Triangle B
Tennessee Walking Horses
Millarville, AB   Canada

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This is a true story about a car, a teenager and reality. After reading the book, “From the Horses’ Mouth”, I decided that it was time to write this story.

My son was 17 and possession of a driver’s license for about 3 months before he started to hunt for a car of his own. We had a dependable little car for him to drive but he yearned for a car of his own. He had saved a fair about of money while working at his part time jobs so he and his Dad went car shopping.

Soon a big black 1987 Cadillac was parked in our yard. It had surprisingly low mileage and was in good condition. Our son was thrilled with the luxury inside the old car and found it to be a pleasure to drive. His friends were skeptical at first but became enthusiastic fans before their first very smooth ride in the car was over.

Plans were made to restore the car to its original condition. It would take a few minor repairs and a good paint job. To educate himself our son went to car shows and met the people involved with the business of restoring old cars. This was an exciting time. The car he’d bought as comfortable transportation was actually classed as an antique.

Five weeks later, while he turning left at a light, our son was hit from the rear. The ¾ ton truck hit the old car so hard that it was forced up on the boulevard. The frame was bent, the trunk was crumpled and right rear corner was smashed up.

The damages were estimated to be twice the dollar value that the purchase price of the car had been! Our son was prepared to lose the car to the insurance company but on the advice of their adjuster, an antique car buff, they gave him money to fix it instead.

Upon consulting a family friend who was a restoration expert and car show judge, the teenager was kindly told that he should just enjoy the car as a luxury ride rather than an antique showpiece. Acting on this advice, we helped our son find a body man to straighten the frame and repaint the car. The paint job was modern; black with blue metallic highlights, quite different than the original deep shiny black. The windows were tinted as dark as it was legal to do so. White decals in old English lettering decorated the top of the windshield and back window. The fun had begun.

The air conditioning pump wasn’t working well and took power from the car. Since the car had a sunroof anyway, the pump was removed. Now one of the things that had made the car extra comfortable was gone.

Plans were made for installing an air/hydraulic system in the car so it could bounce and sway from side to side, but although the hardware was purchased, it stayed in the box it came in. Perhaps the size of the tickets available for stunting in this fashion cooled our son’s interest in this feature.

Next a boom box ( BIG speaker for a powerful car stereo ) went into the trunk. One night his younger brother and I sat waiting for him in a small town restaurant when something big rumbled slowly by, causing all windows and glasses on the shelves to rattle ominously. The other patrons looked about in alarm. “What’s that?” someone asked. “He’s here! ” his brother grinned happily. A minute later our oldest son strode in with a big smile for everyone, who, incidently, smiled back!

After a few months of this fun the stereo system was sold to a friend and some fancy rims ( wire wheels ) were ordered. These rims were smaller than the original ones and had smaller white walled tires to match. During all these changes the smooth ride that all Cadillacs are known for remained unchanged. Now, however, the owner was becoming careful about keeping an eye on his machine that sported expensive easily removed parts.

Eventually our son decided to lower his car by chopping the springs. The car was so low that he could trap a pop can between the frame and the ground! Needless to say, every time the car went over a bump, the frame hit the bump. In his own words, “the suspension was ruined”. No longer did the car ride smoothly. Yes, it attracted a lot of attention because it was still a unique car. But it was now appealing only to a select group of people.

Within six months of lowering the car our son sold it. He has no regrets; he had a lot of fun and learned a lot about cars while he owned and tinkered with the car. The decision to “pimp out” the car was made for him when the accident occured. The fun lasted two years.

Many of the changes made to the car did it no real harm. The last one made its smooth ride vanish forever. But it is, after all, just a machine. It has no feelings, unable to feel pain and will feel nothing when it finally gets towed to the junkyard and taken apart before it gets crushed into scrap metal.

Update: Over the next year our son fiddled with a couple of old cars thinking he could piece them together to have another fun car. He ended up selling them off for scrap but not before he’d learned to use a borrowed welder as it applied to bodywork and had acquired all the tools necessary for motor removal.

Eventually he bought an even older and bigger car, a 1979 Lincoln Continental. This old beast had the original, barely working 8 track still in it. It had a few dents in it but ran good and it really appealed to him. It took months of tinkering, but once he’d replaced the brakes, then replaced the old muffler with a dual exhaust, carefully fixed the dents, he repainted it metallic black, ( this was done using a small backpack style spray painter in an old garage ). The wheels are wire now and the tires are white walls. The old vinyl on the roof was replaced with new buckskin colored vinyl. It is also as low as it can go without damage. The car is still “sound” and the ride is till as smooth as the car was designed to be.

During the transformation of this old car the boy became a man. He knew when to cut his loses with the two junker cars. They sparked his interest in welding. The education he chose reflects that; he took Welding Engineering Technology and is now working toward his Journeyman Welding ticket. He did all his own work and had it checked by appropriate professionals. He kept his project in the garage and drove it only during the summer once it was worth something. He could make a great deal of noise with the huge motor and its special exhaust system. He could also acquire tickets of all kinds but no longer felt the need to show off.

With time my son’s focus changed. He sold the car to someone who loves old boats and has the money to pour the gas into the gas tank. The proceeds of the sale are going into the down payment for his first house. His long term sweetheart who supported and understood his passion for cars will be his best roommate ever! Fatherhood is looming in the near future and a family life will take up his extra energy. Now the fun is really beginning!

So how does this relate to the book I just read? Well, show horses get their whiskers, bridle paths and stray bits of hair trimmed to make them look sleeker. Hoof polish may temporarily dry out their feet a bit and a bath will make a horse smell different for a day or two. Nothing but the horse’s dignity gets hurt here.

Performance horses in many equine disciplines are shod according to their individual needs to function as required for the job. The goal of most horse owners and trainers is to keep their animals as sound as possible while performing as well as possible for as long as possible. Any type of shoeing that shortens the useful life of a horse cannot have much value. I know first hand that a radical trim with incorrect angles can easily put an otherwise healthy young horse on an expensive six month lay off.

Having ridden in the mountains for many years, I know it is safest for both of us if my horse is plain shod and as comfortable as possible. I’ve had to learn how to get the best gaits from my horses by riding correctly. I’ve also had to learn to let the horse mature enough to handle the job. There is no substitute for good training done with a fit horse.

In their attempts to attract more attention in the show ring there are people who will make modifications to any aspects of their horses’lives and health that they deem necessary. These are the same people who will not buy a horse with a brand on it but will sore and scar it with gadgets and chemicals. They will have it shod in a manner that has no practical value and would cause a major problem if a shoe should loosen or fall off even as close as a mile from home. To them horses are little more than hairy machines; when one wears out or breaks down another can take its place. Their horses are just another farm commodity like grain. The harsh truth is that horses do have feelings such as pain, anxiety, and depression.

In reaction to the realities exposed in this book, many Tennessee Walking Horse owners and breeders like myself feel frustrated. We cannot understand why these dirty deeds, supported by a small minority, are still being practiced. The idea of big shoes, action devices and chemicals is abhorrent to most of us involved with Tennesee Walking Horse. We are hooked on the real attributes of the breed. At the risk of being labeled as radicals, dissidents and trouble makers within our own breed organizations we do not want to be tarred with the same brush as the people who would prefer to be called successful, open minded and knowledgeable.

Horses can also experience feelings of comfort, safety and well being. I sincerely hope this describes how your horses feel, in your barn.

Brenda L. Baker, aka Silver


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