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Shooting a TV Show

Lots of people have asked me about how we make the TV show and since right now we are in the midst of it, I thought I’d write about what’s on my mind. We’ve long been planning the upcoming Horse Master shoot at the end of January—the dates were set a year ago, the facility scouted and secured six months ago, the accommodations and travel arrangements for the crew have been made and now, for the tricky part, we have to select cast members. Anyone near a shoot location can apply to be on the show and we advertise it far in advance, so we have lots of people that apply. Sorting through the applications and choosing the right horse/rider combo for each of the eight episodes that we tape at each shoot is the tricky part and I confess, we tend to procrastinate on doing this.

We tape 24 episodes of Horse Master each year, at three locations around the country—one of which is always here at my place in Colorado in the middle of the summer (the only time the weather is even remotely reliable). Since the other two shoots have to occur during the winter to accommodate the production and airing schedule, we are limited to finding shoot locations in the sunbelt somewhere. Although we shoot at sites that have an indoor or covered arena for a backup, we always plan to tape outdoors (preferably someplace with a beautiful background) . We have found that few locations have reliably good weather in the middle of winter. We have frozen our tails off at a Florida shoot in February; we have slopped around in the rain and mud in Texas in March; and we have endured record breaking cold in South Carolina in the spring.

So now comes the hard work of choosing the cast members for the AZ shoot. We start with 40-50 applicants and go through each one considering the issue and the discipline, and how excited we are about the potential story line. Some applicants are ruled out right away because it is a crazy situation or the person is in so far over their head that we can’t sort it out in a half hour TV show. The remaining ones are scored on how excited we are about the story line and whether or not the topic is on our list of episodes we’d like to do, based on our input from our viewers. We try to stay balanced between English, Western and ground work and that balance has become one of the trademarks of our show. We also try to get at least one youth rider in each shoot and if a man actually applies, he usually gets accepted (interestingly, at the last shoot we discovered that one man’s wife had actually applied for him without his knowledge and then persuaded him to come once he was accepted). We actually had two men in that shoot, which was a record we were happy about and may have something to do with our 60% male audience. Does that figure surprise you?

Next it’s time to organize the wardrobe and the equipment needed, get helmet sizes for all the riders and all the other odds and ends that are sent to the shoot location ahead of time. You’d be surprised at the complicated logistics of all of this. We arrive at the shoot location a day or two ahead of time to make sure all our equipment is there, everything is in order and to scout where we can tape in relationship to the direction of the sun and the backgrounds. We tape eight episodes in four days; it’s pretty much a sun-up to sun-down operation and at night it is all we can do to eat dinner and fall into bed. But, oddly enough, we have a lot of fun. As I’ve written before, I am blessed with an awesome Horse Master crew—all talented, hard working and fun loving.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll get the applications sorted.

Enjoy the ride,



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1 Comment

  1. I was fortunate enough to get to see one of your very first shoots from behind the scenes, as my daughter brought her horse, and I happened to be the transportation. Her daughter was also with us, so we had a great three generation trip as well as learned a lot. Then my daughter got to be part of your HM crew for a shoot and still talks about it. We realize it is a tremendous amount of work, but please understand how much we all appreciate your efforts so that many more of us can ‘enjoy the ride’.

    Now go take some time off to enjoy your family and your own horses!

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