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Introducing Tom Simmons: Carriage Driving Trainer and Breeder
by Nancy Rojo

Tom Simmons driving dressage with Caduceus Fortran "Culpeper" at the 1994 Tres Pinos CDE in Hollister, California.

Sometimes, there are talented people who go a long time without notice because lifestyle and circumstances prevent them from being public figures. Tom Simmons is one of those great talents with horses that cannot be denied. Tom is a true horseman that has been training and breeding horses for all of his adult life. His talent with horses is without question among those who know him and have worked with him. As a young boy, Tom handled horses for a local horseman who used to tell people “That boy can talk to horses.” This used to embarrass Tom and he wondered why the man would say that. What the man had observed was Tom’s ability to read, understand, and affect horses’ minds and bodies in positive ways.

Tom addressing the auditors during one of his clinics in Red Bluff, CA.

A passion for horses compelled Tom to begin his career with show horses in Ohio at the age of seventeen working with American Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walking Horses, and Morgans. Being a black man in the horse world of the 50’ and 60’s was not easy. Tom had a difficult time being an independent horseman in the breed show world. By 1961, he was training and breeding Morgan horses on his own farm in Indiana, which he operated until 1984. After a move to California, and working with prominent Morgan farms, Tom opened his own stables in Northern California where he bred Sport Type Morgans, trained other breeds to drive, and gave driving instruction to many on the west coast who are prominent in the driving world today. He has traveled the country giving clinics that are always well received. His vast knowledge of Morgan bloodlines, mainly through working them, makes him a valuable source for consultation about breeding as well as suitability for carriage driving. He took a particular interest in the sport of Combined Driving, and competed his, as well as helped his clients compete their horses at these events. He developed a faithful following of clients that remain to this day, even after his last move to North Carolina, where he and his family own a Morgan horse breeding farm. It is not uncommon for horse people to send Tom their horses across the country for him to train in his thorough way. His clients jokingly refer to his horses as being “Simmon-ized”, but what they are really saying is that any horse trained by him is happy in it’s work, and made into a good citizen that assures it of having a good home for life.

Tom is working with a donkey at a clinic in Red Bluff, CA.

There was a good side to being unrecognized and independent. It allowed Tom to experience thousands of horses and develop his own ways of training from what he learned from all those horses. That is what makes him unique. He has developed a “sixth sense” and can see personality traits, and has learned the various ways to deal with each personality. He is a simple, straightforward man that is honest with his horses. Horses respond easily to such clarity in communications and Tom will teach his horses to be able to adapt to handlers of less experience. Tom has said that his goal as a good horse trainer is to train a horse so that it can perform for its owner. He readily admits there is no formula in his training methods and likens his method to holding a conversation with a horse. He asks the horse a question, and depending on how the horse answers, he proceeds with the next step involved in reaching the desired stage of training. If the horse answers a question by trying to run off, he will handle the horse differently than if he had wanted to kick. There is no set pattern in learning. It is dependent on the individual horse. There is no time frame in his training as well. Again, the horse determines how fast he can proceed. Tom enjoys the thinking process involved in training horses and the subtle art of observation and communication. He has come to understand how horses think and categorize what they learn. One of the first things he teaches a horse to do is to look to its leader for direction and how to handle stressful situations. Tom calls this “giving a horse a peace zone”, somewhere where they can always go when things get stressful. This lesson alone is the basis of a safe carriage horse. For a detailed explanation of the peace zone, visit Tom’s website and read his article on the subject.

Tom Simmons driving JMF Anna His team at 2000 Yellowframe Farm Combined Driving Event. His daughter, Rene' Simmons is navigating.

Training is just part of what Tom finds fascinating about horses. His first “love” is breeding for the temperament and athletic ability that he enjoys working with. After, breeding good horses and training them, he next enjoys competing them in open competition to validate the success of his breeding program. It is quite a full lifestyle and to do it well, he limits his outside horses to 5 at a time, so he can give quality to his endeavors. He raises about 6 foals a year and has an assortment of stallions, broodmares, and youngsters in various stages of training. One thing he insists in his breeding program is that his horses be used. Training a lot of horses has taught him what traits each Morgan family possess and how they can be bred to enhance the strong points and overcome the shortcomings.

Word of mouth has spread over the years of Tom’s ability with horses. He has been able to fulfill a lifetime of doing work that is his passion. Tom chuckles and grins wide when he says that it takes a long time of working many horses to discover just how little you do know. After 40 years of working with horses, he still learns every day. His horses are better for his work to make them good citizens, and his clients are better horse people for being made aware of the workings of the horse mind.

Tom schooling his young colt Caduceus Priam in the cones at a recent Moore County Driving Club CDE in Southern Pines.

Tom does a limited number of clinics and this June he will teach at a horse camp and clinic in Northern California. Tom also gives private lessons to a limited number of students, and acts as a consultant for breeding programs. For more information on Tom Simmons Horse Camp & Clinic 2001, 2002, please visit . For additional reading of articles written by Tom, please refer to:

The Carriage Journal, winter 1994, "View from the Box"

Equestrian Connection, July 1995, "To Breed or Not to Breed"

The Carriage Journal, summer 1995, "Developing the Mouth",

Western Horseman, Nov. 1996, "Driving the Different Breeds"

The Morgan Horse Magazine, May, June, & July 1997, "The Complete Training of the Carriage Horse"

The Morgan Horse Association (UK), Feb. 1998, "Give the Horse Security"

Equine Hoofbeats, Sept/Oct. '98, "Let' Improve the Product"

Equine Hoofbeats, Sept/Oct.'98, "Selection of A Carriage Horse"

You are always welcome to visit Tom's website:, or drop a line at:

Tom Simmons Horse Camp & Clinic 2001, 2002 info:

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