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

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Trail Horse

When I think of trail horses, I always think about the palomino ½ arab that I broke for me a Mr. White that lived at English, Indiana. This mare was kind of a tough cookie but I got her riding pretty good and sent her home. After about a week, Mr. White called me and said he was having a hard time getting her to pass about 4 or 5 places on the farm. He had about 800 acres of woods with some nice roads through it. He thought that if I came down on Sunday and brought the wife and kids we could have a cook out. He and I could ride the trails, with me riding the mare of course. When we got the mare saddled I asked him what horse was he going to ride. He told me he thought that he would drive the pick-up and I could follow him to the places tha the was having trouble passing. So off we went. The first two places were a snap. The third place was on top of a little hill where the road dropped over the other side. The mare started to give a hard time about passing a large rock right at the top of the hill. Mr. White stopped the pickup and was watching me. She didn’t want to go at first, but when she decided to go, she went. I can see Mr. White now, he was a large man so it was difficult for him to turn and watch us through the back glass. I can see his eyes now as this mare was closing in on the old pickup which had no tail gate.
When we got to the truck the mare went right up into the back of the pickup with me still sitting in the middle of her. As she was stomping in the bed of this pickup every once in a while I would get a glimpse of Mr. White’s eyes, which were wide with amazement. I didn’t know what to do but I knew that we couldn’t keep stomping in the bed of this pickup. So I turned her around and rode her back out of the pickup. I asked Mr.White if he could not stop quite as close to the crossing.


Super Con
Talking about thoroughbreds made me think of Super Con, a thoroughbred gelding that I knew and did a little training on. A few years ago I had a customer that had a couple of Morgan horses in trainig with me. He told me that his father-in- law had a 5 year old TB that had never been sound enough to race. But this year he looked good. His father-in- law has asked if I would be interested in training a TB. My reply was that I had always wanted to train a TB for the track. I could not train on the track, but I sure could work him at home. I always felt that if they were mannered like regular horses and trained to be a little more user friendly, they would run better times.
So when I got Super Con I put a stock saddle on him and started trail riding him. I rode him in the woods, in the fields and everywhere. There was a large field way back in the woods that had not been farmed for a long time. The footing was uneven but good and the land was rolling. This is where I started to galloping Super Con. After about 2 months of trail riding and galloping around this field I told his owner that he was ready for the track. I will never forget the first time I asked him to run. We had been just galloping along up to that point. So as we were galloping along I just dropped down on him and asked him to run. I will never forget the way he left there. The field was about ½ mile around and we were burning it up. After two trips around the field I thought I would bring him back to an easy lope so I took a hold of him. He just dropped down and put it in overdrive. We really made a trip around the field that time. So I softened up on him and relaxed my seat and he came back to me. That was quite a ride.
When his owner took him to the track he told his trainer at the track that the horse was ready to run, enter him. The trainer said that there was no way a horse that just come off the farm and could be ready to run. But they found that when they started to work him that he was ready to run, so they entered him. He won his first race after being on the track just nine days. That summer Super Con won most of his races. I never went to the track to see him run, but the son-in-law would always bring me win pictures. Looks like the whole city of Tell City, IN was in the winning photos. He was the pride of the town. Sometimes he would be second, just loosing by a nose. He was a late runner,coming from way back and sometimes he didn’t quite get there. But all around Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, the announcers got to know him. And when the horses turned for home, the announcers would say “AAAANNNNDDDD HEEEEERE COMES SUPER CON!!!! After about a year he was back to where he was before. But for that one summer he was something to behold.

The Preakness

A few weeks ago I watched what was to be a great race. But something tragic happened. Barbaro, the favorite pulled up short in the very early going of the race. Something went terribly wrong with his right back leg. We saw another great horse go by the wayside.
I noticed before the race that this horse was very agitated. They had to saddle him on the go. Then there were two grooms leading him. They were having a hard time containing him. He had his head down and his mouth gaped open and he was bulling. My guess and it is purely a guess, before he ever came onto the track, being unruly, he could have hurt himself in the stall. His breaking through the gate is further evidence that something was not right with this horse. I told my wife he is not going to win today. I was thinking this horse is not broke, he needs training. Many race horse trainers do not discipline their horses. They seem to think that the horse will loose something when in reality the horse would gain. He would be easier to rate. Safer for people to work around. I think a relaxed horse could run a mile faster than a nervous or anxious one.
His trainer is an ex-eventer. And in all the years that I have done horses I have seen very few eveners have good mannered horses. They know how to leg yield, change leads, jump, but no manners. So on Preakness day we lost a great horse to no manners.