s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 4 of 12 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile app for just $5.25 per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 8 of 12 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile app for just $5.25 per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile app for just $5.25 per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Get unlimited access to SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile app for just $5.25 per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile app for just $5.25 per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
For just $5.25 per month, you can keep reading SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?

Glen Ellen professional horse trainer Jack Bingham dies at 77


Jack Bingham spent most of his life coaching children and training horses.

After growing up on horseback in Boonville and in and around Petaluma and Sonoma, Bingham became a middle-school P.E. teacher and coach, and a widely respected professional trainer, competitive rider, shower and judge of quarter horses.

Well known within the American Quarter Horse Association and other equestrian organizations, Bingham died March 24 in an accident as he was transporting two horses by trailer at the Glen Ellen ranch that he managed with his partner, Suzanne Gray. He was 77.

The son of late horse trainer Jack Allen Bingham Sr. and Easter Lilly Bingham, he was a soft-spoken and private man known throughout California, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon and Washington for the depth of his knowledge of quarter horses and his willingness to share it.

“He was quiet, reserved, determined,” said son Jay Bingham of Valley Springs, in Calaveras County.

“He had a way with horses and he was always willing to be there, he helped everyone. He loved to teach.”

Jack Bingham showed horses in Pacific Coast Quarter Horse events and AQHA and Reined Cow Horse classes, and he competed in team penning, team sorting and other competitions at the Sonoma County Fair, Sonoma Marin Fair, Redwood Empire Quarter Horse Association, Petaluma Riding and Driving Club and many other equestrian groups.

“We’d ask for his help and he was never one to say no,” said Doreen Hamann, president of the family equestrian club founded in Petaluma in 1939, the same year Bingham was born in north Texas.

As a trainer, Bingham was known for the patience and precision he brought to preparing quarter horses for competitions, and to coaching riders on how to gently direct their steeds and, perhaps, to read the body language of a steer that needed to be moved from point A to B.

Since he retired in 2000 as a P.E. teacher and coach at Novato’s Sinaloa Middle School, Bingham dedicated virtually all of his time to training horses, instructing riders and judging quarter horse events.

“Our vacations were going to another state or another city or town to judge a show,” said Gray, who had been with Bingham for about the past 15 years.

She said the two of them would be out somewhere in the North Bay or beyond and grown-up former middle-school students would approach the retired teacher and coach.

“They always came up and said, ‘Mr. Bingham, it’s so good to see you.’ That happened to us a lot.”

Gray said the encounters made Bingham feel good because as an old-school teacher with Midwest values, he’d been strict and demanding with his students.

Bingham was born in the Texas panhandle town of Canadian in 1939, but his family was living at the time across the state line in Oklahoma. His father would work most of his life as a horse trainer.

Jack Bingham Jr. was 9 when his folks moved to a ranch outside of Boonville in Mendocino County.

“They had a driveway eight miles long, to the county road,” said Bingham’s former wife, Darlene Bingham of Ione. The young Jack Bingham loved living in the California countryside, exploring the woods and creeks and refining his riding skills by observing and following the lead of his father.

After several years in Mendocino County, the Binghams relocated to the Cotati area. Jack Jr. was well along in his studies at Petaluma High School when his folks moved again, this time to Sonoma.

He graduated from Sonoma Valley High School and moved on to Humboldt State College. After about a year, he enlisted in the Army and served three years, mostly as a medic in South Korea.

Shortly after his honorable discharge, he enrolled at Sonoma State College and prepared for what would be a 35-year career as a teacher and football, basketball and gymnastics coach in Novato.

“While he was a teacher, he was also a professional horse trainer,” Darlene Bingham said. She said there were many wonderful days when the two of them and their son, Jay, lived on their 850-acre Bingham Training Stables ranch outside of Sonoma. “We trained and showed horses for clients,” she said. “We could ride out almost to Napa. It was the greatest place to raise a son.”

The Binghams divorced in 1987 but remained friends.

At age 77, Jack Bingham was retired from the classroom but still active in Sonoma County’s equestrian community and in the judging of quarter horse competitions throughout the West and Pacific Northwest.

Authorities said that on March 24, Bingham was using a pickup to tow two horses in a trailer and he was killed when he exited the truck to close a fence gate at the Glen Ellen ranch and the rig rolled backward, pinning him against the gate.

A celebration of Bingham’s life at Petaluma Riding and Driving Club on April 17 is scheduled to start at noon.

In addition to his partner in Glen Ellen, his son in Valley Springs and his former wife in Ione, Bingham is survived by his brother, Jim Bingham of Dunnellon, Fla.

Memorial donations are suggested to the Glen Ellen Fire Department, 13445 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen, 95442, with the notation, for Sonoma Large Animal Rescue.