HOF – Jim Simmons

Jim Simmons has been around horses his entire life.  He was born in Omaha, Nebraska where his father was the trainer at a barn called Almarel Stables. Jim and his family moved to Mexico, Missouri when he was nine years old after the family purchased the Barn on the Boulevard. Jim gravitated towards the horses as soon as he could walk and picked up the tricks of the trade like it was his first language.  When Jim was very young his parents found themselves in a panic back in Omaha because they could not find him anywhere. They looked and looked all over the farm until they found him, much to their bewilderment, inside the stall of the farm’s stallion standing on the tailboard. They asked Jim in frustration why had he wondered in and climbed up on the tailboard. The then tiny Jim said it was because the horse’s tailset needed to be adjusted.   Jim took to training horses from a very early age.  He began racking horses at the age of 11. As a teenager, Jim’s ability to work with young colts garnered accolades from hundreds of trainers. Jim has trained horses seven days a week his entire life, except during his years at the University of Missouri.  Even then, he drove home on weekends to work with the horses.  After graduating, Jim moved back to Mexico and officially joined his father in the business.  Jim became Art’s righthand man. The two made an indomitable team. Until later in Art’s life, Jim would typically stay home during horse shows and work horses while Art would take the show string out on the road, however, in 1967, Art suffered a lung collapse whlie he was at the Pin Oak horse show in Houston, Texas.  Fortunately Art made a full recovery, but not soon enough to make it to the next horse show that year, which was Lexington Junior League.  Art told Jim that rather than skip the show, he wanted Jim to go to Lexington and show the string for him.  It was at that horse show Jim stepped out of Mexico and into the spotlight. Jim made an impression that week that wasn’t soon forgotten with wins at the reins and/or aboard such horses as Tashi Ling, Spirit of 76, Great Choice, and American Revelation.  Jim states you have to understand a horse before you are really able to train it. You have to understand how they think, and realize each horse is a little different. To train a colt you have to have patience, good balance, sensitive hands, and selecting the best bit for each colt is crucial. Jim is recognized by his fellow horsemen as one of the most experienced and knowledgeable horsemen in the industry. Jim has trained and sold more horses than he can remember. In addition to training and showing, Jim was a regular at the Simmons’ Heart of America Sales, which were held twice a year for many years.  At each sale Jim would ride a couple dozen or more horses through the sale, and oftentimes Jim would agree to ride horses through the sale that he had never previously seen much less ridden.  Jim is a humble man.  From the time he started out as a youngster through today, you’ll find him getting his own horses ready and putting them away, and doing whatever needs to be done around the farm. He is as hard of a worker as you’ll find anywhere.  For several decades Jim and his father maintained 100 or more head of horses.  Today Jim and his wife Mary Jane operate a training barn just outside of Mexico that they built in 2001 where they continue to train 17 to 20 horses and breed a handful of horses a year.  Jim and Mary Jane have two chldren – Scott Simmons, a doctor practicing medicine here in Mexico, and Jennifer Simmons, an attorney practicing law in St. Louis.  Scott is married to Jessica Simmons, a pharmacist, and they have two chlidren, Elaine Jane (5) and Trevor James (3).  Jim continues to work 7 days a week training horses, and he and his wife are still regularly spotted front and center at horse sales picking up colts and anything of interest. If you ask Jim whether he ever thinks about retiring, you’ll see a twinkle in his eye and a hint of a grin.  That look could be its own Mona Lisa you think to yourself, does it mean yes or no?  Stay tuned, but if we had to guess, there’s still more to come.