Horse Experiences, Memories and Opinions

My name is Tom Simmons. I have had Morgan horses since 1963. I have trained almost any breed you can think of. I have had a good amount of success. I have written articles for Western Horseman, The Morgan Horse, and The Carriage Journal. In the 47 years that I have worked horses, I have seen a lot. I would like to share with you some of my experiences, opinions and memories. Please feel free to email your thoughts. I will try to address them. Tom

Location: North Carolina

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Stallions and Trainers

I think stallions get trainers in trouble with owners more than anything else. At least it has been that way with me. I have been training since 1961, so there have been a few people angry with me over the years. I can't think of any business that doesn't have a customer get mad once in a while.

I'll tell about three cases here. All three cases have been over 25 years ago, so you see I have learned. All three cases involved stallions mostly because people send me lots of stallions. There was a time that I would have 20 horses in training and 10 of them would be stallions, not counting my own.

Case #1
This stallion was sent to me because he was having problems with his gaits, if I remember correctly, it was over 25 years ago. This was a pretty little horse that had a good disposition and boy could he trot, but he also racked which was not so good. The problem was when he came to my barn he was not the only stallion there. As I remember, his training went well, but he fretted about the other stallions and lost pounds. His owners were upset, but never said much, at least not to me. A few years ago I posted to a list and this owner came on the list and jumped on me about something that happened over 25 years ago. I never said a word. But I was very surprised that a person could still be so angry after 25 years. This was a very small horse, under 14H and slight, any pounds he lost showed and made him look bad very quickly.

From this horse I learned to talk to the owners as soon as possible about any problem. I learned that some families are more likely to do this than others. There are families that I talk to the their owners about before I take them in training. And if I had been a plain old bad guy who didn't feed his horses, maybe I learned. But anyone that stayed angry 25 years never learned to forgive.

Case # 2

This horse was inbred. His owners wanted to get more of a good thing. I think it was a full sister to brother breeding or something that close. This horse was beautiful and was one of the best western pleasure horses I ever sat on. We worked him over the winter and everything was fine. When spring came and we started breeding he went nuts. His weight stayed good but he was obsessed with the thought of breeding. I talked to his owners and we had the vet to put him on special medicine. Nothing seemed to help. So I sent him home. At home he never got over his obsession with mares and he had to be gelded. Being at a barn with lots of stallions was just too much for him. Once that door was opened it could not be closed. I have had two other stallions of this breeding and they don't do well around other stallions. Once you breed them, you really loose your show horse. This horse's owner never did get mad, but they did ask me questions that made me mad. After they took him home and when he did not settle down, they called me and asked if I had teased mares with him. My answer was no, we tease with the stallion that we used for breeding. Why would I tease with a stallion that I was showing? From this horse and others like him I learned never breed and show this family. They can't handle both. And I learned that a owner's trust can go to hell in a hand basket very quickly.

Case #3

This horse was bred very much like the horse in case#2. He came to me in the fall of his 4th year. He had been with a lady trainer and just got to be too much for her. When I started to work him he wanted to buck a little, but mostly he wanted to run. After I got those things fixed, I started taking him to schooling shows. Like the other horse of his breeding he was a great western pleasure horse. At one point I had showed him 12 times and he had 10 blues and 2 red ribbons-this was in open competition against quarter horses and all. He was really good. He was so good his owners wanted to breed a few mares to him. I told them of my experience with horses of this breeding and I felt that if we bred him we were going to loose our show horse. After lots of talk they decided that instead of breeding four mares, they would breed just one, surely that wouldn't hurt. I finally said he is your horse, do what you want. Well we bred the one mare and I never won another class. He eventually went home and was gelded. These owners were never angry with me, but they questioned me, wanting to know if the other trainer that shared the barn with me had been riding the horse. They thought that maybe the other trainer had ruined their horse.

Case #4

I said I would tell three stories but I thought of another that think is pretty interesting. I had a young mare for these people and she was very special. I worked her some as a two year old, but she was too little to do much good at showing. They wanted her to be a fine harness horse but she was just too little. As a three year old I talked them into letting me make a pleasure horse out of her. She did pretty good in pleasure driving and I started her under saddle that summer. She was still a little small and I felt that as a four year old she would be outstanding in harness and under saddle. That summer they brought me her full brother. He was a big colt but clearly not the quality of the mare. The owners felt that the mare was so good that her brother would make a good stallion. But I finally talked them into gelding him. About an hour after he was gelded his intestines fell out of the hole where he had been gelded. The vet that gelded him, worked with him for hours, but to no avail. If a horse lays down when this happens and gets any dirt on his intestines , you can seldom save them. He died after a couple of days. His owners said that they understood, but they were never the same with me. Later that fall they got the mare home for the winter, she was to return early in spring. She never did come back. In this fall from grace I lost a customer and good friends. They were always nice to me, but never the same.

That spring they took the mare to another trainer. This decision turned out to be a good one. I was just sorry for the way it happened. This trainer had a wife that was a very good rider and driver and she was just the right size for the mare.That fall the mare was World Champion English pleasure 4 year old and W.C. pleasure driving 4 year old. For about three years she was ladies W.C. English pleasure horse and W.C. pleasure driving. Quite a horse.