Skip to content

Remembering One Of The Old School Greats - Rex Parkinson



by Sally Grieme

The horse world lost a great friend on June 21, 2010 with the passing of Rex Parkinson. Parkinson was a trainer and judge of Hackneys, American Saddlebreds and Standerdbred road horses. A World War II veteran, Parkinson was laid to rest on June 24 in Long Creek, Ill. He was buried with full military honors conducted by the Macon County Honor Guard.

Parkinson started his career with horses early in life. Although his father was a Standerdbred trainer, Rex and his older brother, Max, decided to try their hands at Saddlebreds and ponies. They opened their first public training stable together in Peoria, Ill. Rex was 17 years old.

He continued to build his career in the horse business, becoming more successful with each show season. In 1950, his success multiplied when he commented to a friend at a horse show in Morton, Ill., "If I ever need a catch rider for a horse, I’m going to get that girl." He was speaking of Shirley Simcox, who not only went on to be a catch rider for him the next show season, but to become his wife on Dec. 8, 1951. "Rex was my best friend. He was my partner in life, my partner in business and the love of my life," said Shirley Parkinson.

The two made their home in Decatur, Ill., operating a public training stable for over 40 years. In 1953, daughter Vicki (Whitmer) was born and from a very early age she also became a part of the family business. The Parkinsons went on to win championships and world’s championships too numerous to mention. But everyone has their favorites, and Shirley remembered a few of Rex’s. "He loved our harness pony, Rhythm Spirit, who we raised. Of the road ponies, Whiplash and Bold Spirit were probably his two favorites."

Over the span of his 70-plus year career, Parkinson remained true to Illinois, according to wife Shirley, who sighted the Illinois State Fair as Parkinson’s favorite horse show. "Rex was adamant that we support the Illinois State Fair. He firmly believed that each state’s fair is the hub of that state’s economy," recalled Shirley.

Parkinson served on the Illinois State Fair Advisory Board for several years. He also served as president of the American Saddlebred Breeders’ Association of Illinois, served on the UPHA Board, the Mid-West Hackney Association Board, the Midwest Horse Show Association Board and was past president of the American Road Horse and Pony Association. Parkinson was a respected USEF judge for over 45 years, and in 1998 received the Outstanding Judge’s Career Award. He was inducted into the UPHA Hall of Fame in 1994, and received their Distinguished Service Award. He also received a Distinguished Service Award from the Mid-West Hackney Association and the American Hackney Society, and was inducted into the Kentucky State Fair Horse Show Hall of Fame as well.

In 1995, Parkinson made the decision to retire and did so the following year. "He walked in the house one day and said, ‘We’re going to retire.’ I said, ‘Fine with me’." But a smooth retirement was not in the cards for the Parkinsons. "In 1996 Rex had to have a hip replaced, our barn burned down and Rex had a stroke," Shirley remembered.

But despite his health issues and bad luck, Parkinson maintained his sense of humor. "He was always quick-witted, and I never saw him speechless," added Shirley. "We went to Louisville in 1996 to watch the show. Rex purchased a piece of jewelry for me at the horse show that was a gold ribbon with a sapphire in the center and diamond streamers. He wanted me to have a blue ribbon from Louisville that year."

Parkinson’s favorite quote, "the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person," rang true for him even after his stroke. He was still a spectator at his favorite horse shows despite his physical limitations. He enjoyed seeing his friends, and of course, watching the ponies and horses, which always remained such an integral part of his life.

More Stories

  • Morgan Honors at USEF Convention

    AMHA is pleased to congratulate Morgan trainer Mike Goebig of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, as the 2017 Pegasus Medal of Honor recipient. Mike received this great honor at last evening's US Equestrian's awards dinner... Read More
  • NWSA Fall Classic Selects Judge

    The Northwest Saddlebred Association Fall Classic Horse Show has named Bill Waller to be the judge for this year’s show. The event is scheduled for Sept. 19-22, 2018 at the Oregon Horse Center in Eugene, Oregon. Read More
  • Freedman's Announces Release of New Saddle Pad

    Freedman’s is proud to launch their newest product, The Freedman Acavallo Memory Foam Gel Pad. The Freedman Acavallo Memory Foam Gel Pad is a full compression, non-slip pad, specifically designed to fit discreetly under Freedman’s cut back saddles... Read More
  • Far West Morgan Regional Joins Country Classic

    The Far West Morgan Regional Championship Horse Show has big changes in store for participants in 2018. Last year Far West was held in conjunction with the Oregon Morgan Classic at the Oregon Horse Center in June. Read More
  • River Ridge Charity Selects Judging Panel

    River Ridge Charity is fast approaching and is scheduled for Wednesday through Saturday, April 25-28, 2018 at the Ohio Exposition Center in Columbus, Ohio... Read More
  • ASHA Welcomes New Directors For 2018

    The American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) is pleased to announce the election of seven (7) new members to its Board of Directors, who will join the Board at the UPHA & ASHA Conference, which will host the ASHA annual meeting on February 1, 2018. Read More
  • David L. Howard to be Honored for Lifetime Achievement

    The American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) has announced its annual award recipients, based on ballots tabulated by the ASHA Board of Directors. Nominees for each award are received from the general membership and committee volunteers, screened by the ASHA Executive Committee, and voted on by the full Board from the candidates selected. Read More
  • Iowa Horse Shows Associations Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet

    The Iowa Horse Shows Association will hold their annual meeting and awards banquet on Saturday, February 10, 2018 at The Prairie Meadows Event Center, Altoona, IA. Events begin at 3:30 PM with the annual membership meeting of the Iowa Horse Shows Association followed by the Iowa American Saddlebred Association meeting. At 5:30 PM the American Saddlebred Futurity of Iowa will hold their Stallion Service Auction. The Banquet and Awards ceremony will begin at 7 PM. Read More
  • 2018 AMHA Convention Schedule

    Come celebrate Valentine’s Day with your favorite breed and those who share the same passion as you at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Kentucky, for the 2018 AMHA Annual Convention and Awards Gala... Read More
  • Jubilee Regional Morgan Horse Show Takes Hiatus for 2018

    Due to continued uncertainty at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, the committee for the Jubilee Regional Morgan Horse Show has voted to take a one-year hiatus from hosting the show traditionally held at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield at the end of August... Read More