Inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2015
As a teenager living alone in a mountain ranch line camp, Jim Helzer liked his horses big and fast.
He still does. Serving in 2009-10 as the 59th individual to hold the rank of AQHA president, Helzer is one of the most successful horsemen to ever breed, own and race the fastest horses on earth. In 1990, Helzer bought Refrigerator, who won that year’s All American Futurity (G1), became a two-time world champion and the only horse ever to win three runnings of the Champion of Champions (G1).
Born in Loveland, Colorado, Helzer grew up in northeastern Colorado, where they raised cattle and used teams of horses to farm. His father later managed a ranch at Carbondale, where they ran cattle and sheep on Forest Service permits.
After high school, Helzer married his childhood sweetheart, Marilyn, and studied for two years at Colorado State University. He went to work in finance and then the defense industry. The couple moved to Texas, where in 1979 Helzer became a roofing contractor, building a business that grew to encompass nine states and 33 locations.
In 1962, Jim and Marilyn bought their first racehorse. They spent most of the next two decades running cheap horses. But everything changed at the 1980 Ruidoso yearling sale. They paid $8,000 for Hempens Jet, who became a stakes-winning earner of more than $270,000 before they sold him for $100,000.
It was not long before Helzer was one of the best-known and most highly regarded horsemen in the industry. Helzer bred his first Quarter Horse in 1985 and since then has bred the earners of more than $1.54 million.
In 1994, Helzer established his first JEH Stallion Station, which now stands leading Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred stallions on its Oklahoma division at Purcell and its Texas division relocated to Whitesboro, where in 2010 he also opened JEH Equine Reproduction Specialists and Hospital.
Helzer is a past president of the Texas Quarter Horse Association, a past director of the Texas Thoroughbred Association, served on the board and as president of the Texas Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and was on the management committee of the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership.
“Being on the Executive Committee for four years, and being the president, that is both an honor and a privilege. I can’t think of anything more that would climax a horseman’s career. But I’m not saying it’s the end of my career,” he declared. “I’m still looking for that next winner.”
Jim Helzer was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2015.