Raised to agriculture in East Texas, as a youngster Hightower gravitated toward ranch work and horses. By the time he married his childhood sweetheart, Peggy, Hightower was training and showing Quarter Horses, and took up cutting in 1959, at the age of 24.
Hightower had given up full-time training and showing in the early-1970s for a landscaping business in Houston, but was lured back to competition by Bob McLeod, who had purchased a talented 3-year-old colt from longtime NCHA president and cutting horse breeder Marion Flynt. McLeod wanted Hightower to prepare Colonel Freckles, a son of Flynt’s stallion Jewel’s Leo Bars, for the NCHA Futurity.
“Terry Riddle had started him and it was the middle of April when I got him,” said Hightower of Colonel Freckles, whose dam, Christy Jay, was by Rey Jay, sire of the 1966 Futurity champion, Rey Jay’s Pete. “And we took it from there and went to the Futurity with him and got lucky.”
The Hightower’s children, Faron, Dan, Melissa, Margaret and Tina Marie, were all involved with rodeos and horse shows as youth, but it was Faron, a member of the NCHA Hall of Fame, who most closely followed his father’s path.
In an article that appeared in the October 15, 2003 issue of the Quarter Horse News, Faron told author Lana Wells: “(Daddy) taught me that the Futurity is the first event, not the last one. He always said, ‘Don’t ruin a good son-ofa-buck just to win the Futurity.”
Wells concludes her article with a quote from Olan that will resonate with his legion of friends and the hundreds of amateurs and professionals that he helped over the years.
“When I’m dead and gone, if one person will stand up and say, ‘That old man helped me,’ it’ll be worth more than hundreds of folks saying what I’ve won.”
A Celebration of Olan Hightower will be held on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 11:00 a.m., at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead, Texas.