Ted Carson and Butler Farms:
A Perfect Partnership - By Mary Kirkman
Compliments of Arabian Horse World
Ask anyone the secret to Butler Farms’ success, and they will tell you Ted Carson. Ask Ted Carson what makes the place go, and he’ll probably say the owners, Frances and C.A. Butler. The real answer is the incredible partnership- the real sense of teamwork and family- that has emerged between all of them.
“Ted’s not an employee,” Cecil Butler says succinctly. “He’s a business partner of ours. When we get good people, we reward them. What’s made us successful? Recognizing talent has been a good part of it.”
Technically speaking, Ted is responsible for the farm’s name in the show ring. He picks the show candidates, he trains them, he shows them- and they pick up awards like it was bred into them. But on a farm where character and honesty count above all, he wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t first satisfied the standards set by Frances and C.A. He’s a good person and he’s a fine horseman…in that order. Top-notch, both counts.
Deceptively young-looking, Ted Carson has been a professional trainer for more than 15 years, working with such operations as Cedar Ridge, Geneva Arabians and Dolorosa, as well as with trainer Josh Quintus. The most telling quality in his reputation is that although he is known for his skill with halter horses, performance-oriented trainers have uncommon respect for his work. Butler Farms horses who compete in halter graduate from his program with balanced, trainable minds, capable of other careers- many are already performance winners, as the farm offers that discipline as well.
“Halter has always had a rap that ‘you can’t ride the horses,” he says. “One thing I can say is that our halter horses have a stable mind. That’s what we give them. Even if they only show in halter and they don’t have a riding career, I think we develop a good, mentally-balanced horse.”
The key is Ted’s basic method, which leads each horse logically from stage to stage through his schooling. There is no confusion, little meltdown.
“I was taught that when you start teaching a horse to do anything, you have to break the lessons down and have steps,” says Ted, who credits a mentor, performance trainer Tom Moore at Cedar Ridge, with helping his design the system.
“In halter training, we have four steps that we go through with every horse. When you start have trouble, you have to determine which step your troubles are in. Without the steps, you don’t know where your troubles really are, and when you’re trying to fix something, you’re confusing the horse because you don’t know where the problem is. The system is a very simple process.”
Although he takes into consideration every individual’s background and attributes, and tailors the plan for each, the basic system works for all, providing a comfort zone for learning. At the age of three, work under saddle is added to the curriculum.
“We ride everything that’s three and over,” he says. “We ride ‘em all. For instance, Flame Dancer BHF was U.S. National Champion Gelding, and has taken his junior owner to Canadian National Top Ten and Regional Champion in the Hunter Pleasure division. RF Footloose was Hunter Champion Open and Halter Open Champion at the Egyptian Event. That’s just a couple of examples. We have a lot of scenarios like that.”
But the driving engine in the operation is the extraordinary fit of personalities and values between Ted and the Butlers.
“It’s really amazing that we fit together as well as we do,” he muses. “I guess it comes down to good character. They have great character and I feel that I pride myself on good character. We respect each other and our space and our Knowledge”
Frances agrees. “The key to our whole relationship is mutual respect,” she says. “We like each other. We’re there every day and we watch Ted work. If you’ve watched someone for nearly six years, you know what they do and what they don’t do.”
Listening to them, you realize that “character” breaks down into honesty, working hard, doing your best- always. The talent is the icing on the cake.
One of Ted’s talents, Frances relates, is his ability to select horses. “He can go through a herd of horses and pick, pick, pick, delete, delete, delete, and seldom will he miss a good one. He recognizes, as my husband would say in basketball, the next level of talent, and that’s a rare quality.”
With such an ability comes a responsibility, and one that they appreciate in their trainer. “He’s honest with clients, “she emphasizes. “ He tries to explain to them whether they have horse that’s good for the backyard, a horse that can do Class A, a regional quality horse, or a national-level horse. That’s rare, that somebody will honestly try to tell you what level horse you have.”
The hard work is a given. “Frances and C.A. come from the background of health service,” Ted comments. “I think that has a lot to do with what we’re doing here. People think of their horses a lot like their family; we have the same idea of how we have to serve the clients. There has to be excellent care, 24-hour care. I really think that has a lot to do with our whole outlook on things.”
He traces his own work ethic to his upbringing. “My father instilled a lot of work ethic in me.” He smiles. “And Dick Ames, at Cedar Ridge, polished it up, helped me focus.” It has all added up to 24-kt. service at Butler Farms.
“Although it is impossible to please every client, we try to give people their money’s worth,” he replies. “Their horses are conditioned and trained- worked every day. We do a really good, balanced job; the horses have brains after they’re done. They’re sound. We give the whole package.”
Actually, Ted Carson and Butler Farms have a record of good work that has expanded beyond its client base. The rationale is that “giving back” is good for everyone.
“Ted is wonderful with children,” Frances Butler relates. “Kids absolutely adore him- he’s like a pied piper.”
That has translated into a commitment to using the farm to help children learn and grow. “He has children’s judging panels that come out, and he helps them with their judging skills,” Frances says. “Or school groups come out and he’ll take half a day, showing them around the farm, how he works. He’s just available to children.” That means all children: visitors, workers, clients- anyone with a future.
“I try to give them what I was given when I was younger,” Ted explains. “It’s a good atmosphere in the barn. I think that we give these kids some confidence in life itself, and I really think I can see that part of the business growing a bit.”
“There is a program in our area, where young people can get high school credit in agriculture programs by coming out to the farm,” Frances adds. “Of the teenagers that have come out and worked with Ted- and he has them all the time- two have gone on to college and one of them will be working with us this summer and going to vet school this fall. He’s a great role model for young people.”
Another item on the Ted Carson agenda is to develop a broader base of breeders of the Arabian breed. “I think this business needs help,” he says. “We need to produce people who love the horse and want to breed. That’s one of my main focuses and will be for a long time- that we continue to bring new people in and we give the interest in breeding horses. Show horses have been in the forefront for the past 10 to 20 years, and they’re important, but it’s like we’ve forgotten about breeding. So that’s one of our goals, to bring people in who want to breed, to give them the necessary knowledge and skills, and to help build a broader base in the Arabian horse than is there now.
“I don’t know how well we can do,” he continues candidly,“ but I think if other trainers would do the same, we could grow the breed.”
Over the years, Butler Farms has developed into a full service breeding and training facility, with a world-class halter program and a respected performance division. In addition, the farm is the home of Southeastern Equine Reproductive Services, which freezes semen, performs embryo transfers and ships cooled semen. “We’re looking for that to be a big part of our business in the future,” Ted reports.
So if Ted Carson is Butler Farms’ not-so-secret weapon, what keeps him steady and going, day-in and day-out? “My wife, Brandi,” he says with a grin, “She’s given me a balance in my life.”
Frances and C.A. Butler, looking out over the pastureland that has a mission as beautiful as it is, are satisfied.
“If anything ever happens to us, Ted will have the use of this farm until the day he dies,” Frances says. Not that she and C.A. are planning on going anyplace any time soon; they aren’t. They wouldn’t miss what Butler Farms is doing for the world. But they know what they have in Ted Carson. “He can always us the farm. He’s earned it.”