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On My Mind: The Twitter Marathon

Editor’s note: Recently Karen Pryor traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, for the World Equestrian Games. She used social media, primarily Twitter, to share her experiences among the horses, the people, and the southern food. Some of Karen’s followers, including some clicker trainer friends, commented on the tweets. Enjoy the following excerpts from Karen’s communication (edited lightly for clarity). Can you picture yourself there?


Karen Pryor with Leslie Hawkinson.

Karen Pryor with Leslie Hawkinson

Off to Lexington, KY, for the last days of the World Equestrian Games. Expect training tweets, if Twitter permits...

The World Equestrian Games, held this year in Lexington, KY. Happen every 4 years—1st time ever in US!

An old friend and I are here for the driving competitions. I came from Boston to join Denver La Leche friend, Leslie Hawkinson. She’s a draft horse driver, 13 years touring with Coors beer 8-horse hitch. Les has taught scores of people to drive multiple horses, trained scores of horses to drive.

I have trained about a dozen ponies to drive, taught a dozen people to drive them. I LOVE driving—it requires training finesse.

Cindy B.: Say hello to Susan T., para-dressage competitor; horse's owner, Katy P. knows about clicker training.

Theresa M.: So jealous! Have a great time.

Keri G.: Wish I was there with you, Karen! Hope you find some clicker ponies.

Laura M.: Have a wonderful time—cannot wait to read all about it!

Laura V.: Enjoy the Equestrian Games. So much cool stuff there.

Nan A.: Have a great time!

Amanda E.: Have fun! My parents are headed there tomorrow night. Should be awesome!


Lexington, KY: World Equestrian Games. Carriage driving, dressage. Got tickets months ago. Stadium packed. We are high up on west side.

Driving Dressage. Ten teams competing. Skilled French/English announcer very helpful.

Drivers and horses from Europe, Australia, US, Canada. Drivers in formal dress, lap robe, top hats, two grooms in back.

Lead team listens to driver through reins and ears. Wheel (back) team stops, turns, pulls carriage. Horses know all 4 positions!

Aussie Boyd Excell taking a victory loop around the arena.

Aussie Boyd Excell taking a victory loop
around the arena

Verbal cues good to horses. They know their names and their jobs, appreciate information. Yelling at horses NOT okay in dressage.

Australian Champ Boyd Excell hits arena with verve. Matched black horses Capone, Winston, Monty, and Rambo in full extended trot.

Boyd's horses obviously having a great time showing themselves in style, collected or flying, even elegant at required relaxed walk.

10 great teams though! Stiff competition. Driving test includes making 30-meter circles with reins in one hand, sitting erect with nonchalant smile.

Awarding of driving dressage medals. The 10 best matched teams are all in the ring, side by side, grooms holding each pair. Thrill.

Aussie wins, packed stadium cheers. Tells reporters, “The horses did it all. I had to laugh, sometimes I was just a passenger.”

Cinder W.: I used to drive carriage horses in Chicago, and train them for street driving. I love draft horses and draft crosses!

Boyd B.: I've driven mule teams pulling trolleys in downtown Honolulu, and horse and carriage teams in Kona, among other things. It's all your fault, Karen. Got me hooked on pony carts and Welsh ponies when I was but a wee lad. Thanks, by the way :-)

Karen Pryor: Hey, Boyd! I've followed your horse career for years, thanks to your Mom. Once hooked, always a horse person. Me too.

Coming tomorrow: Driving marathon, cross country with terribly hard obstacles. Yes, I have video. Will tweet links when I get it set up.


We find Hall’s on the River: 15 miles from motel, long drive in dark woods, surely we are lost, no here it is. Great spot.

Cheese grits, catfish, Kentucky Brown, steaks, apple chutney, local beer, and fast service. Plus the river. And deep-fried Oreos. Hmm.

Carla B.: Sounds really healthy for ya'!! :0}

Ted P.: Yum...all except the deep fried Oreos...

Lisa M.: Yuck, catfish!

Lynn R.: Deep Fried Cookie Dough at the fair in August- OMG!!! Sinful!

Brad W.: And that's what I love about the south...


We pick a spot by Wagon Park Obstacle: like a dog agility course from Hell, a maze of heavy fences made of phone poles.

Gate posts have a tennis ball balanced on top. Bump the post, ball falls, you lose points.

Gates A, B, C, etc. must be taken in order. Many are side by side. Tell horses quickly or they will take their own best guess.

In one tricky turn, the driver has to steer lead horses left, wheel horses right. Grooms leaning out on back to balance vehicle.

Uh oh, missed a gate. Lead team splits, one on each side of a post. Only cure: gently bring excited horses and carriage backward. Hard!

Karen: I swear the lead horses glared back at the driver, mad at him. Why’d you do THAT, dummy?

Driver in the crowd tells us horses love this. Like agility, it’s a sport for them, going fast, guessing where to go, being right.

Spectator’s T-shirt in the crowd marks him as a competition driver: “Where the hell is A?”

Many of these horses are up to 18 years old. Like the drivers, they are expert competitors!

Cindy is one of two women drivers, young and new to the sport. Her 4 black mares are small, plain, quiet, take Wagon Park maze calmly and make no errors.

We walk from one maze to another. Teams come through 10 minutes apart. 25 teams were shipped in for this event.

Spectators crowd around maze with steep hill, two lakes, tight turns. Minor collisions are frequent.

Hardest exercise: mid-race, excited horses must walk, quietly, one full kilometer then stand for 10 minutes while vets check heart, etc.

Hilly obstacle. Carriage wheel hangs up on a post. Grooms on back of rig actually bounce the carriage sideways so horses can go on.

Leaving the tough Rock Gardens maze, horses at full gallop, carriage goes up on two wheels. 1000 driver-spectators gasp in unison.

Can you tell this is a picture of two horses? Perfectly matched!

Can you tell this is a picture of two horses?
Perfectly matched!

Karen Pryor on Facebook: Dutch driver Koos de Ronde comes through complicated water obstacle with perfectly matched horses perfectly in unison. So collected, so on the bit, so gently and deftly driven, whole impression is one of unity, team and driver too. Even in high-speed exit from the obstacle, they are at an extended trot, not a disorganized gallop like some teams--I had tears in my eyes, it was so beautiful.

Back to Twitter: Canadian Cindy’s times are slow in marathon but team takes each hazard well. Announcer points out that it may be a great start to long career.

We walked 5 miles today, following marathon. Another male T-shirt in the crowd: “My next wife won’t own horses.”

Jane F.: Love the updates! Vicarious extreme driving. A friend describes combined driving as the only event where the old folks can compete equally with the young.

Laura M.: Sounds so beautiful!!

Nan A.: It sounds amazing, Karen. Thank you for sharing this.

Laurie L.: Love following your updates!

Barbara D.: Karen, sounds like you're having a blast. Thanks so much for sharing—each post, I can picture. I miss my horses!

Back to Hall's for red-eye gravy and fried green tomatoes. Two big tables of people all dressed alike are there, too.

Ages 15-65, in chic navy suits with white collars, their names embroidered on the collar in red. Who are they?

Leslie asks. Austrian equestrian team, from very young rider to the senior chef d'equipage, trying REAL American food.

We learn other guests, from Texas and Maine, also came for the driving! I hope the KY Horse Park does it again!

Pam M.: What is red-eye gravy? Enquiring British minds need to know.

Karen Pryor: Red-eye gravy is made in the frying pan after you've fried a lot of ham, and it usually involves coffee. Throw a cup of coffee in the hot grease, scrape up all the brown bits, thicken it a little, and pour it over the ham. Southerners, please correct me or embellish as you wish.

Sarah B.: You got it right, lady! Mmmm, fried green tomatoes, too.

Nan A.: Very interesting on the equestrian team and the red-eye gravy. Never heard of that one.

Aussie Boyd Excell and his super horses won the whole thing! Thanks for following tweet marathon!

PS (from a Twitter follower): Want to teach a horse to drive? Tons of books—Google driving +horse. The fastest way to do it is by clicker training!

About the author
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Karen Pryor is the founder and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. She is the author of many books, including Don't Shoot the Dog and Reaching the Animal Mind. Learn more about Karen Pryor or read Karen's Letters online.

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