Twinkle Gorman lived up to her nickname, a sparkling dynamo with a bright smile – especially aboard a jumping horse.
Since childhood, Twinkle loved riding and jumping horses, earning accolades and national honors well into her 70s. She kept riding until 2012 and the death of her husband, Sacramento builder John W. Gorman Sr.
Cancer – first afflicting her husband, then herself – was the only thing that could knock Twinkle permanently out of the saddle. At age 82, she died at home Jan. 12 from complications of the disease. A public memorial is planned for 1 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Sutter Club in Sacramento.
Her accomplishments and dedication made Twinkle a legend among Sacramento-area equestrians.
“She was an inspiration to everyone and always a class act,” said horse trainer Diane Yeager, a longtime friend. “On a horse, she was just fearless. She always wanted to excel, but she also had an empathy for horses. She was such a pillar in our industry and did so much for our sport.”
“Twinkle was genuine,” added Carleton Brooks, one of the nation’s top horsemen, who knew Gorman for nearly 40 years. “She appreciated the horses. She really cared about them and enjoyed watching their development. Any type of riding, she was thrilled with.”
Born Charlotte Frances Moss on Aug. 5, 1934, Twinkle grew up on a 15-acre farm near William Land Park.
The daughter of Sacramento builder Henry Moss, she showed great promise as a young equestrian. By age 10, she was a serious student of Barbara Worth, a multi-Hall of Fame equestrian. Twinkle soon had her own horses and was riding competitively. Devoted to horses, she earned her first championship while still a student at McClatchy High School.
“I came home after school to clean stalls,” she told The Bee in a 2011 interview. “I didn’t mind getting my hands dirty. It was part of the pleasure.”
At age 18, Twinkle abruptly dropped horses for the man she loved. She married John Gorman, whom she met at a fraternity dance, and concentrated on rearing a family. The couple had four children: John Jr., Kelly, daughter Erin (O’Rourke) and Michael.
“My mom was my hero,” John Gorman Jr. said.
At 5-foot-1, she was an all-around athlete, enjoying skiing and golfing as well as riding, said Michael Gorman. “She was just as competitive on the golf course as she was on a horse,” he said.
“Mom hated to be second,” O’Rourke said.
Together, the Gormans built a successful development business, specializing in medical office buildings and surgical centers. Twinkle helped with interior design.
“She probably didn’t weigh 80 pounds soaking wet, but she was very ambitious and energetic,” said Joan Calkin, another longtime friend. “Her home and clothes were always immaculate, even when her kids were teenagers.”
“We went on a lot of golfing trips together (with the Gormans),” said Dr. Alan Calkin, Joan’s husband. “Twinkle was wonderful to play with, a good sport and a good golfer. She was always fun to be around.”
As a teen, daughter Erin showed an interest in horses, too, and that lured her mom back into riding.
“Someone suggested that I get on a horse and ride along with Erin,” Twinkle had said. “That’s all it took.”
After that reintroduction, Twinkle competed for another four decades, often against riders a fraction of her age. Over the years, she owned several horses – but only three or four at a time – and took a hands-on approach. Pregnant mares and jumpers with infirmities stayed in paddocks outside her Fair Oaks Boulevard home, where at least eight foals were born.
“A lot of people remember our house on a corner lot with ever-changing horses out front,” O’Rourke said.
As a competitive rider, Twinkle traveled the show circuit, often accompanied by Erin and Twinkle’s big dogs – a succession of German shepherds and standard poodles. John Gorman joined his wife for annual fox hunting trips to Ireland, England and Scotland.
In 2011, she was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the United States Hunter Jumper Association’s Western district. More importantly to Twinkle, her gray gelding Ragtime Cowboy won the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s national championship as best young horse.
“Mom always wanted a horse that could go back East and compete against the best,” O’Rourke said. “She finally got that.”
Twinkle is survived by her four children, sister Michele Brown of Granite Bay, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her honor to the Sacramento Children’s Home, an organization in which Twinkle was active for many years.
Asked why she kept competing for decades, Twinkle said she still enjoyed the thrill of sailing over fences. “I ride, I jump,” she said. “I love it.”