He commands respect in both the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred race industries through the champions he has owned and bred, and his term as president of the American Quarter Horse Association in 2006. His JEH Stallion Station in Pilot Point, Texas is acclaimed as one of the Southwest’s leading breeding facilities.
But Jim Helzer, 72, who last year received the prestigious John W. Galbreath Award for “outstanding enterprise in the equine industry,” is not one to rest on his laurels.
In 2011, he branched out into advanced reproductive technology, including oocyte transfer and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) procedure, at a new facility. JEH Equine Reproduction Specialists (JEHERS), located in Whitesboro, not far from the Pilot Point stallion facility, operates with a full staff of veterinarians and veterinary technicians, as well as a recipient herd of more than 500 mares.
“I pride myself on quality service because I’ve bred at other farms and I know what customers are looking for,” said Helzer. “What is the customer looking for day in and day out, not on a spot basis, but on an every day basis, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s what we do right. That’s how we’re perceived in the industry.
“I personally solicit or buy the stallions, then I set the parameters on my breeding farms and establish the quality care, custody, and control that I think is mandatory.”
Last year, Helzer moved in another new direction with Cat T Masterson, a cutting stallion he acquired through the 2010 Waggoner Ranch Dispersal. And two weeks ago, he purchased a top prospect for ranch horse versatility competition.
“Mr. Helzer’s love is a good horse, and he can appreciate a good one regardless of what it is doing,” said Andrew Gardiner, general manager of JEH since 1993, when Helzer leased the former Phillips Ranch facility in Frisco, Texas to launch his own operation. Providentially, Phillips Ranch had been the breeding home of Dash For Cash and Doc O’Lena, the all-time leading Quarter race and cutting sires, respectively, of their era.
Helzer’s work ethic was fostered early and in the saddle. From the age of 12, when his father managed an operation that ran cattle and sheep near Carbondale, Colorado, Helzer spent his summers tending cattle alone in the mountains, with a cabin as his base, and a string of horses that he hand-picked for roping and doctoring calves.
After two years of college, Helzer married his childhood sweetheart, Marilyn, and purchased and trained his first racehorse, Queens Request.
“I won the first race that I started with that horse, at Grand Junction, Colorado,” Helzer recalled. “After that I was hooked.”
In 1979, following a 20-year career in the defense industry, Helzer started his own roofing and building supply business, JEH Company, whose success afforded him the ability to spend more on racing, although he remained very selective when it came to purchases.
“I always look at the pedigree first, because the best conformed horse in the world isn’t going to get you there if he doesn’t have a pedigree,” he said. “Then I look at conformation and athletic ability.”
In 1980, the Helzer purchased Hempens Jet for $8,000, at the All American Yearling Sale. The gelded son of Hempen (TB) ran out over $270,000 for the Helzers, who sold him as a 4-year-old for $80,000.
It was the 1988 gelding Refrigerator, named for Chicago Bears defensive lineman William Perry, who took the Helzers to the summit. In six seasons of racing, Refrigerator carried the Helzers’ red, silver and white silks to earn $2,126,309, including the winner’s purse of the 1990 All American Futurity and 10 championships.
Success followed success for the Helzers in both Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing. In 1997, in partnership with Henry Brown, they purchased All American Futurity runner-up This Snow Is Royal, who went on to victory in the Los Alamitos Million Futurity and earned the title of AQHA champion 2-year-old colt.
In 2000, another “big” horse came along when the Helzers acquired half-interest in Feature Mr Jess. The Mr Jess Perry son went on to win the Rainbow Futurity and over $525,000, before being retired to stud at JEH in Pilot Point, where he quickly established himself as a leading sire with four champions and earners of $12.7 million.
Although Feature Mr Jess had to be euthanized in 2009, due to complications from laminitis, his sperm is still available through ICSI procedure at JEHERS. The same is also true with Favorite Trick, Thoroughbred racing’s 1997 Horse of the Year, who died in 2006.
Between its facilities in Texas and Wynnewood, Okla., JEH will offer 27 Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred stallions for the 2012 season, including Tres Seis, sire of Ochoa, winner of the 2011 $2.4 million All American Futurity; Prospect To The Top, 2011 AQHA champion 3-year-old colt; Apollitical Jess, 2010 AQHA world champion and earner of $1.4 million; Brookstone Bay, sire of 2009 All American Futurity winner Runnning Brook Gal; and First To Flash, sire of AQHA champion and world record holder First Moonflash.
Look for a full feature about Jim Helzer and JEH Stallion Station in the March issue of the NCHA Cutting Horse magazine.