William Shillingburg Family Genealogy


March 12, 1924 - November 12, 1996

From December 1996 issue of the Arizona Horse Connection

Long time Quarter Horse breeder and renowned animal nutritionist, C. Gordon Shillingburg, died November 12, 1996. Born in Gallup, New Mexico, Gordon was raised in Rough Rock, Arizona on the Navajo Indian Reservation. He one time described this area as being "truly in the country - 35 miles from a post office, 135 miles from a highway or railroad." His parents owned the Trading Post on the reservation and his mother schooled him at home until age six. He was then sent to miliary school in California because in those days a Caucasian wasn't permitted to attend an Indian school. He finished elementary school, high school and two years of college in California when Uncle Sam informed him he had others plans for him.

After completing three years in the army stationed in Europe during World War II, Gordon returned to Arizona and attended the University of Arizona from 1946-1950, earning his Bachelors degree in Animal Science. He went on to get his Masters degree in Animal Nutrition at the U of A, then completed additional graduate level work in nutrition and biochemistry in Oklahoma.

In the 1950s, he worked as a salesman and cattle buyer for Producers Cotton Oil Company in Phoenix. He ran Arizona Feed Consulting Service, an independent livestock consulting company in the 1960s. In 1962, Gordon founded San Marcos Research, a consulting company for nutritional work with cattle and horses. San Marcos Research conducted research and assisted clients such as ranchers, cattle feed.lots, feed manufacturers, horse owners and national pharmaceutical c6mpanies. He became known as one of the foremost animal nutritionists in the Southwest.

Gordon always knew his career would somehow be related to animals because of his love for them. Though horses had been a part of his life from childhood on, his involvement with them as an adult was more in helping them through research than in showing or breeding them.

Though his nutritional and research work related more to cattle than horses, equines were never out of the picture in Gordon's~ life. In 1970, Arizona State University asked him to head up their equine program, which he did for two years. He then went on to initiate and head up the Equine Science program at Scottsdale Community College, a role he enjoyed for eighteen years. The expansion of that pr6gram from five courses when Gordon came in to over thirty courses after he left, was a testimony to the interest in the curriculum and was, no doubt, at least partly attributable to Gordon's involvement.

Gordon retired from his teaching and research work in the late 1980s to devote his time and efforts to the business of horses. After losing his Skip A Lark-bred stallion to a ruptured stomach in April of 1987, Gordon set out to find a replacement for his breeding program. He wasn't sure, however, whether he wanted to buy a young horse and bring him along himself or whether to buy an older horse with some training and a proven performance record.

With an open mind, he went to Mississippi to see a six year-old dun stallion, a grandson of the great Impressive. Standing 16.1 hands, Scarlet Impressive was everything Gordon had been searching for in a horse - pedigree (Impressive Dodger by Impressive x Polly Streak by Silver Pecos), looks, and most importantly, disposition. But rather than rushing into a decision, Gordon decided to take a look at a dozen or so more studs in that area before going back to see Scarlet a second time.

It was obvious to him then that none of those other stallions could ever begin to compare with the qualities Gordon saw in Scarlet Impressive - especially after riding him. Though the horse didn't know Gordon from the man on the moon, he picked up Gordon's cues within minutes. In addition, the area they were working in was at the corner of an airstrip in an unrestricted area, yet Scarlet was sensible and kept his mind on the task at hand. The decision had already been made in Gordon's mind. Here was a young horse with some training on him with points in halter and western pleasure and a lot of potential to do more. As one of Scarlet's trainers described it, "It was like the horse was begging someone to make him a champion."

And that became one of Gordon's first goals for the horse: to make him an AQHA Champion and a goal that he attained in June of 1988. During the next several years, Gordon concentrated on Scarlet's show career with the horse racking up impressive wins in halter, western pleasure, heading, heeling and calf roping. And Scarlet was also proving himself to be the sire that Gordon had dreamed of, passing on his traits of beauty, ability and disposition to his foals.

In the early 1990s, Gordon met Leslie Greco who became manager of the now officially formed Shillingburg Quarter Horses. During this time, Shillingburg Quarter Horses continued to stand' Scarlet Impressive to outside mares as well as breeding him to their own mares, and Leslie campaigned the resulting foals. On February 24, 1996, Gordon and Leslie wed in Scottsdale, Arizona and on August 3, 1996, they renewed their wedding vows on horseback at his Granite Peaks Ranch in Bayfield, Colorado.

Granite Peaks Ranch has been in Gordon's family since 1945 and it is where he and his horses summered, during Arizona's hottest months. The ranch in Bayfield is both a horse and horse lover's dream come true - lush meadows of timothy, bluegrass and clover set amongst the pines at an elevation of 8,000 feet; springfed water; and mountains to climb and explore. And it is on his beloved Granite Peaks Ranch where Gordon will find his final resting place.

One of Gordon's last accomplishments was to attend Equitana USA in Louisville, Kentucky this past July. This "world's fair of the horse industry" presented in the United States for the first time, and Gordon was the only Quarter Horse breeder to have his stallion on exhibit on the trade floor.

Gordon was very active in many organizations including the Arizona Quarter Horse Breeders Association. On their Board of Directors for the past three years, Gordon was Treasurer in 1986, was to be their Vice President in 1987 and would then have been the president elect for 1988. Other organizations he had been associated with included the Arizona Cattlemen's Association; First Families of Arizona; Maricopa County Farm Bureau 9f which he was the President of the Scottsdale local division; Arizona Farm Bureau; American Quarter Horse Association; and the AQHA Professional Horsemen's Association. He was also a member of the Valley Presbyterian Church.

Gordon is survived by his wife, Leslie; sons, Robert of Mesa, Charles of Phoenix, Bart of Scottsdale, and six grandchildren. Leslie Shillingburg will carry on the dreams of Gordon, standing Scarlet Impressive, raising and showing his babies and preserving the beauty and sanctitude of Granite Peaks Ranch.

Gordon touched the lives of so many horse people, whether it was through his research, his teachings, or simply his enthusiasm and, love for his horses. Gordon, you will be greatly missed by all who knew you.

Granite Peaks, Gordon's beloved ranch
in Colorado, his final resting place.

Scarlet Impressive proved to be the horse
of Gordon's dreams, achieving an AQHA
Championship and passing on his outstanding
halter conformation, athletic ability and
tractable disposition to his foals.

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