Mack Motes lived a life that few in this century can comprehend. He existed in temporal dissonance with modern society, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way. His life was a patchwork of stories worthy of Zane Grey’s pen and maybe, one day, those stories will be memorialized for all to read. Or maybe not. Some may be best preserved by only those who experienced the adventures with him.
Mack found communicating with horses easier than people, a trait that enabled him to make a successful living doing what he loved.  Few truly understood him, but those who did, understood that he was a man of conviction, passion, nature, and enjoyed an equestrian way of life that would be extinct but for people like him and others who work to preserve it for future generations. 

Mack probably described himself best, “The most important thing for any person is to be honest. Sometime or another your word is the only thing you’ll have to stand up for you. I’m no politician.  I know that some people who don’t know me don’t understand me.  They form an opinion because I don’t talk much about unnecessary things. But, if I do say something, you can be sure I’m pretty serious about it. I don’t say anything I can’t stand behind. If you ask me something, I’ll tell you the truth as I know it.”  

Mack was raised in East Tennessee.  His father was a logger and mule-skinner who introduced him to life with horses and mules.  He trained his first horse, Tony, when he was barely a teen. When Mack was 16, he left Tennessee for Weed, New Mexico, where he worked at a sawmill, rode in local rodeos, and realized that training horses was his calling. In 1962, at age 19, he returned home, married his child-hood sweetheart, Mary Ruth Riggs, and began training horses professionally. He got his start in Jasper, Tennessee working for trainer, John Price. 

On October 31, 1962, Mack and Mary Ruth welcomed their first child, Mack, Jr.  

Soon thereafter, Mack moved his family to Middle Tennessee where he trained horses for Vic Thompson. During this time, he trained a number of World Champion Tennessee Walking Horses, including Untouchable, ridden by the young, talented Judy Tillet. Under Mack’s guidance, Judy and Untouchable were undefeated in junior classes during the 1966-1968 seasons, winning six world championships and every major horse show in the country during those years. The pair ultimately retired two World Champion Challenge Trophies.

In 1968, Mack struck out on his own and continued his success in the show ring personally and as a trainer of amateur riders. Judy followed and together with Black Magic Woman and Ebony’s Mountain Man, the team claimed every World Champion amateur title in which they competed. Other World Champion Tennessee Walking Horses trained by Mack through the years included Johnny Midnight, Shadow’s Royal Flush, Pride’s Generator, Pride’s Marquita, Senator on Parade, and Pride’s Grand Finale, just to name a few. 

Throughout the late 60s and early 70s, Mack’s success and popularity grew.  With his trim physique, big smile, and coal-black hair, Mack drew the attention of many young ladies, some of whom founded the Mack Motes Fan Club: a claim-to-fame not shared by many trainers of that era.

In 1971, he and Mary Ruth welcomed their second child, Lynda Gayle. 

Mack was not only committed to success in the show ring, he was committed to the success of the Walking Horse Industry as a whole. In 1976, he was elected President of the Walking Horse Trainers Association. Between 1976 and 1995, he served in that role seven times.  While President, he worked diligently to ensure the well-being of the Walking Horse by working collaboratively with the USDA and its efforts to enforce the Horse Protection Act.  Mack oversaw the development of the first welfare inspection program for the industry.  He was also an active horse show judge.  Mack’s success and commitment to the industry landed him in the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Hall of Fame.

Mack was equally dedicated to the promotion and growth of the Spotted Saddle Horse, a breed he trail rode every Sunday.  He was a founding member and past-President of the National Spotted Saddle Horse Association and the Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders & Exhibitors Association. As a trainer, he captured countless championships in the show ring and served as a standard bearer for the industry.

Mack’s profession was also his hobby.  He often said he never had to work a day in his life, because he was doing what he loved. He spent his “time off” in the woods with his dearest friends riding trails that were navigable to only the most skilled riders. The memories created and stories told regarding these adventures have been and will continue to be shared for years.

In 2012, Mack married Wilma Stuller.  Mack retired from training soon thereafter and he and Wilma enjoyed their time together raising cattle, horses and dogs, trail riding, and going on weekend wagon trains with their beautiful mule teams.  Mack was an active member of the Middle Tennessee Mule Skinners, and in 2018, helped set the Guinness World Record for the most mules (91) simultaneously plowing a field. In 2019 and again in 2022, Mack and Wilma won Best Mule Team in the Columbia Mule Day Parade.  

Mack’s greatest joy, however, came from spending time with his grandchildren, Mandy and Isaac. He couldn’t have been more of proud of them.

Manual Mack Motes, 79, died Friday, October 21, 2022, at his residence in Eagleville, Tennessee. Mack was born on February 28, 1943, in Evensville, TN to the late Elmer “Doc” Motes and Alice Marie Philips Motes. He is preceded in death by his siblings Beulah Jean Motes, John E. Motes, Connie Sue Motes Reynolds, Thomas H. Motes, and Jack R. Motes.
Mack is survived by his loving wife of 10 years, Wilma M. Buttgereit Motes, son Manual Mack Motes, Jr. of Shelbyville, TN, daughter Lynda Motes (Benjamin) Hill of Eagleville, TN, siblings  Alvin “Buddy” Motes of Ooltewah, TN, Alice Faye (Steve) Christmas of Hickory, NC, Fred (Jan Lowry) Motes of Woodbury, TN, and his grandchildren Mandy Lynn Motes and Isaac Motes Hill. 

Visitation with the family will be 5:00pm until 8:00pm Monday, October 24, 2022 at Murfreesboro Funeral Home. Funeral service will be 1:00pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022 with visitation from 11:00am until Service time.  

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Walking Horse Trainers Association Scholarship Fund, which benefits trainer’s children.  Donations can be mailed to WHTA Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 61, Shelbyville, Tennessee 37160.