by Linda Scrivner
Many horse trainers are second and third generation in the business. There must be something about these walking horses that just gets in your blood.

That’s kind of the way that Tim Smith acquired his love and knowledge of Tennessee Walking Horses. When asked when he started training Tim answered, “My daddy trained years ago and I kind of picked it up. I started training professionally in 1998.”

Tim and and his dad, Tex Smith, both train now at Cloverleaf Farm in Ardmore. Tex said that his and Tim’s specialty is young horses. "Tim liked training so well that we moved up and bought this place because Tim wanted to be close to Middle Tennessee where it’s all happening," Tex said.

Tex trained horses 25 or 30 years ago, but got out of the business in order to pursue a different career. He took three co-op stores that were in bad shape and made them profitable, which he considers his greatest accomplishment. However, when Tim's love of horses made it clear the direction he was taking, Tex couldn't resist returning to training and working with his son.

Tex's first round as a trainer started in 1965, a date he remembers because it's the year his then-favorite horse, Triple Threat, won the world grand championship at the Celebration. His first job as trainer was with Dr. O. Hugh Chitwood in Ft. Payne, Ala. “I started with Harvey LeFever breaking colts and he sent me to Dr. Chitwood,” Tex recalls.

In 1973 Tex rode Ebony’s Parader to the TWHBEA National Futurity Two-Year-Old Championship and he has won many ribbons at the Celebration through the years. In addition to his win on Ebony’s Parader that year, Tex was third on Ebony’s Empire in the stallion class at the Celebration. Then he returned to win sixth in the World Grand Championship.

Tex said the best overall horse he ever saw was The Pusher, who replaced Triple Threat as his favorite. Tex remembers that Bob McQuerry, Pusher's trainer, would let kids ride Pusher all day, then McQuerry would show him the same night and win. He and McQuerry would watch as the children took turns on Pusher and Tex remembers thinking that the judges would tie the roan “son of a gun.” He explained, “It used to be that they wouldn't tie the roans. But Pusher and Pride of Midnight made the two-year-olds easier to make and Pride made them lots prettier too." Referring to The Pusher's legacy, Tex recalls with pride, "I used to beat The Drug Dealer, Pusher’s sire, every Saturday night with Bill Cantrell riding him.”

Tex is also a walking horse judge and says he enjoys judging shows. Most recently he judged the Gum Tree Classic in Mississippi. In January he will get his AAA license and his goal is to judge the Celebration.

Tex and his wife Joan have raised two sons, Rex and Tim. He doesn't hesitate to brag on his children, "I raised two fine boys that have never been in trouble in their life, never drank or smoked." Rex has two children himself now and it seems they are hot on the heels of the family's traditions. Tex said, "My two grandchildren also ride, hunt and fish with Rex.”

As to his life outside of walking horses, Tex describes himself as a “hunting son of a gun. I hunt mostly coon and deer. I have really good dogs. We usually tree four or five coons every night. I like to fish and love the outdoors.”

When describing his son, Tim, Tex says, “Horses are his whole life, he lives and breathes them. He’s a good young man who works hard and does a clean job of training.” And Tex has a right to be proud of his son.

At only 20 years old, Tim is already enjoying success with his horses. When asked his specialty he said, “Colts, show horses, I do it all.” Tim is especially proud of two of his horses this season. Mighty Mack Attack was reserve at the Trainers’ Show in the very competitive Show Pleasure class. Armed Red Baron is this year’s Reserve World Champion Three-Year-Old Plantation Pleasure Horse. “There were 35 in the class and they had a workout. I was especially pleased since Red Baron was the first plantation horse that I had worked,” said Tim. He went on to say that this was his first Celebration and the reserve he won is his greatest accomplishment so far.

Of his entrance into the family business, Tim reported, “My dad didn’t expect me to train horses but I wanted to. There are two of us boys and Rex didn’t care for the horses and I think my dad didn’t think I would either. I learned to train from my dad and every horse taught me something. I’ve learned all kinds of things from my horses and training: responsibility, the care and maintenance of them, and I’ve grown up faster.”

As far as other interests, Tim said there isn't time for anything else. And as far as how to earn his living, he’s never considered doing anything but training horses. Tim trains around 25 head. His father also has several horses but Tim does the majority of the training now.

The special bond between the Smith family and their horses is shown in this quote from Tim's mother, "[Tim's first pony] was just the beginning. It wasn't just because of his dad's love of and interest in horses. Like his dad, it was natural for him. He enjoyed horses so much; the bond, the love and enjoyment with his pony--that was just the beginning."

Tex and Tim Smith exemplify the feelings of many who own walking horses and of those who train them. Those strong feelings have helped to create a thriving industry and one in which family participation leads to generation after generation of walking horse lovers.