This morning was an early one! We had a Great Ocean Road Tour scheduled. I was a little skeptical at first because of the length of time we would spend in a van. HOWEVER, I was so surprised on how much fun this trip was!! We got to play in so much sand and water. I found beautiful shells and saw beautiful rock formations. I even saw the fifth deadliest snake in the world, the tiger snake!! I didn't know what kind of snake it was at first but I wasn't scared of it at all! The stories our bus driver Cam had to tell us made this experience even better. He told us interesting history facts about almost every stop we had. I can't even begin describing every amazing thing I saw because I would be here all day. I will tell you that this was one of the coolest excursions we have been on!!!
Senior Animal Science Major
Great Ocean Road Tour
G’day mate! Today started early as our group met at Muleta’s for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. We then gathered to board our tour bus for the Great Ocean Road Tour. This adventure consisted of an almost thirteen hour bus ride along the coast which included stops along scenic overlooks of the coast, a stop in a rainforest region, the twelve apostles, and much more.
One of our stops involved walking along paths to see wild koalas in the tree tops. This was particularly interesting since just yesterday we were able to pet a koala at the Moonlit Sanctuary. It was like an extra surprise to be able to see them in the wild as well. I was very surprised at how high they climbed into the tree tops as koalas are actually quite heavy. Students were also able to feed parrots at this stop (with purchased seed from the local shop). This was entertaining as the parrots would even land on students’ heads…no fear from these parrots! They were hungry and wanted attention!
I really enjoyed seeing the Twelve Apostles. From our tour guide, we learned that the reason for this landmark’s name is due to there being approximately twelve rock formations rather than any particular religious reference. We continued on to see more interesting rock formations including a Razorback!!!
Most of the students seemed particularly excited about the excursions to the beach. Anna Castleberry, a junior Animal Science/Pre-Veterinary Medicine major, was ecstatic about the ocean…so much that she even dunked her head into the water! It was a perfect day for this journey. The sun was bright, but there was a breeze to prevent the heat from becoming too overwhelming. It was wonderful to walk barefoot in the sand and ocean. There’s just something special about the smell and sound of the ocean waves rising onto the sand.
This was our last full day of study abroad adventures. Tomorrow our group will be boarding a plane to return to our respective homes within the United States. I’m saddened for our journey to be coming to a close, but I’m excited about the opportunity to reflect upon these adventures. This was my first experience traveling internationally, and I feel truly blessed to have completed this milestone with the University of Arkansas. We’ve had an amazing group of students who have taken, quite literally, thousands of photographs. Souvenirs have been purchased, but the most meaningful gift is the memories we’ve accumulated. No purchased souvenir can compare with the friendships formed and experiences shared.
Rather than say “goodbye,” let me say “until next time” New Zealand and Australia! Thanks for a challenging and engaging two weeks abroad. Hello America, here we come!
Senior Poultry Science Major, Honors College
We’re finally in the big city! We’ve been in Melbourne for a few days, but today is our first chance to enjoy some free time and explore downtown. I decided to check out the Victoria Market, a huge open air market in the heart of the city. I hadn’t bought many souvenirs yet during the trip, so the cash I had left was burning a hole in my pocket. The market had a little bit of everything, from tourist tee shirts to hand made boomerangs and a plethora of locally grown produce. We enjoyed some freshly squeezed orange juice and fresh fruit smoothies to alleviate the 97 degree weather as we shopped for an hour or two before heading to a cafe to grab a bite to eat.
After lunch, we hit the road to see one of the most anticipated stops yet. The Moonlit Wildlife Sanctuary promised one on one interactions with koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and more. We met our tour guide in the lobby and he took us through the exhibits, rattling off information on the history of each animal. We got to go behind the scenes and see how each animal’s diet is uniquely prepared. We also got to visit the animals recovering in the infirmary and see the massive pythons and boas they use for shows. Our guide took us inside a few of the cages to get a closer look at the animals, and we were even allowed to pause for a photo opp while holding a koala! Next, we were given ‘Roo food’ to hand feed the kangaroos and wallabies. Wallabies look like much smaller kangaroos and are more timid, so you had to be really slow and patient to get one to eventually trust you enough to eat out of your hand. Once I gained their trust, they gripped my hand with their tiny paws and ate one little bit of kibble at a time. Eventually, they even allowed me to pet them and get a few cool photos!
The Australian Equine Behaviour Centre
Ten days later and we finally made it to the land down under! After two flights, we landed in Melbourne late at night, where we then drove to Dr. Andrew McLean’s farm, the Australian Equine Behavior Center. Now, the drive to this place was no picnic. In just an hour, the bus driver slammed on his breaks numerous times to avoid hitting kangaroos and wombats crossing the road. While the wombats seemed to be afraid of us, these kangaroos took their sweet time crossing the road. Although kangaroos to Australians are like deer to us, these kangaroos definitely didn’t have a deer in the headlights look. Some would even just sit down in the middle of the road! We finally made it to McLean’s farm around 1:00 AM, which felt more like 3:00 AM to us since we were still on New Zealand time.
The next morning consisted of lots of coffee before meeting with Dr. McLean for our lecture. Those of you who aren’t aware of his work should know that he is the pioneer of the learning theory, which is also referred to as equitation science. Equitation science is the science of how horses learn and was established back in 1990 by McLean himself. Many people think you must have years of experience and talent to train horses and/or deal with behavior problems in horses. However, McLean is showing us that training horses is not an art, but in fact a science that is evidence-based. He has written five books and over thirty peer-reviewed articles where he has completed many experiments on this learning theory. He has devoted the last seventeen years to researching how horses learn so that we can develop a fairer, easier, and more consistent way of training horses, and he is now communicating these findings to trainers and behaviorist all over the world. All of his training is evidence based, and he refers to training horses as a science rather than an art.
After his morning lecture, we then got to work with the horses on the ground. McLean is a firm believer in ground work and establishing the proper aids of stopping, going forward, backing up, and moving the haunches and shoulders on the ground before asking under saddle. If you teach the horse these aids on the ground beforehand, it will be much easier for the horse to learn under saddle, and they will pick it much faster and with less frustration when these aids are applied under saddle. After practicing these ground work techniques, we then got to watch a demonstration of how these aids are properly applied under saddle. McLean breaks it down so that there are different aids for the horse to distinguish between faster, slower, longer, and shorter in their stride. Often, riders blur these lines and cues, so one aid (like pressure from the leg), can mean two different things to the horse (like faster and longer). McLean practices strong distinguishes in aids so that the right answer for the horse is easier to find.
Later that night, we had a fun cook out with lots of food, and I even got to try kangaroo meat, which wasn’t half bad! After dinner we went on a walk around the farm at dusk to see kangaroos, and I’m not kidding when I say there were mobs of ten to twenty in one paddock at a time! It was crazy to see so many and to just watch them balancing on their tails or hopping around. We got up early the next morning for another lecture, which was all about behavior problems and resolving common conflicts horses have, like loading into trailers, standing for farriers and injections from vets, as well as fear of clippers. Learning of his techniques and how they create less stress for the horse was very eye opening and beneficial for horse people. Many of his training techniques can also be used on dogs and elephants as well, so listening to him was quite beneficial for anyone in the animal science field on our trip.
I personally benefited extremely from this trip and these two days at the Australian Equine Behavior Center. I had my eyes opened to how in the past I’ve blurred the lines between aids when riding my own horse in dressage, which in turn was responsible for a lot of his frustration and habit of rearing. I also realized how much faster and less stressful my training would have been for my horse if I had first established a strong foundation in aids on the ground before asking him to do these commands under saddle. I had no idea you could even teach a horse how to leg yield, piaffe, and passage from the ground! I can’t wait to apply these learning techniques I’ve learned to my future horses and see the positive, long term impacts that it will have on horses as well as in my life as an equestrian rider.
This trip has also shown me how equitation science is where my true passion lies. I’ve always known I wanted a profession that had to do with my love of animals and that my talent really lies in working with horses. However, I wasn’t completely sure what that would mean for me and where I’d want to go with my career. After this trip, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Andrew McLean himself, who expressed how I am a great applicant for their equitation science program due to my background in eventing and horsemanship skills and that I could help make this learning theory more common and widespread in the United States. It’s still very new and many people have yet to hear of this new evidence based science, so having a part in spreading awareness of this new and better training method would be incredible. Also, being able to take horses who don’t have much of a chance due to behavioral problems and turning them into a suitable horse for someone is also something I’m passionate about. In the end, it’s not the horse’s fault. They can only comprehend so much, and many times humans believe horses understand more than they actually do. This study abroad trip has changed my life not just because of the exposure to different cultures and different animals, but also by solidifying what career path I want to take with my life. So if you’re a horse person or even just an animal person wanting to implement new and beneficial training techniques, I strongly suggest looking into some of Andrew McLean’s books and into this new concept of learning theory. That’s it for our time at McLean’s, but there’s still many more experiences left to have over these next few days in Australia! We’ll be sure to keep you posted!
Jordan Payton <3
We woke up in beautiful Dunedin this morning with a big day ahead. Right after a yummy breakfast at our hotel, we had the unique opportunity to listen to Dr. Marion Johnson speak. Dr. Johnson is a Senior Scientist at the Future Farming Center in Lincoln, New Zealand. She spoke about the importance of using traditional ecological knowledge and combining it with modern technology to yield the most efficient, safest food products possible. As an animal scientist aware of the destruction the food industry has on the environment and sometimes even people, her lecture had me on the edge of my seat as she offered solutions, instead of only more problems.
After the lecture, we split up to enjoy some free time. I decided to visit the world-renowned Dunedin Botanical Gardens, which overlook Dunedin’s rolling hills. While they were really lovely, my favorite part was watching Sara, who has a fear of birds, feeding the ducks.
This afternoon was ah-mazing! We went on an Elm Wildlife Tour around the Otago Peninsula. The weather was crazy, but that didn’t stop us from getting up close and personal with New Zealand’s wildlife. It even started hailing on us as we were walking back from one of the beaches! Luck was on our side, however, because the rain cleared up long enough for us to experience some awesome animals. We saw New Zealand fur seals, sea lions, birds, Royal albatross and yellow-eyed penguins in the wild! At one point, as we were walking up to a sea lion on the beach, our guide started talking about the times he has been chased by one, which is not something you want to hear as you’re standing 10 feet from a big, sleepy sea lion. The yellow-eyed penguins are the rarest penguins in the world and we got to see at least five of them in their natural habitat-so cool! The Royal albatross is a massive bird with a wingspan of seven to nine feet. We were lucky enough to visit the only on-land nesting site of these birds!
Today was definitely my favorite day of the trip so far. Getting to speak with an expert in the farming methods field AND being so close to unique wildlife was incredible. I can’t wait to see what Australia has in store!
Kelly Fowler :)
Today was a free day in Christchurch. Sara, Kelly, Jordan and I decided to go and visit Mt. Cook New Zealand’s highest mountain. The guide picked us up at the YMCA we were staying at early in the morning and we began our trip across the Island. Mt. Cook lies near the west coast and is a five-hour bus ride from Christchurch which lies near the east coast. Although the drive was long, it was through the foothills of the Southern Alps which offered great views and lots of coffee stops. For a large portion of the trip we drove alongside two different but equally gorgeous lakes; Lake Tekapo and Lake Kakipo. Upon arrival, we ate lunch at the Mt. Cook hotel and visitor center. Unfortunately, it was an overcast day and the top of Aoraki (the Maori name for Mt. Cook) ascended 3753 meters into the clouds out of sight. However, for a brief moment the clouds did part and offered a partial look at the peak of the mountain. After lunch we traveled a few minutes up the valley closer to Mt. Cook where we got out and hiked a short way to an overlook point. From there we could better see the base of the mountain as well as Glacier Lake that rests at its base. Out of the lake flowed a river that contained white water rapids and was cross-able by a swinging bridge. After taking pictures at both the overlook and the bridge we began the short hike back to the van for the long ride home. Overall the long hours in the car were worth it even though we were not able to see the full mountain. The views were amazing and hiking Mt. Cook is officially on my bucket list if I ever return to New Zealand.
Early this morning, Dr. Edgar and I went on a Lord of the Rings tour.!!! It was of Edoras which is the capital of Rohan, one of the civilizations of men in the Lord of the Rings. We drove through the country side on our way there. Along the way our guide shared information about the agriculture, plant and animal species, and industry of New Zealand. We also were able to stop a few times along the way to take photos of the landscape and Edoras from a distance. When we arrived, we unloaded and divided up some replica weapons to carry to the top for pictures. Dr. Edgar and I shared carrying Gimli's Axe up the giant hill. After lots of huffing and puffing, we made it to summit. The view of the surrounding area was absolutely incredible. We took tons of photos and had a blast learning about where they constructed the set. What an amazing day!
The Antarctic Center was "the coolest fun around." The Antarctic Center isn't just an area to learn about the continent and what animals live there, such as seals, penguins and whales. Fun fact: it is one of the thickest continents out of them all as most of it is ice. As more ice forms on the land, the thin pieces on the edge of the continent flake off into the ocean. There are three countries that have bases stationed at the Antarctic Center; USA, Italy, and New Zealand and there working on research, mainly focusing on the ozone layer. The group of us that went to the center got to watch the penguin feeding. They have 13 Little Blue Penguins that have been given a second chance at life. Most of the penguins there have disabilities that would keep them from surviving in the wild: broken beak, paralyzed wing, afraid of water. As for being able to tell the gender of them, you can't by just looking, they take a small section of their tail feathers and send them off for a DNA test. Once they have the results back, a band goes on the right wing for female and left wing for a male. And if the male and female have the same colored band on their wing then they are a couple. They can live up to 6 years in the wild with their natural predators but if they are in captivity they can live up to 23 years. After the penguin feeding, we went to a short 4D film to show us about the real experience of living and working in Antarctica. One thing we did that I never thought I would experience is a summer Antarctica snow storm. The temperature started out at 17.6 degrees F and dropped down to -3 with 23 mph wind. It wasn't bad, but it was the wind that made it unbearable.
Our next stop for our tour was the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. It is a wildlife reserve for natural, wild, and heritage animals of New Zealand. It was amazing to see all the animals that have been introduced into the country and which ones are native here. It was a really open reserve, sort of like a petting zoo, where you can walk around in each exhibit and get up close to each animal and some you can even pet and feed. All but the bird enclosures were open but a fence between you and the animal. And even in the bird enclosures, the birds flew right over everyone’s heads. One of the Kea birds flew over my head and it felt like it was about to land on me, it was so close! When I come back to New Zealand, I will be visiting this place again. Willowbank isn't just a collection of exhibits, it’s a closeup New Zealand Wildlife experience.