angle-left Old Horse, New Tricks

Old Horse, New Tricks

Kelly Turner and Lukes Arrival are trying a new class at the AQHA West Level 1 Championships.

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By The American Quarter Horse Journal editor Andrea Caudill

Turns out you can teach an old horse new tricks.

Just ask Kelly Turner of Denver, Colorado, who won the Level 1 amateur hunter hack aboard her gelding Lukes Arrival at the 2019 AQHA West Level 1 Championship.

The 20-year-old gelding just started learning to jump last year. 

“This is our third time showing it,” Kelly says, giving her beloved gelding a big pat. “I’m really, really happy.”

Kelly has owned “Luke” for 17 years. The Michigan native got the horse from her mom, who bought the green 3-year-old as a trail riding horse. 

“I said, ‘Ummm, I think I would like to have him,’ so we swapped horses,” Kelly remembers. “I ended up keeping him and now he’s my forever pet.”

Luke is sired by Luke At Me and is out of the Windchester mare Windchesterarrival. He was bred by Carol Stewart-Copper of Pensacola, Florida. 

Any long-term relationship is a journey, and Kelly and Luke have a lot of miles together.
“He’s just a sweetheart,” Kelly says. “He’s super laid back, anyone can ride him, he loves to trail ride, he loves to camp. Whatever you ask him to do, he’s happy to do. He’s just a sweet boy. But it took him awhile to get there. I think with anyone who has a horse for 17 years, you have your ups and downs, and there were times when people told me I should sell him. But I kept him and kept working on him – and he’s not going anywhere!”

Kelly didn’t start showing until she was an adult, and her ability to compete has been sporadic due to the pressures of her career. Her focus has always been on English flat classes, like hunter under saddle and equitation. 

Riders at her boarding barn were jumping, and it piqued her interest. 

“That’s how I got the bug,” she says. “I thought, hey that looks fun, and it’s never too late to start.”

So about a year ago, she put her teenage gelding that they sometimes call “Grandpa” around the barn into jumping training. And, even more importantly, she put herself into jumping training.

“I think he has really enjoyed it,” she says. “He tends to be on the lazy side, so when you set up a jump, he just wakes up with energy, he’s excited about the jumps and he really seems to enjoy his new job. I’ve had the help of great trainers working with him. It’s more of a problem to train me to jump than to train him to jump. To him it came naturally, but I’m always a mess when I’m trying to sit there and look pretty! The more people I can have helping the better. It takes a village, right?”

Among her trainers are Kelly Smith and Kevin Dukes, both of whom are based in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas, area. Fortunately, Kelly’s career has some significant job perks.

“I’m an airline pilot, I fly for United, and I work in the Air Force Reserve part-time” Kelly says. “I fly the 787, and teach in our simulator facility to train pilots to fly the 787. That’s pretty much my life.” 

While her career is highly demanding, forcing her to juggle her duties as an instructor for developing pilots, flying international flights to Asia and Europe, and her work serving in the Air Force, it does come in handy for her horse hobby.

“I can fly for free,” she says. “So every day off, I fly down (to Dallas) at 5 a.m., ride for a couple hours and then fly home. It works out well.”

All her hard work is paying off. They collected the gold trophy at the Level 1, and helped prepare them for an even bigger step up – the looming Lucas Oil AQHA World Championship Show, where they will be competing in the hunter hack. 

“It is our first time,” she says with a smile. “It only took us until he was 20 to qualify, but hey, it’s never too late!”

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHAnews on Twitter and visit