Getting My First Horse - Part 1
Walking Cherokee to his new home
One of the first things my dad had to do in preparation for the arrival of my first horse was to sell the 1967 Mustang he thought I would chose over a horse on my sixteenth birthday.
My dad was a mechanic by trade, as was his father. I learned from my aunt that dad was in the garage cleaning tools for his father at an early age and naturally followed in my grandfather’s footsteps.
She told me how one time my dad lit an oily rag, placed it inside a can and put it in his pedal car so it looks like exhaust fumes as he pedaled down the road. She couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t tinkering with something. Not only was he creative, he was an exceptional mechanic as well as a perfectionist.
He had gone through every inch of that Ford Mustang mechanically to make sure it was a sound vehicle for his daughter. That combined with some bodywork and a new paint job, and the Mustang was akin to any car in a dealership showroom.
I have to admit, it was a little sad to see it sitting out by the road with “for sale” signs in its windows. This was 1971 and the Mustang hadn’t reached the classic status it has today, but still, it didn’t sit there long.
My horse over car decision meant more work for my father and the rest of my family. After our move from San Diego to Michigan, we had ended up on a two-acre property with a house and three other buildings. There was a large shop that my father used. He would fix up cars to resell them and do work on the vehicles belonging to our family and friends. There was always a crowd of men busy out there on the weekends.
Sometimes there would be a dozen cars lined up from dad’s shop to the road. There was a small, one-car garage that sat to the east side of our home that wasn’t used for much of anything, and a long building behind the house that had been a greenhouse at one time.
I had collected magazine articles on horse barns. Everything from converted chicken coops to one made from stacked hay bales. In the end, my dad decided that the garage could be moved back to the field and converted into a barn for my first horse.
It was a big Saturday project and all of the usual weekend crew showed up to help. Dad had borrowed a flatbed truck from work to haul the building to the back. They braced and supported it with heavy timbers and used hydraulic jacks to raise it high enough to sit on the flatbed. With its many layers of siding, the garage was much heavier than anyone had anticipated and the beams were starting to crack.
A call to my uncle, who was the supervisor at a local steel mill, brought in metal I-beams to reinforce the timbers. As they inched in front of the house, a pine tree interrupted their progress. A second uncle left and returned with a chain saw; problem solved. By the time they had the makeshift barn in place back in the field, the bottom was barely clearing the ground and the steel I-beams were bent.
Dad went to work on the garage to change it into a one-horse barn complete with food and tack storage areas. He built a divider that gave me about a quarter of the barn space. He added a manager to the horse’s side and built in a box for feeding grain. On the smaller side, he built a saddle holder that was parallel to wall with just enough room to hold a saddle. It wasn’t convenient, but it did save space.
Above was a rack with four large wooden pegs for hanging tack and below sat two new garbage cans to use for grain storage. They had left an old three-shelf cupboard at the front of the building, which would come in handy for more storage space for brushes and other necessities. My dad even built a gate that could be lifted between the storage area and stall so I could lead my horse through the barn and out the side door.
The next weekend dad and his weekend work crew dug a trench from dad’s shop to my barn to run water and electricity out to the building.
Watch for Part 2!
© 2012 KA