AHT's April Leader Of The Times

Leader of the Times -

AHT's April Leader Of The Times

Leaders Of The Times: Turismo RA—What’s New? It’s All About Heart
by MARY KIRKMAN

“The assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to tell us something about your horse that the Arabian public may not know,” we challenged Merrilee Lyons, owner of 2018 U.S. National Champion Junior Stallion Turismo RA. There already has been a lot in print about Turismo: namely his show record (undefeated, three-time national champion, Scottsdale Champion Stallion) and his pedigree (by Trussardi and out of the Marwan Al Shaqab daughter Marlene Dietrich), bloodlines so deep in class that whole articles have been devoted to them. This year, standing at Adandy Farm and managed by Lyons’ longtime trainer Cathy Vincent, he’s focusing on his breeding career, so what else would be relevant for mare owners—and his fans—to know?

Lyons accepted, but opened with a story—the daunting journey from the in-gate at last year’s Nationals to the winner’s circle.“When he came in the ring, I knew something was wrong,” she says. “Maybe others didn’t see it, but I know my horse.”

Handler David Boggs, who is used to Turismo’s natural talent (“He is as big and bold and round and high as any stallion I’ve ever led; he’s thrilling to run alongside because he does his part and then some”) soon realized it too. The fine wire part of the stallion’s throatlatch, which fastens to his halter conchos, had broken and was poking into the side of his neck. Finally, when Turismo ducked away from it, Midwest’s Alcides Rodrigues raced to the ring to repair the equipment (“My heroes!” Lyons says of Boggs, Rodrigues and the stallion).

Back in order, Turismo regarded Boggs. “It was like he said, ‘Okay, buddy, let’s go do this,’” Lyons remembers. Turismo had every excuse to be distracted, but he banished the mishap from his mind and delivered a sparkling performance that netted him the title. “He showed his heart out,” she says, “with dignity, courage, and the heart of a champion.” (Which was better than how she handled it, she admits with a grin. “I was about to pass out.”)

That signature focus and showmanship, it turns out, is part of Turismo’s character. Eric Wolfe, who started the Rojo-bred stallion as a weanling and showed him to his first championship, remembers it even then. “He just strutted and put on a show, and he did that every day. He’s never lost that charisma, that very brilliant way he presents himself.”

Some of that is Turismo’s outlook on life; some comes from his personal attributes. “When horses are made the way he is, with that neck coming out of that shoulder, it’s easy for them,” Wolfe explains. “He never had a problem staying sound, and horses that are always sound are the ones that are made right. He is a horseman’s horse—any horseman worth his salt will tell you that it makes their job easier when the horses have the right attitude and correct conformation.”

The conformation, pedigree and show titles are apparent. The inner Turismo, the driving engine that puts it all together, is what you learn when you know the stallion. For breeders, the question now is, will he pass it on?

So far, yes. Lyons and Vincent point especially to his 2018 son, Evolution CCA, whom Lyons purchased as a yearling in January. “I see a repeat of Turismo in Evolution,” she notes.

“He’s absolutely over-the-top spectacular,” Vincent agrees. “He’s just like his dad; he walks out of the stall with his neck in the air and his tail over his back. He’s easy to clip, easy to handle, easy to work, and smart. Even in the little bit we’ve started schooling him, he’s taking to it like Turismo does. The babies I’ve seen have that show attitude; they’re proud of themselves, they love to come out and work, they have incredible carriage, and they’re correct, beautiful horses.”

For Merrilee Lyons, Turismo is number one. Those who know the pair report that the stallion can show his heart out in the ring, collect the trophy and enjoy the applause, and minutes later be back in his stall, his head over Lyons’ shoulder, the two of them sharing carrots. “He’s like my kid,” she smiles. “He’s the love of my life!”