It is with heavy hearts that we announce the loss of a great man in the Eventing community, Don Gerlach. Don passed away suddenly in his home last week of natural causes, and behind him left an enormous hole in our hearts and our lives. Don was an active member of the Area IX Eventers, known for organizing competitions and designing the cross country course at Powder Basin Horse Trials, as well as a fierce competitor in his own right, with results through Intermediate with his own Hale Bop.
Don was one of the best known members of the Area IX community, and they just lost their hardest worker, organizer, and friend. Teresa Craig, a member of the Powder Basin Equestrian Center, was nice enough to write this tribute to Don.
Don loved to teach anyone anything he knew, especially riding and skiing. Family reunions were spent skiing at Tahoe, Jackson Hole, Steamboat and the Big Horns, tropical cruises, Hawaii, and trail riding in the Big Horns trying to find Bomber Mountain. His faithful dog, Walker, was always by his side.
Don has been a very supportive member of the Campbell County Horse 4-H Program in Gillette for 21 years. He was always there to coach a kid, build a trail pattern, or whatever was needed at the moment. His tireless work and devotion will be sorely missed by all the youth and adults in the Program. He gave selflessly and never asked for a thing in return. He kept the 4-H Horse equipment trailer cleaned and stocked and would always move it to the venue it would be needed at next. For the past several years he took it upon himself to set up the Trail and the Programmed Ride at all of the Progress Shows and County Fair.
Many will have fond remembrances of Don; toothpick securely clamped in his mouth with his horses Baby and Paris, entertaining the crowds at the Stock Show in Denver, the summer fans at the Colorado Horse Park, in Estes Park, and the hometown fans in Wyoming. He was know as the “Jumper Ambassador” at the NWSS because he was kind and engaging to everyone from the pre-schoolers strolling through the stall aisles, his fellow competitors and to the crowd in the stands. He was the beacon of the person who showed with the clear joy of being with his horses. Don was a wonderful and unique individual who was always ready to help others. Small in stature, he was larger than life–always there with a laugh or hug when you needed it. He volunteered the majority of the manual labor, construction, and heavy equipment responsible for creating and maintaining the Powder Basin Equestrian Equestrian Park at CAM-PLEX which was his second home which he was very proud of it. He rescued friends (and strangers) in any situation; he was a thoughtful and caring friend.
This was Don:
- If your old horse or dog needed to be put down in the middle of a cold winter night, you could call Don and he would be there to do it for you with respect, and he will have brought his backhoe to bury him in your pasture too.
- If you broke down anywhere on the road and could get hold of Don, he would come and get you and tow you and your horses home.
- If a horse got loose, Don would fetch him, no matter how long it took or where it was.
- He never remembered your name but knew who you were by your horse or your interaction with him. If you asked him if he saw Philip Dutton or David O’Connor at Rolex, he would say, “Who’s that?’
- If a rattlesnake was found under a jump on a course walk at your horse trials, Don and his sons would take care of it with glee.
- If there was something jumpable, Don would jump it. Forwards, backwards and sideways. Run outs didn’t count, he would always laugh and come back and try it again, maybe faster will work. Didn’t matter what horse he was on.
- If you needed to borrow a flatbed trailer to go pick up your stranded college kids and their car on 1-25 by Glendo, he would happily lend it to you.
- Telephone poles or railroad ties left too long outside a yard (or inside) in town would sometimes mysteriously end up on the Powder Basin Course.
- If you ran out of hay for your horses, he always had some and would deliver it.
- If your kids’ 4-H horse needed to be shod the morning of the horse show, he would drop everything and do it.
- The catered food at the Powder Basin competitor parties was almost always paid for exclusively by Don.
- He singlehandedly cleaned all of your stalls after you left Powder Basin Horse trials, so that the club would not get charged for this.
- For your convenience, he built two hitching rails and two tie poles in the parking lot of the Equestrian Park.
- Most of the trees at the Powder Basin course were planted by Don.
- The show jump ring and three dressage sand rings were built by Don and all of the sand was hauled and donated by Don.
- The two storage sheds and the office were hauled in and donated by Don.
- The many many steel panels at the Equestrian Park used for portable stalls, a round pen and fencing were all scrounged from the oilfield by Don.
- If your out of town group was coming to school the water jumps at Powder Basin, Don would make sure there was water in them. If you needed to stay overnight, he would put up portable stalls for you.
- If you had a big tree that was growing in your way, Don would come and cut it down for you and take it to the Powder Basin course to jump.
- If you had anything at your place that looked jumpable, it just might get hauled to the Equestrian Park.
- If you had visitors coming to town who wanted to ride a horse, he would haul Jasper and Baby to the Equestrian Park and give your visitors a free lesson and guided tour of the park, and probably demonstrate on a few of the biggest fences.
- If an out of town group needed help building or moving their cross-country course, Don would be there with his heavy equipment. Moonrock, Windy Wyoming, Big Horn, Moqui Meadows, Arrowhead, Colorado Horse Park, Rebecca Farm all knew him well.
Don has been an active member and organizer of the Powder Basin Equestrian Association in Gillette and an avid competitor in Eventing and Hunter/Jumper competitions in Wyoming and surrounding states. Everyone knew him at these horse shows for his unique style and helpful and positive attitude.
Funeral services for Don will be on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 6:00pm at Gillette Memorial Chapel In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Don Gerlach Memorial Fund to perpetuate and maintain the Equestrian Park or the Campbell County 4-H Horse Program. Checks may be sent to PBEA, Teresa Craig, 3200 Fitch Dr. Gillette, WY 82718