Trainer Bill Freeman, 58, Passes Away
by Robert Eubanks and Gala Nettles
Cutting horse trainer William Freddell “Bill” Freeman, 58, Rosston, Texas, died from complications of fungal pneumonia and chronic asthma on July 29 at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. A close friend of the family who served as a spokesperson said Freeman passed away at 1:36 p.m., CDT. He was surrounded by members of his family, the spokesperson said.
Freeman was moved from Denton (Texas) Regional Hospital ICU to Baylor Medical Center on July 17 because of the need for more specialized asthma physicians. At the request of Freeman’s family, NCHA member and pulmonary specialist Dr. Robert Middleton, Summit, Miss., who was in Fort Worth for the Summer Spectacular, consulted with doctors at both hospitals.
His death came on the 25th anniversary of the NCHA Triple Crown achievement on Smart Little Lena. The duo won the 1982 NCHA Futurity and, in 1983, captured the NCHA Super Stakes and NCHA Derby, which now is the featured event at the Summer Spectacular. It was the first time the feat had been achieved.
Although Docs Okie Quixote and Joe Heim won the Triple Crown the next year, it was almost 20 years before Chiquita Pistol and Tag Rice won all three events. Smart Little Lena, Docs Okie Quixote and Chiquita Pistol are the only horses to win the Triple Crown.
A member of the National Cutting Horse Association Riders Hall of Fame, Freeman was the son of legendary trainer Shorty Freeman, now deceased, and became a legend in his own time. Mr. Freeman was the No. 2 cutting horse rider of all time with earnings of more than $5.4 million at the end of 2007, according to statistics researched and compiled by Equi-Stat, a division of Cowboy Publishing Group, and the No. 1 Open division rider with $5 million. His total of three NCHA World Championship Futurity titles is second only to the five earned by legendary trainer Buster Welch.
In addition to Smart Little Lena’s victory at the 1982 Futurity, Freeman also won the event in 1979 on Docs Diablo and in 1988 on Smart Little Senor. He won six other times at NCHA major aged events.
“He had a short life, but he had a good life and he did just what he wanted to,” the 80-year-old Welch told Quarter Horse News. “He’s got a real place in the history of cutting. If you got him a good horse, he would beat you. He was classy showing a horse. He always had something going for the crowd. He did a lot for cutting and we all owe him for that. He was a true horseman from the ground up.”
Freeman began riding horses at age 4, but he said it wasn’t until he worked for Tom Lyons while in his early 20s that he gained the confidence and received the opportunity to show top cutting horses. He said he loved riding cutting horses, but didn't know if he could be successful. That changed when he worked for Lyons.
Lyons, who lived in Arizona when he employed Freeman, told Quarter Horse News, “He always was a natural. You just had to point him in the right direction.”
“I will never forget. A few years ago, Bill paid me a very good compliment in an article. He said of all the people he had worked for, I was the only one he would go back to work for again. I told Bill, ‘That’s good because I’ll always take you back, too.’ ”
Freeman and his father were outlived by two of the horses that made them famous. Doc O’Lena, sire of Smart Little Lena, died on Feb. 27, 1993, three years after the death of Shorty Freeman. Smart Little Lena reigns as the leading sire in the cutting horse industry and at the end of 2007, ranked No. 4 on the list of leading paternal grandsires and second on the list of leading maternal grandsires.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 3 in Will Rogers Coliseum. Memorial contributions may be made to the NCHA Charities Foundation, 260 Bailey Ave., Fort Worth, TX 76107.
Survivors include his wife, Jill, Rosston, Texas, his sister, Sharon Riddle, wife of trainer Terry Riddle, Wynnewood, Okla., and his daughters, Tina, Erica, Kim and Elayna.
Additional information may be obtained in the Aug. 15 issue of Quarter Horse News and an expanded news account about Mr. Freeman's life will be carried in the Sept. 1 issue of Quarter Horse News.