By Taylor Walters

Every year walking horse enthusiasts gather in August to watch the biggest showcase of talent in our breed. This year we have the opportunity to learn more about the faces behind the scenes of some of that great talent. 

Wayne and Debbie Simons are longtime supporters of the walking horse industry and residents of Bedford County. They have horses with Jimmy McConnell of Formac Stables, as well as David Mast and Jessica Hlebak of Stonewall Farms. You may know them from their talented show string Jose’s Solid Pusher, WC Daddy’s Home DH, She’s Designed To Push, Headliner At The Ritz, and most notably WGC and 3xWC I’m Thunderstruck NDR.

Wayne and Debbie met at the Bedford Co-op and have been married for 40 years. While Debbie was born and raised in Shelbyville, Tennessee, Wayne has a rather different story. He grew up on the island of Bermuda making his way to Tennessee to pursue farming in 1979. “Bermuda is a tiny island, about 20 miles long and one mile wide. All I wanted to do was farm, and all of the farmland on the island was bought up by resorts and businesses, so I moved to Tennessee,” said Wayne. 

The Simons have many businesses in Bedford County. They have farmed and raised cattle for 40 years together, owned a pawn shop, and 22 years ago started Trucking Tennessee Recycling Services LLC. Wayne was looking for a cheaper source of fertilizer for the crop land, so they started a company that recycles food processing residuals and turns them into fertilizer, and it also happens to be organic. 

Together Debbie and Wayne have five boys: Chris and Matt work with them in the family business, Nick is an attorney in Shelbyville, Michael is a business owner and Jason is a Web Designer in Knoxville. Altogether they have 14 grandchildren, all of which are involved in sports. “Six of our granddaughters have shown walking horses, four of them are still currently showing” said Debbie. 

Debbie was raised in Shelbyville in a loving Christian home with very hardworking parents. “They always encouraged us to do our best at whatever we wanted to do” said Debbie. Her summers were spent hanging out with friends, going to the pool or to the pond to swim, and going to The Celebration. 

Debbie has always had a love for horses, her dad bought her a horse when she was a teenager to ride around their farm.  She has always loved going to The Celebration and the beauty of the walking horses. After becoming more interested, she started taking lessons from Jessica Hlebak and fell in love with flat shod horses. Hlebak took her under her wing and she has been at Stonewall Farms ever since. 

Debbie will be making her Celebration debut this year, having never shown in the big oval. She would especially like to thank her trainers Hlebak and Mast, “They’re the hardest working trainers I know, and without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”