Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Best Buds -- The Clydesdale Kind

By Kitson

Tommie and three of his young Clydesdale buds.
All photos courtesy of Anheuser-Busch.

Trick rider and horse trainer Tommie Turvey was in Las Vegas the day he got the call from Anheuser-Busch about training Clydesdales for an upcoming commercial. Within a few days he was on his way to Budweiser Clydesdale central: Warm Springs Ranch near Boonville, Missouri. When he got there, he started working eight horses training toward the director’s wish list. That was less than two months ago in mid-December.

The trainer worked with four adolescent Clydesdales (including a 9-month old filly named Punky who lays down in the commercial and, in another scene, unties herself), a few young horses (including the two or three-year old gelding named PeeWee who pulls the training carriage and loads up on the big red Budweiser horse van) and one solid eight-year old gelding – that was Bill – the hero horse who runs to the actor at the end of the commercial (Bill is an experienced actor and has appeared in several other Budweiser commercials). After a week of training, they all shipped to Los Angeles for two more weeks of training, then three days of filming in downtown L.A. and at Ventura Farms in Thousand Oaks, CA last month.

One of the first thing Tommie did with the horses was get them used to working at liberty (or loose). Click here to see Tommie’s gentle methods and happy horses at work. As you might of read about earlier today, I got a bee in my bonnet yesterday about the Clydesdales (I'm slightly obsessed) and called Tommie up. He and I had met in 2010 at the World Equestrian Games. Tommie probably doesn't remember meeting me at the WEG, but he was kind of enough to chat for a while. Here is a bit of our conversation:

Kitson: Once you got to Missouri, what were some of the first things on your list of to do’s?

Tommie: One thing I did right from the start was teach the five-day old baby [She has since been named Hope] to like carrots. She hadn’t had one yet. I fed her carrots and used them in my mouth so I could teach her to nuzzle on cue.

K: What was your favorite part of helping make this commercial?
T: There were a lot of favorite parts. I loved being in downtown Los Angeles right there on Wilshire Boulevard and having everything shut down just for us. Traffic is stopped and there’s just me and a big Clydesdale named Bill doing at liberty in the middle of the street.

Another thrill was just working with Clydesdale horses. I have never worked with the breed before. But no matter what the breed, every horse is an individual and has a little bit of a different pressure threshold. Especially with the at liberty work, some are right here, some take two or three days to figure it out. They are great horses.

K: What were some of the challenges?
T: Of course safety is a big concern, especially when you have a horse running for certain scenes. We had to practice this a lot with the arm and the camera. At the location where we filmed the scene of the horse running in the field alongside the truck (at Ventura Farms in Thousand Oaks, California), I told the crew that we had to fill every gopher hole before we had the horse run. The area was about 200 yards long and 30 feet wide. The crew marked more than 400 gopher holes and filled each one with dirt. I inspected it afterwards.

K: How did you feel when you watched the final commercial?
T: Relieved that I could go to bed. I’ve been hearing that people were so affected by the commercial. That made me proud and happy. Budweiser was a great group to work with. They are also good horsemen.

K: What’s next for you?
T: This Friday we are doing a commercial with miniature horses. Yes, going from the largest to the smallest. It’s for a television commercial involving five miniature horses wreaking havoc on a tire store. Ponies jumping on cars and things. Then we head to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for the Horse World Expo.

Good luck, Tommie! It was really exciting to hear about your work with the Budweiser Clydesdales!!

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