Jim Wright Dies

Longtime AQHA employee died February 7.

Becky Newell, AQHA
February 11, 2013

Jim Wright

Jim Wright

Former AQHA inspector and regional representative Jim Wright, 82, died February 7, less than three months after the death of his wife, Anita.

Anita Wright said her husband, Jim, knew the highways and roads that crisscross the United States as well as most people know the streets of their hometown. As an AQHA inspector for 38 years, Jim traveled all across the United States and Canada, inspecting horses to determine whether they met AQHA’s registration criteria. He was never afraid to explore new territory. He retired from AQHA in 2004.

Through the years, Jim’s duties changed almost as much as the Association itself. He went from evaluating the conformation of an Appendix horse that was eligible to be advanced to the Permanent registry to pulling mane and tail hair for parentage verification to inspecting early foals. In a way, the changes in his duties mirrored the changes in how horses were registered through the years.

Jim’s other big asset was his knowledge of horses, which was strongly influenced at an early age by Jim’s Uncle William “Bud” Lusk.

“My uncle roped and had nice horses,” Jim said. “He was a good roper and could make a nice horse. I spent the summers there and every weekend that I could. I was hooked on roping and horses.”

Another of Jim’s mentors was Ken Fratis, a California rancher and racehorse man who was AQHA president in 1959. Jim went to work for Fratis, managing horses and breaking colts in 1950.

After a two-year stint in the Army, Jim went back to work for Fratis, who later scaled back his operation and encouraged Jim to apply for a job at AQHA. Jim was reluctant to take the AQHA job because he wanted to see if he could make a living at roping. But his family persuaded him to take the job at AQHA.

“The ironic thing is that when I joined AQHA, I told Howard (Linger, AQHA’s executive secretary at the time) that I wouldn’t guarantee I’d stay more than five years,” Jim said.

In 1976, Jim started his own family when he married Anita Brown, who also worked for AQHA. They quit the Association and moved to Colorado to ranch. While there, their little family expanded by one with the birth of their son, Will, who was named after Jim’s uncle. Four years after their move to Colorado, a bad winter, followed by a drought, left the Wrights with no choice but to sell their cattle and find stable employment. So, in 1980, they moved back to Amarillo, and Jim began traveling for AQHA again.

Seeing the numbers of horses that he did had to be like being a kid in a candy store, tempted to purchase a horse every time he turned around. Surprisingly, he only bought three horses during his travels.

“Three Bars was the greatest horse that ever lived,” he said of the sprinting Thoroughbred who reshaped the modern Quarter Horse. “I thought for a while that we were getting too much Thoroughbred blood in our horses, but I don’t think that anymore, because when I was inspecting them, the good ones (Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred crosses) were great.”

Good horses have an aura about them, Jim said.

“I don’t know what it is – you can’t see it, but you can feel it and you know it’s there,” he said.

“The greatest horses I’ve ever seen were racehorses, without a doubt,” he declared emphatically. “Conformation-wise, a lot of them could be halter horses – even today. If I had one, that’s what I’d do. I’d take him and get some halter points on him, just so people could see that he’s not just a racehorse.

Jim is survived by his son Will and daughter-in-law Shannon.

Jim’s funeral was February 10.