Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Opinion

Brooksville trainer was key to Super Bowl Clydesdale commercial

As Super Bowl commercials go, this one was nearly perfect. A 60-second story of the relationship between a Budweiser Clydesdale and the trainer who raised him.

It was beautifully filmed and poignantly told without a single word of dialogue. Practically every moment and emotion were based in heart-tugging reality.

Except for the bit at the end about the horse running through the streets of Chicago to find his trainer — that was actually Los Angeles.

And the trainer wasn't real — that was an actor.

And the horse wasn't even running to the actor — he was running to trainer Tommie Turvey of Brooksville.

Otherwise, it was totally authentic.

"Did I tell too many Hollywood secrets?" Turvey says, grinning while sitting outside the barn of his ranch not far from the Suncoast Parkway.

If director Jake Scott took some storytelling liberties, he is certainly forgiven. In an off year for Super Bowl ads, the horse tale called Brotherhood was one of the few to earn wide acclaim.

Set to the backdrop of Fleetwood Mac's Landslide, the commercial takes viewers through the relationship of a Clydesdale and his mentor. It establishes their bond from the time the horse is born until the moment he is shipped off to be part of Budweiser's team.

Three years later, the trainer ventures to Chicago to see the Clydesdales in a parade. The horse spots his old friend and runs through an empty downtown street for a tear-worthy reunion.

And the hidden star behind it all is a 43-year-old trainer, performer and stuntman who was counting on a quiet winter until the Budweiser folks called in mid December and asked if he was interested in training some of the world's most famous horses.

"I have nothing but respect for the Budweiser Clydesdale men and women. They're great horse people," said Turvey, whose own horses have appeared in films and TV shows such as The Walking Dead. "The only reason they didn't do the training is they don't have the specialty that I do. Not a lot of people do the sort of work I do."

Specifically, Turvey was needed to train the horses to follow directions without physical guidance.

So he flew to Missouri to pick out which horses to use — a total of eight were chosen — and then he and his wife, Chantal, left for Los Angeles on Christmas Day to begin two weeks of training before the three-day shoot.

Scenes that appear effortless — the Clydesdale running alongside a truck — had to be rehearsed day after day to get the horse comfortable running so close to a pursuit vehicle with a mounted camera.

There were also the discussions of how to make the commercial as realistic as possible while hitting all the right emotions. An extended version of the commercial better explains how the trainer stayed with the horse in the barn while it was sick.

"No bond or trust is more easily attained than nursing a sick animal back," Turvey said. "The Budweiser people were adamant about maintaining integrity, but the director explained he had a story to tell and a point to get across.

"From my perspective, if a horse is running free down Wilshire Boulevard, somebody is getting fired. But from the standpoint of a commercial, I thought it all worked."

It would certainly seem that way. At last check, the commercial had more than 8 million views on YouTube.

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