Sad to share the news that Dr. Jim Baldwin, beloved Central Region veterinarian (and so much more), has passed away after a long illness. More information will be coming about services and memorial donations.
Troy Smith shared the article first published in the May 2019 Endurance News, after Dr. Baldwin was named to the AERC Hall of Fame at the 2019 AERC convention.
Jim Baldwin, DVM
by Leslie Brown and Friends
Jim Baldwin, DVM (AERC #7205), was born on September 12, 1938, in Radium Town, a suburb of Claremore, Oklahoma. Growing up, he and his brother rode rank horses for their father, a horse trader, to get the horses ready for resale. Jim graduated from high school in 1956 and married his high school sweetheart, Janet. Their daughter, Lisa, was born 14 years later.
Jim joined the National Guard at 17, worked various odd jobs, attended Cal Poly to learn how to shoe horses, but wanting to do better he started college while Janet worked. He applied to go to veterinary school at Oklahoma State University, but was not accepted, so he joined the Army full-time and went to Officer Candidate School.
While at Fort Benning, preparing for Vietnam, word arrived—he had been accepted to vet school! He was able to get his orders canceled and started two weeks into the term.
Jim graduated vet school in 1969 and went to work at Belmont Park race track in New York, where he worked with high-dollar horses like Riva Ridge and Secretariat. He worked at Belmont for several years before returning to Oklahoma where he built, owned and managed several very busy veterinary clinics, that at one time had 60 vets. Jim and Janet completed a Coggins test course in Iowa and held the distinction of being one of the first two labs in Oklahoma to do the Coggins test on a private basis. Jim retired from full-time vet practice and sold all his clinics around 1979.
Shortly after retiring, Jim was invited to Dubai for a 45-day horse vet job. This turned into a seven-year adventure at a new state-of-the-art equine hospital. Jim traveled the world, and was part of the first veterinary team to work strictly with endurance horses in the desert. He traveled with the Dubai team for six months of the year and went back home to Oklahoma for the rest of the year. While in Dubai, he rode every day and even organized a steer roping event!
In the mid-1980s, Jeanne Waldron, DVM, hired him to vet Old Dominion, thus beginning his AERC vetting career. As an AERC ride vet he earned the nickname Jim “Pull His Own Mother” Baldwin. He pulled one rider several years in a row at Old Dominion, once at the finish. She got mad and challenged him to ride and finish! He went home and started conditioning his horse, Bugs Will (AERC #9579). They completed the 50 at 1990 Cougar Prowl in Oklahoma, but Jim knew Bugs wasn’t a 100 mile horse.
Matthew Mackay-Smith, DVM, convinced Jim to lease one of his horses for the next Old Dominion so they could ride together. The night before the ride, the horses were in a pen together and must have gotten into a kicking contest as neither one was fit to start the next day. That was the year Maggy Price hung a rubber monkey on Jim’s back and told him he had to carry it until he finished the ride, and only then could he pass it on to someone else. With that incentive, he went back to Oklahoma and started looking for a 100 mile horse.
Jim had a client who had a client’s Arabian horse for sale. The owner was scared of the horse because he was spooky. Jim rode the gelding several times but before he could buy him, the owner took the horse back. The owner had decided she didn’t want to sell a greenbroke horse to someone and have them get hurt.
Determined to buy the horse, Jim and Janet went by the owner’s home and, after much negotiation and assurances that the horse would not kill Jim, they were able to convince her to sell the horse. Jim went back the next day to get the horse and of course the horse wouldn’t load. After much more negotiating and convincing they were able to get him in the trailer.
The chestnut greenbroke “goosie little thing” became known as Goose (AERC #9580). Jim brought the gelding home on a Wednesday and hauled him to his first endurance ride the next Saturday. Jim rode Goose one loop to “test him and see if the horse was an athlete.” The gelding turned out to be quite the athlete and, more importantly, dependable. Jim and Goose completed their first endurance ride at the 1990 Jo Tate Memorial in Missouri and completed their first Old Dominion (their second 100) in 1991.
Jim (and his family and friends) competed on Goose for 12 years. Goose’s AERC record shows 5,405 endurance miles, 105 starts and 98 finishes, nine BCs, 175 LD miles, and a perfect finish record of 11 100 mile rides.
Jim completed his first Tevis ride in 1995, where he and the infamous Goose finished in 128th place in 21:48 (196 riders started and 129 finished). He joined the Tevis DNF club in 1998. Jim began vetting Tevis in 1997 and has vetted it 17 times!
Jim and his wife Janet founded two long-standing Central Region rides: Indian Territory in 1993 (which they ran for 13 years) and Season Finale in 2005. They started Season Finale for the sole purpose of providing one last ride of the season.
Jim believes that as a rider he should make it a goal to turtle the first three rides and then move up ride by ride. He advises everyone to “train the horse and volunteer at the rides. Do intros, LDs, loop by loop.”
Jim often says, “To finish first, you first must finish.” He also emphasizes that endurance rides allow you to win two ways: “Win with speed or win with persistence.” Another frequent phrase at rides: “Enjoy yourself!”
His favorite places to ride are St. Croix National Park in Minnesota, because of the nice trimmed trails for winter snowmobilers, and the Western States Trail (Tevis). He says Tevis holds a special place in his heart.
Jim turned 80 years young in 2018. He has vetted AERC rides for over 28 years, from his first Old Dominion to the 2018 Season Finale where he announced his retirement.
He joined the AERC Board of Directors in 1992, and served through 2004. He served on several AERC committees, many for multiple years, including the Vet Committee, the Protest and Grievance Committee, the Trails Committee, and the Competition Committee.
Jim competed in endurance for 20 years, completing 117 rides and accumulating 5,300 endurance miles, 675 LD miles and 10 BCs. He’s traveled the world as a ride vet. He’s a wise and witty man and truly deserving of his place in the AERC Hall of Fame.