- Last Updated on 07:36 AM 10/03/12
- BY Danielle Vaughn
Tom Simmons has been a successful horse trainer for over half a century working with over 13,000 horses during the course of his career.
“When people are born, they’re born with certain talents and gifts. I was born an observer, and I think being an observer is my greatest asset as a horse trainer,” Simmons said.
The now 74-year-old horse trainer operates a stable just eight miles outside Cluster Springs in Roxboro, N.C.
Simmons’ love of horses began when his grandmother gave him a book about horses as a child.
At the age of 16, Simmons went to work for a horse trainer in Ohio.
“I wanted to be good with horses,” Simmons said.
It was at that point, Simmons said people noticed his talents and began asking him to ride their horses.
Simmons started operating his own stable in Harrison County, Indiana charging $35 per horse, while the owners provided the food and supplies for the horses. But things soon got more costly, and he eventually raised his price to $45 per horse.
The price finally reached $65 per horse, with Simmons furnishing the food and supplies for the horse.
For 24 years, Simmons operated his stable in Indiana until a California breeder and show stable owner recognized his gift and asked Simmons to work for him.
Simmons spent 16 years in California training horses before coming to Roxboro, N. C.
Simmons has owned and bred horses since 1963 and has traveled all over the country conducting training seminars. During the seminars, Simmons works to change the behavior of horses with behavioral problems.
Trial and error is how Simmons said he learned to train horses.
“No one can teach a trainer how to be good with horses, it takes numbers,” Simmons said.
He noted training and breeding are his favorite parts about working with horses.
“Breeding is a great reward,” Simmons said.
Dealing with owners who don’t know no how to deal with horses after he’s trained them, Simmons said, is the most stressful part of his job.
Simmons uses what he calls common sense horsemanship to train horses.
“What ever you do, approach it in a common sense manner. Horses are not intelligent but have sharp instincts and a good memory that can supercede human intelligence. You have to be consistent to be good with horses,” Simmons said.
What the horse needs, Simmons said, is a strong factor in determining what action he will take with the horses.
“Every horse is different, just like you and I are,” Simmons said.
He experiences memorable moments every week while training horses and one particular memory doesn’t stand out more than any other.
He said being able to turn a greatly disturbed horse into a great product is very memorable to him and that happens quite often.
Simmons said what he has learned from working with horses over the years is from the beginning if he can teach his horse that the animal can satisfy him, then the horse will work hard to do so.
Throughout the years, Simmons said he has worked with many different breeds of horses, but Morgans have proven to be his favorite.
He currently owns more than 20 Morgans, while also training horses for others.
Simmons’ family also shares his love for horses.
He has been married to his wife, Katherine, for 12 years, and together they have one daughter. He also has four other children from a previous marriage.
Although a majority of his children are grown with families of their own, his youngest daughter and his wife still ride weekly, Simmons said.
As for his plans for the future, Simmons said time and time again he has said he will retire, but customers continue to call asking for help with their horses.
He has now limited the number of horses he will take at one time to five, and he has a waiting list.
Many of Simmons’ customers are from out of state due to the many years he spent living and working in Indiana and California. He very rarely works with local horses but has had a few clients in Halifax County.
Simmons recalls selling horses to county residents Robin Young and Lucy Fuller and has trained horses for a few other local families.
He also has sold his horses to some of the Amish community in Halifax County, in Pennsylvania and out west.
One satisfied customer with local ties to the area is William Younger of Louisville, Ky.
Younger purchased a Morgan horse in November from a lady in northwest Indiana.
“The third day we had him, he threw my daughter, and we incurred an emergency room bill of $8,000. Once this happened, my daughter, nor anyone else at the stable would ride him. We paid a lot of money for him, but I was coming to the point of giving up and cutting my losses,” Younger said.
During a recent visit to Halifax County, Younger said he stopped by Curtis Reaves’ home in Cluster Springs.
Younger’s daughter, Teresa, told Reaves about the horse and asked if he knew anyone who might want to buy him.
“This conversation led us to Tom. During one of my telephone conversations, he said his son still lives in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and he intended to visit him in the next 30 days.
This presented the opportunity for him to come to the Younger’s stable where they board and have assess to TAZ, their Morgan horse.
Younger, a very satisfied customer of Simmons, said, “I was just amazed and cannot begin to describe how in just about two hours, he had resolved TAZ’s bad behavior issues completely. There was no abuse, no jerking or yelling. It’s the type of stuff you see on TV with the horse whisperer (who Simmons knows personally). To this day (knock on wood), TAZ has been a well behaved horse,” Younger said.
Satisfied customers far and wide tout his commonsense horsemanship techniques used to train riding and driving horses for competition levels as being extremely effective.
For more information on Simmons, view his website at http://www.tomsimmonsstables.com.