Cover photo for Marvin Dean Smith's Obituary
Marvin Dean Smith Profile Photo

Marvin Dean Smith

January 6, 1933 — September 20, 2023

Council Grove, Kansas

Marvin Dean Smith


“Marvin” Dean Smith peacefully passed away September 20, 2023, at Diversicare retirement home. Dean was born January 6, 1933 in Valencia, Kansas to Robert and Rinda Smith. Dean, the youngest of 4 to brothers Harley, Fred, and Robert, Jr., went to school and graduated from Silver Lake High School. While in school, Dean enjoyed playing football, as he was quite the runner. There were many through the years that tried to race him, but few could ever beat him in a foot race. He also loved to always tell how he won the spelling bee. Shortly after graduating high school, he met a young lady from Burlingame, Kansas. On October 17, 1954, he married Donna Gifford. This next year would have marked 70 years of being married to each other. 

In August the next year, they added a son, Rickie Dean, to the family. Catherine Kay soon followed in April, 1958, making it a family of 4. After a brief stint of working at the Goodyear plant in Topeka, Dean returned to his true calling, training horses. Those who have ever owned or ridden a Dean Smith trained horse are forever grateful that he followed his heart.  His first professional training job was riding Morgan horses for Stuart Hazard in Wakarusa. In 1961, the family moved to Eureka, Kansas, where he trained Quarter horses for the Sutton Ranch.  After starting to gain a name for himself as an up and coming trainer, Dean moved his family to Hutchinson, Kansas, where he rented a training facility. As Dean’s knowledge of horses grew, so did his popularity as a horse trainer. In 1967, he decided to take a leap and purchase his own facility in Council Grove, Kansas. The rest is history. 

1969 was a milestone year for Dean. In March, the family added the final member, Tricia Rae. Later that same year, Dean won the National Reining Horses Association futurity aboard Miss Sue Skip. He followed up this win by taking her back the next year to win the Derby, a feat that had not been duplicated by any trainer until recent years. These monumental wins helped solidify Dean as being one of the top all around trainers in the country. The 1970’s were a whirlwind of many phenomenal horses and much more success in and out of the show pen. In the early 80’s, Dean decided to leave the all around world behind, and started focusing primarily on cutting horses. As you would expect, Dean met this challenge head on and his horses were a force to be reckoned with in the show pen. 

Many of the bloodlines that are showing today can be traced back to horses that he raised, trained, and/or showed. With over 60 years of training horses in multiple disciplines, it would be impossible to list all the impressive lines of horses that graced the halls of his barns and were trained by his hands. Dean took great pride in his horses, which you could tell when he unloaded them at a show. They were show stoppers and everything, tack included, would normally turn heads.  Just to name a small amount from years past, you would have to list such greats as Harlans Tyree, Docs Eldorado and Docs Tom Thumb, Docs Chita, Keeners Skip, Deans Choice, Ottago, Go Comet, Imapeppysandoc, Smart Mate, Peppy Sandorado, and Smart Alexa. And these would just be the tip of the iceberg. Along with multiple World and State titles, in 2008, Dean was inducted into the Kansas Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. Not only did he change the industry by training horses, for several years, he traveled and offered clinics, many of those with Purina, to help people better understand their horses. Dean was also dubbed as being known as The Trainers Trainer. His advice and wisdom was sought after by other top trainers, but he was just as eager to share his knowledge with the weekend rider that just wanted a well broke horse to enjoy. He was an icon in the horse industry. The loyal customers/friends Dean made through the years is nothing short of amazing.

As Dean got older, he realized there was life outside horses. It was called Grandkids. Anyone that knew Dean knew he couldn’t be any prouder than he was of his grandkids, and later great grandkids. With a total of 4 grandkids, Rinda (Tony) Stecher, Jessie Pritchard, Jenna (Daniel) Vathauer, and Logan Hickey, he loved watching them grow.  It got even better when he eventually started over again with great grandkids, Jackson and Scarlett Stecher, Jacob, Jaci Kay and Arlo Vathauer, and Ryker and Charlee Rose Pritchard. There has never been any prouder Grandpa. He loved to go to all the soccer games, baseball games, would spend time coaching horse riding, and when he couldn’t be anywhere in person, loved watching any and all videos and pictures shown to him. His grandkids were his pride and joy. Jessie is even following in his Grandpa’s footsteps as a professional horse trainer.  As he eased into retirement, he also enjoyed spending time at the local “watering holes” in town. You would frequently find him having coffee and a sweet treat or his favorite chips and salsa downtown. He loved to sit and chat with people. His smile was contagious.

Dean was proceeded in death by his son, Rickie Dean, his brothers, Harley, Fred, and Robert, Jr., and his parents, Robert and Rinda Smith.  He is survived by his wife, Donna Smith, of the home, daughter Cathy (John) Pritchard of Council Grove, and daughter Tricia (Mark) Hickey of Council Grove, and his grandchildren and great grandchildren. 

A Celebration of Life with lunch and refreshments will be held on October 15, 2023 at 1:00 at the 4H Building in Council Grove, Kansas. If planning on attending for lunch, please RSVP to a family member. Even if you can only stay for a few minutes, please come with a “Dean” story or memory to share. These stories will help fill the void that his passing has left. 

Memorial contributions can be made to Kansas Quarter Horse Youth Association (KQHYA) or USD 417 Athletics, both of which support activities done by some of Dean’s grandkids. Contributions can be sent to Sawyer Funeral Home.


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Past Services

Celebration of Life

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Starts at 1:00 pm (Central time)

Morris County 4H Center

612 US-56, Council Grove, 66846

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