Equestrian community mourns loss of legendary coach J.T. Tallon

“Hunter courses are a little bit like Muzak in an elevator. You know it’s there but it should never call attention to itself.” 

J.T. Tallon riding Charlotte Jones’ Goldschaum in 1996.
Photo via SWVHJA Facebook page.


Collegiate riding lost a legendary and colorful figure Saturday, July 11, when J.T. Tallon died in a Lexington, Va., hospice center, the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association said Monday in a news release. He was 62.

Tallon had battled cancer for some time and suffered complications from a car accident in March.

IHSA Executive Director Bob Cacchione has pledged IHSA will create a Zone 4 scholarship in the name of Tallon.

Tallon was best known for coaching perhaps the most successful IHSA team of all time – Southern Seminary for Women in Buena Vista, Virginia – first as an assistant to Russ Walther, and later taking over as head coach. Southern Seminary was the IHSA National Champion team eight times in the 1980s.

Over three decades, Tallon became involved in nearly everything in the central Virginia hunter/jumper business. “He was always there,” said his old boss, Russ Walther. “He truly was a fixture of the horse industry in that part of Virginia, as a coach, trainer, course designer and judge.”

Photo via Facebook

For 16 years, Tallon made the hour-long drive daily over the Blue Ridge Mountains from his home in Lexington, Va., to his job as equestrian director at Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, before retiring in 2011. At Randolph, he won three championships in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, coached several riders to IHSA and ANRC Nationals ribbons, and coached Randolph-Macon to its best (third-place) Collegiate Cup Team finish at the 1999 IHSA Nationals.

“He was a great coach and improved riding tremendously in this area,” said Nancy Peterson, the long time Equestrian Director of Hollins University in Roanoke.

Tallon was originally from Philadelphia, coming to Virginia to attend Roanoke College. He was teaching lessons when Walther hired him at Southern Seminary. Since retiring from collegiate coaching, Tallon worked as a instructor, as well as judging horse shows and doing course design. He recently had been working out of Stone Bridge Equestrian Center in Lexington, Va.

J.T. Tallon died Saturday,
July 11, in Lexington, Va.

Photo via Facebook.

“Hunter courses are a little bit like Muzak in an elevator,” Tallon once said, “You know it’s there but it should never call attention to itself.”

He was famous for his colorful and descriptive way of teaching: “He jumps like a cow falling out of a tree.” His students will tell you they still hear his commentary running inside their heads while riding.

Contributions to the JT Tallon IHSA Scholarship may be mailed to IHSA VP George Lukemire at 311 Parker-Slatton Road, Simpsonville, SC 29681.

Tallon and a group of other riders formed the Southwest Virginia Hunter/Jumper Association (SWVHJA). They formulated a set of rules, divisions and levels of competition based on the horse’s experience and the rider’s ability. Tallon served as president of the group in the early 1990s and was just inducted into its Hall of Fame.

Tallon was also a fixture at the Roanoke Valley Horse Show for many years and his wife, Sue, was part of the show office staff.    

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