Horse Showing Boot Camp
How AQHA Professional Horseman Ted Turner gets his troops ready for a multi-judge review.
October 2, 2012
From The American Quarter Horse Journal
“Atten-tion! Right, Face; For-ward, March!”
When AQHA Professional Horseman Ted Turner gets his amateurs ready for a big halter horse show, you can almost hear drill commands in the air. But this sergeant smiles.
Before every world show season, Ted gathers his youth and amateur halter exhibitors at his farm, and they go through a little boot camp. Ted knows the horses are ready; it’s those two-footed critters who need drill time. An exhibitor’s showmanship is as much a part of success at halter as is having a well-conformed and fit horse.
“Most of my amateurs, like Terry (Bradshaw), he comes and works every day, twice a day, before he goes to a horse show,” Ted says. “Because he wants to do it right.”
What Ted works on is no secret: His mantra in fitting and training is “repetition:” Doing the same thing, every time, with no variation.
A typical boot camp before the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show might go like this:
“They’re here for about a week or sometimes 10 days before the youth finals,” Ted says. “Then we go up (to the Oklahoma State Fair Park) and work at the horse show for a day or two.
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“We go through it just like you would in the show pen,” Ted says. “I line up the kids, and we track back and forth, and down the middle. Then I have them line up and set up their horses. I’ll have them move and go someplace else to set up.
“I pretend to be the judge. I walk around them, pick their tails up, so the horses get used to it. I say, let me see your horse’s teeth. Everything.
“And we do it twice a day, every day, until we go. That way, it’s fresh on their minds.”
Ted takes the horses to the show at least a day early so they can be ponied on site and get a good look at the grounds. The morning of the show, Ted’s troops are up early to do one more round of practice.
In 2009, Ted’s trainee, Leonie Fischer of Germany, showed at her first Ford Youth World and took third in 2-year-old mares with Designed By Royal Te. Leonie worked at Ted’s place leading up to the show and then “got up at 5 a.m. and worked with her horse that morning, so it was all fresh.”
Ted adds with a smile, “I try to make the work a pleasant deal. I’m a stickler for doing it right, but I try to make it pleasant.”
“Ted is really a funny guy,” says Guenter Fischer, Leonie’s father. “If you are spending a long time with him, it’s here a joke and there a joke, all with a straight face. Leonie learned a lot.”
“We laughed a lot,” Leonie says.
In addition to setting up your horse the same way every time, there are other things Ted drills into his amateurs and youth.
- Respect the judge. “I want them to be very considerate of the judge,” Ted says. “That’s a big thing I preach. You are paying for his opinion; you might not like it, but you are paying for it.”
For example: “When the judge walks up to them, I want them to mouth their horse before the judge has to ask for it,” Ted says.
“And what happens a lot with amateurs and youth is the horse will move right when the judge walks up,” he adds. “As a courtesy to the judge, get your horse as close as you can and present him so the judge can go on to the next horse and not be kept standing there waiting.
“When the judge walks away, reset the horse so the next time the judge comes (by), your horse is standing the way he’s supposed to be. Be considerate and be prompt.”
- Don’t get in a hurry. “When you track across the arena to the judge or a cone, when you get to the end, stop completely,” Ted says. “When the judge or steward nods to you, then go to your next spot. Don’t get in a hurry.
“When everyone gets in a hurry, the next thing you know, everything is out of control: You’re up on another horse’s rear, or your horse is moving too fast for you, etc.”
- Keep elbow room. “Leave at least one horse’s length between you and the horses around you. That way, you don’t get crowded.” It’s safer that way, and you’ll be able to present your horse better.
- Always present your horse. You should have your horse set up properly, even when a judge is not right there in front of you.
“Some judges will stop and kind of look at the class, and you want to be presenting your horse right then,” Ted points out. “I present my horse even when they turn in their judge’s cards. I keep showing until they tell me to go to the rail, and then I stand them up again. I don’t try to get expression, but I stand them up.
“You’ve got to be professional about what you do. I’m big on presentation.”
- Don’t switch sides. Ted tells his amateurs and youth to stay on the left side of the horse. “If you switch from side to side,” he says, “you have to switch the lead in your hands, and amateurs will get fidgety and confused with their hands.
“That’s why I have them stay (on the left), all the time. The left is the driver’s side, and the right is the passenger’s side. I want them to stay on the driver’s side at all times. Keep it simple. Simpler is always better.”
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For Ted, a lot of the fun in showing comes from having confidence in what you’re doing, knowing you’ve prepared well. That’s what boot camp is all about.
“This is my philosophy: You prepare at home,” Ted says. “That’s where a lot of people get into trouble: If they’re not prepared at home, how are they going to be prepared at the show?
“It’s having confidence when you get there. You get your horses as ready as you can get them; you get yourself as ready as you can; then get to the horse show. You prepare the best you can; that’s all you can ask for.
“Do your homework at home, when you get to the horse show, enjoy the horse show. You don’t have to worry about it.”