Mar 25, 1924 – Dec 31, 2013
On December 31, 2013, Bill Collins of Sherwood Park, Alberta passed away peacefully with his family at his side at the age of 89 years. Bill is survived by his wife of 39 years, Pearl Collins, his children: Russell and Billie-Lynn of Vancouver, Philip (Shannon) of Calgary and their children, Liam, Declan, and Baillie; his sister, Martha Christie of Invermere and her children, Paula- Marie, Nat, Phillip, and Carla-Jo; his stepson: Gary Coleman of Sherwood Park and his children, Benjamin and Jessica; his step- granddaughter, Jenna Syme of Brandon, Man., and her son Zakary; as well as numerous nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, Russell and Marie Collins, his brother and his wife, Bob and Louella of Stettler, his brother-in-law, Nat Christie of Invermere, and his stepson, Paul Coleman of Ottawa. A private family service will be held with cremation to follow and a celebration of life will be announced at a later date. Donations in memory of Bill may be made to a charity of one’s choice or to the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Bill Collins Youth Scholarship Fund.
Born in Big Valley, Alberta, in 1924, Bill Collins is the Canadian icon of the North American cutting horse world. However, Collins’ accomplishments are not limited to the cutting arena. In the 1940’s Collins became a livestock dealer and attended his first Calgary Stampede in 1945, as a spectator, where he caught the rodeo “bug”. He returned the following year as a competitor in calf roping and as an outrider for a chuck wagon racing outfit. Collins was the Canadian Calf Roping Champion in 1951, 1952, 1956, and 1957 and Reserve Champion in 1954, 1958, and 1959. He was also the 1954 Canadian Wild Cow Milking Champion. In 1955, Collins began working with cutting horses, and is a three-time Canadian Cutting Horse Futurity Champion and has been the Canadian Cutting Horse Open Champion at least a dozen times.
As a testament to Collins’ diverse equestrian talent, he won the Safeway Jumpers Sweepstakes following a jump-off over 5 ½ foot fences, was third in the $1,200 Cutting Horse Jackpot and was the Reserve Champion Calf Roper, at the 1966 Edmonton Rodeo.
In 1958, Collins set up his original training stable in Edmonton, Alberta and had up to 75 horses in training in both English and Western disciplines. During the 1960’s Collins was a Director of the Canadian Equestrian Federation (now Equine Canada) and helped the organization to standardize judging rules. In 1962, Collins met H.R.H. Prince Phillip during a cutting event at the Douglas Lake Ranch in British Columbia. This encounter led to a three-month Royal Cutting Horse Tour and demonstration across Great Britain, in 1964, with Prince Philip as the event’s patron.
Collins taught clinics worldwide between the 1950s and 1980s. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, he was a judge for the Canadian Cutting Horse Association (CCHA), the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) and the AQHA, presiding over competitions throughout North America, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, and England. In 1987, Collins was inducted into the CCHA Hall of Fame, followed in 1994 by induction into the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame, and the NCHA Hall of Fame, in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1995.
Jeff Hooper, Executive Director of the NCHA said, “Mr. Collins has been a valuable member of the NCHA since 1960, and a major liaison between the CCHA and NCHA for many years, assisting to promote and educate in all areas of the sport in both countries. Among his other achievements, Mr. Collins was responsible for the inclusion of the continuous cutting competition, since 1974, at the Calgary Stampede. He has been an asset to NCHA in many areas for many years, and is most worthy of this honour.”
Jamie Steer, President of the CCHA said, “For in excess of 50 years, Mr. Collins has been the greatest influence in Canada, not only on the quality of cutting performed through his training methods and performances, (he is still riding and selectively teaching) but through the quality of Quarter Horses he has provided through importation and breeding for his clients and the industry.” “Bill Collins has held many positions throughout the lifetime of the CCHA and was very instrumental in the organization of this association in 1954. Bill still attends all Directors meetings and functions and his knowledge of the history of the cutting world is a great contribution to our meetings,” said Connie Delorme, CCHA Executive Secretary.
Arguably, Collins’ greatest admirers are the legions of students with whom he has so willingly shared his knowledge over the decades. One such student, Janie Bass of Winnipeg, Manitoba said, “I went to train with Bill about 10 years ago. His kindness and patience was evident in his dealings with all those who came in contact with him. Bill exemplifies everything that a Hall of Famer should. Bill Collins is a true champion of the horse. He will come to the defense of the horse, in a way that will educate the rider, so as to make the horse’s life and job so much easier. His first concern is always the horse’s welfare, and his caring is evident in everything he does, and stands for. Bill has dedicated his life to horses, and horses are his life. He is truly a gentleman and his fine qualities are rarely found today.”
Bill Collins re-established Leecoll Stables at Bearspaw, near Calgary, in 1974, until he sold it in June of 2005, when he retired from active training.
Collins was originally nominated to the AQHA Hall of Fame by Wayne Antworth of Woodstock, New Brunswick. The Canadian Quarter Horse Association is proud to have played a role in resubmitting this most deserved nomination in 2005. The nomination was supported by the CCHA, the NCHA, two Alberta equine magazines – Canadian Cowboy Country and Western Horse Review, and many personal letters of support from individuals who hold Bill Collins in the highest esteem. Given his many personal accomplishments and generous contributions to the international horse industry, it is absolutely fitting that legendary Alberta horseman Bill Collins was the first Canadian to be inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 2006.