Bar for Bill Gibford. Originally based in Aptos, California, on the coast, they eventually moved to Clements in the San Joaquin Valley and established Blue Ribbon Farm.
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The Whalens were known for finding diamonds in the rough. On one buying trip, they picked up as babies future multiple world champion Snipper’s Sarah from Uvon Maggard in Caldwell, Idaho, and Opie’s Pride from Dan Opie in Crane, Oregon. Greg was also partners with AQHA Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas on Te N’ Te.
By the late ’70s, Greg and Mary were looking for a stallion. They wanted to raise horses that would ride and halter. They were sitting on the rail at a horse show in Pomona, when a copper sorrel stud named Smooth Town (Little Town-Winken Toni by Winken Wayne) caught their eyes. A few months later, they saw the colt again, and this time, Greg bought him.
About that time, Greg and Mary had the mare Page Boys Pearl (by Page Boy’s First) for
Duane “Dude” Noble, and Dude gave them first right refusal on her first foal, a colt named Page Impressive by Pretty Impressive. “Page” was a dandy, and the Whalens bought him.
Page crossed on Smoothie’s daughters worked magic. One of those magical foals was Mr Yella Fella (Page Impressive-Let’s Skip Town by Smooth Town). The Whalens’ bloodlines became a foundation source for leading breeders across the country.
As 30-year breeders, the Whalens’ 346 foals have earned 8,161 halter points and 725 performance points, all divisions. The Whalens are No. 10 on the list of all-time breeders by halter class winners. Greg earned 4,438 open halter points and 15 AQHA world championships with such individuals as Sheza Cover Girl, Chicles Angel, Mr Yella Fella and All Star Design, as well as world championships
in the American Paint Horse Association and Palomino Horse Breeders of America. An AQHA judge, Greg judged major shows such as the All American Quarter Horse Congress and the AQHA World Championship Show in the late 1970s and 1980s. Mary, Greg and Smooth Town are all in the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame.
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Greg and Mary are retired now. They’ve slowed down and are spending time with son Tim (a pilot), daughter and son-in-law Debbie and Bob Kail and grandson Ryan Kail, and visit old friends and clients.
Greg Whalen was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2013. To learn more about the Hall of Fame inductees, visit www.aqha.com/museum or visit the Museum in Amarillo. AQHA members get free admission.
With an AQHA membership, you’ll get amazing member benefits, including free admission into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum. With free access into the Hall of Fame & Museum, you can walk through the history of the American Quarter Horse and learn about the great horses and people who have shaped the association.
If you’re interested in learning more about the 2013 AQHA Convention, here’s a brief video summary.