Another Historic Saddlebred Horse Barn Lost to History
In November 2011, the famous Hook Barn in Mexico, Mo. was demolished to make way for new construction. Sitting next to the “Grand Old Barn on the Boulevard”, this barn was the final workplace for John T. Hook, a legend all of his own.
Hook knew horses from an early age, winning the five-gaited saddlehorse championship at the Mexico, Missouri Fair of 1890, defeating the celebrated horses “Ike” and “Thornton Star”.
A long and illustrious career followed, which was described in the book “Famous Saddle Horses and Distinguished Horsemen” by Jack Harrison and edited by W. Rufus Jackson.
In his lifetime, children were fortunate to grow up around livestock. Hook had the enthusiasm and instinctive knowledge which naturally led him to understand horse training and care to make champions and show their best characteristics in competitions. Over the course of his 30-some year career, he bought, trained, and exhibited some of the world’s greatest saddle horses consistently during that time. It was said by many of his time that more top notch show horses passed through his hands than through any other man.
For instance, in 1905, Hook won the Missouri State Fair championship with Rex Blees, in 1906 with Rex Chief, in 1907 the stallion championship with King Forest, and in 1908 the same prize with Grant McDonald.
At the 1917 Kentucky State Fair, Hook showed Easter Cloud and brought out the result that he won the championship stake there. It was said by Herbert J. Krum at the time: “The rider of the winner was John T. Hook, and all the honors and the credit for this historic event belong to him. In addition to his winning the championship he rode or had the direction of the winners of exactly one-fourth of the total prizes, getting not only the championship itself, but also the first and fourth in the mare division and third in the stallion division.”
While he worked in various training positions around the country, he finally settled back in his native Mexico Mo, where he operated a stables with his two sons. That barn was bought by Arthur Simmons and used by him and his family until their family horse training interests were moved to a farm north of town. It had been hoped to salvage the Hook barn along with the Grand Barn just across the street from it. Now it is just so much memory for the people remaining who knew it and its owners.
This testament from the above book says much about this Master horseman and the respect he earned from his peers and the community he contributed so much to:
John T. Hook, MEXICO, MO.
In 1947 during the Audrain County Fair and Horse Show held in Mexico, Mo., Mr. John T. Hook Received a beautiful trophy in commemoration of his many years of devotion to the Saddle Horse and to our American horse shows. At the Boone County show held in Columbia, Mo., in the Stephens College Arena, September 6, 1948, Mr. Hook was guest of honor at the famous Boone County Ham Breakfast for exhibitors and prominent visitors. A special tribute was also tendered Mr. Hook during the golden anniversary show of the American Royal in Kansas City, last October; a great show which Mr. Hook has attended since its inauguration show held in an outdoor tent over fifty years ago. Since John Hook was sold enough to hang onto a lead strap he has been training, riding, showing, and selling Saddle Horses.
He has watched the great ones come and go and he has contributed in no small way to the popularity and progress our great horse shows have enjoyed over a long period of years.
Mr. Hook is known from coast to coast as a judge, trainer, and dealer in fine horses. He is an inspiration to new exhibitors and is especially interested in seeing the younger generation in the show rings and well mounted. He and his son Leonard are always on hand to greet the many visitors who trek out to Mexico in search of good show horses. No better treat awaits the horseman who enters the office of John Hook and Son, than to spend an hour listening to the thrilling anecdotes of the show rings as told by this gracious gentleman.
Few men have been so fortunately or closely associated with Saddle Horse and horse show history as Mr. Hook. He claims the distinction of having won the stallion championships at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia four successive years with four different horses – a feat which had never been equaled. One of his greatest contributions to the horse world has been in developing younger riders and teaching them the art of becoming expert trainers and riders.
Mr. Hook retired from active participation in the show rings as an exhibitor at the peak of his career, but has been quite active as a judge and as the “boss trainer” with his son Leonard, at the John T. Hook and Son Stables, “Boulevard le Cheval,” in his native town, Mexico, Mo.
(Sources for the above included the book “Famous Saddle Horses and Distinguished Horsemen” by Jack Harrison and edited by W. Rufus Jackson.)