Featured Image Credit: Daily Times
Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Kacie Kripner spent many days during her childhood as a regular season pass holder at SeaWorld, San Antonio.
Kacie became amazed and inspired by the SeaWorld trainers at a young age, so she asked how to become one herself. After receiving some great advice and proper training, Kripner was offered her dream job, a trainer position at SeaWorld San Antonio.
When she first started her job, Kripner learned quickly the bond between the animals and trainers were real, honest and raw. They weren’t just part of the shows.
“We often passed more time with these remarkable animals than with our own families, and we spend countless weekends, nights, and holidays side by side with the dolphins, whales, and sea lions,” she says.
Kripner mentions on a summer day, they would spend anywhere from 12-16 hours interacting behind the scenes with the animals, and only about 2-3 hours performing.
In addition to spending time with the animals, she also had to learn the “ways of Seaworld” which entailed; how to clean everything, how to prepare food, and how to create for the animals. Trainers are also responsible for monitoring the animals’ health, weight, dental hygiene, and even performing sonograms.
Kripner is shedding light on the common misconception that SeaWorld trainers “make” their animals perform.
“But in reality, we didn’t make the animals do anything. After all, it would be impossible to make a 9,000-pound creature do something it didn’t want to do. Shows are simply another type of interaction between animal and trainer,” says Kripner.
The first whale she got to work with was named Taur. During her second year working at Shamu Stadium, she was trying to teach Taur a move called the belly breakspin, which required him to slide out onstage and spin 360 degrees on his belly.
“As I was training Tuar, I kept feeling like I was coming to a hiccup in the process. I knew that he had the understanding and ability to spin halfway around, but he wasn’t fully powering through it. My supervisor who was watching the session suggested that I step off the stage before asking him to complete the move. Sure enough, he spun in almost a full circle as soon as I did — that’s when I realized he had just been concerned about hitting me with his tail before.”
While Taur was still working on body control, he was not going to spin around hard until he knew Kipnur was out of the way. She took this as a powerful display of his intelligence and spoke greatly to the bond they shared.
“The whales do not simply do “tricks.” They work in tandem with trainers to successfully interact as a solid team.”
SeaWorld recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of giving animals in need a second chance. They’ve also donated more than $13 million to the care and conservation of animals, which does not include the millions spent on rescuing them.
Kacie states that she supports SeaWorld strongly and firmly as she would not if the company placed their own needs before the animals.
Learn more about this former SeaWorld trainers story here.