Looking toward the future, Griffin has her eye on becoming a member of the APHA Executive Committee. Photo © Sally Griffin

86 Horses & Over 80,000 Points Later, Sally Griffin Makes her Mark on the Paint Industry

“Horse show family.” A term all horse enthusiasts have used at some point. For many, this industry becomes more than just a hobby (although it starts out that way), it becomes a way of life. Discovering that there are fellow “horse addicts” leads us to our tribe.

The show career of longtime self-proclaimed horse addict, Sally Griffin of Tomball, Texas, spawned from humble beginnings. She rode her horse through the bayou to attend her first horse show in 1969. This unorthodox entry into the APHA led her to a way of life that would have never been possible if it weren’t for the American Paint Horse.

Griffin’s passion for the American Paint Horse has played a significant role in every aspect of her life. She has won World Championships and National Titles in many events, and she even met her late husband and raised her two children on the backs of Paint horses.

Throughout the years, the horses that have passed through the Griffin family have amassed over 150 APHA World and Reserve World Championships and perhaps more notable than their accomplishments are the memories that have been made over the years. We sat down with Griffin to find out about her past, present and future hopes for APHA.

The Beginning

Like many of us, Griffin was born with a love for horses. The street where Griffin grew up on the west side of Houston consisted of houses with four to five-acre lots, the perfect place for a horse crazy little girl to start. “My dad brought a horse down from our family’s farm in Arkansas for me to ride. His name was Prince and he happened to be a bay and white tobiano. It was by chance that my first horse was a Paint,” says Griffin.

Griffin and her friends would ride up and down the street and on the trails. “My neighbor from down the street was the one who convinced me to go to my first horse show. We practiced together and she helped to teach me the ropes (I was twelve at the time), and it all seemed pretty easy to me. I got dressed up, saddled my horse and rode down the trail to the horse show, crossing the bayou and wading through the water on the way. I quickly realized that there might have been more to showing than what we were practicing in our backyards, but that was my first exposure to a horse show,” she laughs.

Although she won her first class at her first horse show, she realized that she still had a lot to learn when it came to the intricacies of each event. It was that experience that sparked her desire to move up through the ranks. “I eventually started getting lessons and getting better horses and never looked back,” says Griffin. She has been an active APHA member both in and out of the arena since 1974.

The Horses That Made Her

The horses that have passed through the Griffin’s family make up a who’s who of the Paint horse industry. Eighty six total horses amassing 84 World Championships, 72 Reserve World Championships and a total of 80,595 APHA points. With many memories to choose from, a few select horses have left a lasting impression on Griffin.

A horse by the name of Cream N Sugar was responsible for fostering Griffin’s passion for Paint horses specifically, and Griffin credits her for propelling her on the journey that has indeed shaped her life. Another horse that stands out in the list of winners is Rust On My Zipper, whom Griffin credits with being one of the most influential horses in her show career.

“A friend called me one day and said he thought he had found a horse that would register as a Paint horse, in the back of Southern Horseman magazine. Doug Horton and I called the trainer and he welcomed me to drive out and see him. I jumped in my truck and trailer and headed off to Ootawah, Tennessee. The directions to get there included turning at the second red barn after the third chicken house. Well, I fell in love with Rusty and headed straight to Fort Worth to have him inspected to get his Paint papers. He was already registered with AQHA, and he got his Paint papers and went on to win 12 World Championships and 10 Reserves,” explains Griffin.

When asked to choose a favorite horse, Griffin is quick to say that there are too many great ones to pick just one. “Mister Redesigned (Doc, pictured left) is, in my opinion, the greatest halter horse in the world. He was easy to take care of, was happy with his job, and was always such a character. Im Prints Charming (Ed) took me to the #1 Amateur title in 1991, under the guidance of Doug Horton and Mike Short,” she says.

Throughout her show career, Griffin has personally amassed seven APHA World Championships, five Reserve World Championships and 8,871 APHA Points in every event from halter to pleasure driving.

Growing with the Association

While Griffin has spent much of her time in the show arena, she has also served more than 30 years as a national director for APHA. She has served on almost every committee, including chairing the Amateur and Registration Committees. “I submitted the first rule to create the Novice Amateur Program. This rule has taken many twists and turns to get to our current rule, but I feel as though this has had such a positive impact on our association.”

Griffin is quick to credit her mentors in the horse industry for her commitment and passion that has kept her going for so long. “Doug Horton will always be my horse show mentor. He was one of the original great trainers. He not only taught me, but coached so many of the trainers we have today.”

Business-wise, her father, Jimmie Green taught her the value of hard work and entrepreneurship. “He moved to Houston at the end of the depression and worked his way up the ladder in the car business. He was also very successful buying and selling commercial real estate. I currently manage his last commercial property – Shepherd Square, owned by myself and Maggie and James; this was the site of his Chevrolet dealership – the first one in Houston!”

Griffin raised her family in the Paint horse industry. Her daughter, Maggie, has had an extensive show career starting from leadline and advancing all the way up in the amateur ranks. She has also followed in her mother’s footsteps by getting involved with the inner workings of the association by serving as AjPHA President.

Her son, James also grew up showing horses and was involved with the association both inside and outside of the arena. “ I saw kids that had grown up in APHA and they were all were so successful, with good values, common sense, responsibility and dedication. This was what I wanted for my kids,” says Griffin.

Looking to the Future

Although Griffin is no stranger to success in the horse industry, it is her attachment to the people of the horse world that makes her stick around, year after year.

“APHA is like a family to me. The saying that there is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man has always rung true for me. My horses have always been my outlet during the good and bad times. When things were good, it was my love and passion. When things were bad, they always listened to my problems and never argued or found fault,” she explains.

Looking toward the future, Griffin has her eye on becoming a member of the APHA Executive Committee. “With my extensive financial background and 44-year history owning and showing Paint horses, I think I have a lot to offer APHA and the future of the industry.”

About the Author: A California native turned Texan, Erica Lang Greathouse took her first pony ride at a local fair at the age of four. That ride ignited her passion for horses and there was no turning back. In her show career, she has earned a Congress Championship, multiple APHA World and Reserve World Championships, and a top ten finish at the AQHYA World Show. She currently resides in Pflugerville, Texas with her husband, Jared, sons, Derek and Eli, and faithful sidekick dog, Sarge.
Photos © Melissa, Don Trout, Rhodes Gallery, and Larry Williams