I’ve enjoyed a lot of ‘firsts’ in my career and each has been exciting and fun to do—first article published, first time doing a live interview, first time I was a headliner at an expo, first cover on a magazine, first time on TV, first time roping a cow, first time riding a horse that was over 19 hands…. I’m thankful for all the opportunities.
This week I chalked up another first—I recorded a voice-over for an animated film. It will be for Spalding Laboratories-- about biological fly control and how those perky little predators actually work. Mine was the voice of the main character, Zara. She is a mamma fly predator of the species Muscidifurax Zaraptor Parasitoid. Try saying that three times fast. I can (now).
It was fun working with a professional film-making crew that I didn’t know—lights, cameras, action! It was unusually easy because 1) there was no horse to work with and around, and 2) I could read from a script and didn’t have to memorize anything. I only had to read it the way the director wanted it to sound; and since he directed me each step, it was easy.
In addition to recording the voice-over, we also taped some promotional video. Even the voice-over was recorded on video because the computer animation program can use the movement of my mouth to program the mouth of the animated character I was playing. I find animation intriguing and I cannot wait to see how Zara comes off in the film!
And I learned a lot about fly predators! I thought I already knew a lot about them because I have used them for about 25 years and Spalding Labs has been a major sponsor of mine for years, but I never paid too much attention to exactly how they work—I just knew they did work. As long as the flies disappear, why ask too many questions? In recording this voice-over—an educational film about effective fly control and how fly predators work, I learned a lot of interesting facts about the Muscidifurax Zaraptor Parasatoids. For instance, all these decades, I thought fly parasites ATE fly larvae. But they don’t. The females (like Zara) lay their eggs in fly larvae and their offspring consume the larvae and one tiny mamma predator can kill about 70 adult flies. Since we release about 20,000 predators each month—that’s a lot of flies that never hatch! Goo Zara!
I had fun with this commercial shoot and know it will help educate horse owners and in turn, make horses more comfortable. I count this opportunity to work with a sponsor as a blessing. After all, it would not be possible to do the TV show without Spalding and all of my sponsors. We love the comments and feedback we get about the show and it helps us shape the program into something that is even more interesting and useful to our viewers. But sometimes people don’t understand that our sponsors make what I do possible. From the TV show, to clinics, expos and even my writings, our sponsors make it possible.
So while we appreciate all the comments we get—positive and constructive, those comments saying that we should have fewer commercials or I should have fewer logos on my shirts or that I am too commercial always make me wince a little. I wouldn’t be where I am without sponsors and, ironically, the people that are making the comments (and they are few and far between) wouldn’t be watching and learning from the show without them.
Besides, horse owners frequently ask me what products I use and I’m happy to point them to what I know works and the products I’ve used for years than to have them hunt and “test” products for themselves. If I can help test and decide what works, I’m all for it and consider that part of my job. I hope it goes without saying that I would never endorse a product I didn’t believe in and that I would always be upfront and candid with people when giving them advice.
Fortunately for me, we are able to limit the sponsors we take resulting in a few select sponsors-- all companies with products that I have used for years (or decades) and whose products I can whole-heartedly endorse, knowing that it will help horses and horse owners. It’s easy to do my job when the products I am promoting are products that I use every day and believe in. I’ve made it a point to carefully select who I work with. If by accepting a sponsorship from a company whose products I rely on to take care of my own horses, I can offer a multi-faceted educational program for horse owners all over the country, and in turn help a lot of horses—bring it on! If that’s becoming “commercial”, I say, commercial I am!
It was a busy week and I struggled to get everything done, but I truly enjoyed checking off another “first” in my career. Who knows, maybe Disney will hire me as a voice talent for their next animated horse film! I could play Zara, the sage old alpha mare!
Enjoy the ride,