angle-left Trail Legend: Pars Silver Bar

Trail Legend: Pars Silver Bar

The idiosyncratic gelding was a superstar with a 20-year show career.

Pars Silver Bar was an all-star in trail in the 1990s. Larry Williams Photography

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By Alexis Shanes for The American Quarter Horse Journal

Pars Silver Bar abhorred having people in his stall.

“If you stood at the door, he would just look at you, like, ‘yeah, right,’” says AQHA Professional Horseman James Farrell, “but if you turned around and opened up the halter, he would come right over, put his head in the halter and walk out like a gentleman.”

Despite his idiosyncrasies, the 1984 bay gelding by Sure Silver and out of Par’s Kathy by Par’s Music Bar, bred by Dorothy J. Moon of Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania, was one of AQHA’s earliest all-star trail horses.

But before James acquired the gelding in 1998, “Tubs” was an all-around performer. In the early 1990s, he earned top-10 and finalist finishes at the AQHA World Championship Show in hunter hack, equitation over fences and working hunter. He collected superiors in open working hunter and hunter hack, open and youth hunter under saddle, amateur and youth western pleasure, amateur showmanship and youth horsemanship.

Little by little, James narrowed the gelding’s focus to trail, he says. By the end of his 20-year show career, Tubs had 1,149 open trail points and Superiors in open, amateur and youth trail.

James and Tubs ran for and won back-to-back year-end trail titles in 2000 and 2001, a feat that sometimes required the Connecticut-based trainer to show in multiple states during one week. Trail had yet to gain popularity on the east coast, further complicating James’ goal, he says.

“We covered a lot of miles,” James says. “At that point, it was probably the most trail points anybody had ever put on in one year. I could take this horse anywhere.”

James says Tubs had the talent to hold his own at the World Show while meeting the demands of a rigorous, coast-to-coast show schedule. But the trainer’s first attempt at simultaneously preparing for weekend and World Show competition proved challenging, he says.

“The year I was running for the title, he didn’t perform that well [at the World Show],” James says. “He acted like he was a 5-year-old and it was his first time out.

“The next year, when I came back, we were still running for the title. The horse was just awesome. I prepared him the way he was supposed to be prepared, and he just gave everything to me.”

The duo’s efforts culminated in a bronze senior trail trophy in 2001, an accomplishment James says he considers a highlight on the gelding’s record. During his World Show career, Tubs earned four top-10 finishes and a finalist award in senior trail, and all classes combined, his earnings totaled $7,745.

Tubs carried eight amateur and four youth riders through the show pen, including Jan Brown of Cameron Park, California, who purchased the gelding in 2004. She, too, realized the gelding’s remarkable all-around ability — while attending shows to compete in amateur trail, the duo filled classes ranging from pole bending to jumping, she says. Tubs’ show record includes points in 13 events.

“Whatever class you wanted him to do, he did it,” Jan says. “He had endless energy and he was sound. He never took a bad step, ever. I think he kept going because it was in his blood and in his heart.”

Tubs’ soundness, combined with careful conditioning, contributed to his longevity, James says. Although the gelding never required extensive schooling, James says regular riding and careful preparation kept him in shape.

“He was never let down,” James says. “He was in top physical condition up to the day I sold him. He was tough.”

For Jan, the gelding’s can-do personality made him an excellent teacher — he helped her through patterns even when she forgot to do something, she says. 

“He was like riding a Ferrari,” Jan says. “You could think where you were going, and he would go that way, and that’s how we did trail. He was just remarkable.”

And Tubs, known for completing clean trail patterns faster than the average competitor, almost always rose to a challenge, James says.

“He would get lazy on a terrible course,” James says, “but the harder the course, the better my horse was.”

The gelding was known for having a tough exterior, but riders with whom he connected, including James and Jan, saw his softer side.

“He had a heart of gold, and he was there for you,” James says. “We got along very well.”

In 2006, Jan retired Tubs at her California ranch, turning him out alongside Picante, a 1979 mare with more than 400 points in open, amateur and youth events. The two former show horses became inseparable and “adored” their retirement together, which led to a bittersweet ending, Jan says.

“[Picante] got ill and passed away,” Jan says, “and his heart was so broken that he passed away within two months.”

The quirky, no-nonsense athlete with a bent for tutoring new riders left an extraordinary trail-horse legacy and a lasting impact on his owners’ lives.

“He was just remarkable,” Jan says. “He demanded respect, and that was easy to give to him. And if he knew you loved and respected him, he loved and respected you right back.”