Sunday, August 17, 2014

Romeo MI

We had a great time last week in Romeo, Michigan. There were large and enthusiastic crowds for the Kelly Miller Circus. We also had numerous friends come out to visit for the day. Michigan has always been a special place for me during our tour. It was in this state that I first entered the arena with tigers in intervals to learn how to present them. The following year, I presented my the act in my first shows for the public. 

Big cat enthusiasts Mary Ann and Joe Howell come out every year on or around Mary Ann's birthday. They have been present at the beginning stages of each big step in my tiger career. They have always been very supportive and are enthusiastic audience members, to say the least. Mary Ann sent this nice message and image last year.

"Ryan, I am attaching a picture of the Kelly Miller Circus poster and Shonti's paw print hanging in our tiger guest room, where they fit in beautifully.  Thank you so much!  Yes, that is Wade's Ringling poster hanging next to them." //Mary Ann Howell

Also visiting in Romeo this year was "family friend" Rick Chrzanowski. I didn't realize Rick had been friends with Natalie since her time on Franzen Bros. Circus in the 1990s. Rick brought out a lot of good grub and hung out on the lot all day. He reminded me it was in Romeo where we first met in 2009. I had soda cans lined up on a ringcurb, practicing with a lunge whip.

Rick had brought some watermelons for the elephants but asked how the tigers would react to them. I have never given the girls any. They were a bit unsure at first but figured out pretty quickly how to "kill" the melons. The tiger compound smelled nice for the rest of the day as well.

Ryan Holder
Tiger Trainer
Kelly Miller Circus

Thursday, August 14, 2014

In the News

The Kelly Miller Circus brought crowds at just under 1,000 people on Monday, August 11, 2014 in Milan's Wilson Park.

The one-ring circus packed a mighty punch for its small size delivering a large array of acts from trapeze performances to a tiger tamer. There was something for everyone at the show.

Betty Torrey, 81, of Saline said "I thought it was great for a small circus!" a smile spreading across her face, "My favorite part was the dog that was dressed up as an elephant!"

The Kelly Miller Circus will be bringing its big top tent to Plymouth tomorrow night, Tuesday, August 12, 2014.

Tiger trainer Ryan Holder warms up with his tigers before the start of the Kelly Miller Circus show on Monday, August 11, 2014 in Milan. Katie McLean / The Ann Arbor News

Will Soules, 7, of Milan reacts to the tigers of the Kelly Miller Circus on Monday, August 11, 2014. Katie McLean / The Ann Arbor News

Madeline Soules, 7, of Milan reacts to the tigers of the Kelly Miller Circus show on Monday, August 11, 2014 in Milan. Katie McLean / The Ann Arbor News

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Animal Rights Extremism - NY Tiger "Selfies" Ban

The New York legislators are at it again, taking away the liberties and freedom of choice from its citizens. Whether they are telling one how much soda may be consumed at a sitting or eliminating the possibility of controlled, regulated contact with an exotic animal, New York officials continuously abuse their power and belittle those whom they represent.

I have received many inquiries and comments regarding the recent "tiger selfie" ban in the state of New York. This initiative was a result of the lobbying and campaigning of animal rights groups using falsities and misconception to push their extremist agenda.

For example - "So-called tiger selfies have emerged as popular profile photos on online dating sites, with users — generally young men — looking to stand out by posting a photo of themselves with the dangerous predators."

Contact with an tiger by a member of the public is prohibited by the federal government unless it is of a certain age or below a maximum weight - normally ending around four months of age. This "dangerous trend" of men posing with adult animals is a flaky justification at best. Even if this were the case, it is already an illegal action under federal law.

To further the ridiculous nature of the recent legislation -

"The legislators behind the new law said they hadn't even heard of tiger selfies when they crafted the measure and simply wanted to impose some safeguards on the often unregulated industry of traveling animal shows.

"I had no idea what a tiger selfie was," said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat. "This is a serious issue. People who take selfies with wild animals are fooling with their lives. And it harms the animal because they're generally not well-treated. They're seen as profit-making props."

Knee-jerk reaction legislation is being passed on non-issues due to pressure from these animal rights extremists by individuals which have no experience or knowledge of the issue they are banning. The "unregulated industry of traveling animal shows" is another blatant lie - all animals exhibited for commercial purposes are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The purpose of pushing this law into existence by organizations like Big Cat Rescue is to further remove animals from our lives. Under false pretenses, New York has prohibited public contact with baby tigers, further limiting legal businesses and stealing freedoms from the population which may wish to engage in these activities.

"NY law protects big cats, bans 'tiger selfies'" by David Klepper, 08/12/2014

To read the actual legislation:

Here is my own legal and legitimate "tiger selfie" with my six year old "dangerous predator" taken earlier this year.

Ryan Holder
Tiger Trainer
Kelly Miller Circus

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Training Lessons - Prop-less Pyramid

"Thanks again to Ryan Holder for letting us watch during his training sessions. He has amazing talent, handling skills, patience and true respect and love for his cats!" //Ken Sopalek

Ken and Jan Sopalek were invited to attend tiger practice when the Kelly Miller Circus was playing Dalton, Massachusetts. I had not planned on doing anything special, just running trough the normal routine and focusing on a few specific exercises with my 13 month old.

When practicing the leap frog sequence, the baby tiger wasn't doing what she was supposed to and somehow ended up standing with her front feet on the back of my two year old. In scenarios like these where the tiger does not respond or perform correctly to the given cue, the animal is not punished but rather corrected. Whether in practice or the show, the animal is either corrected to perform the appropriate behavior in the same sequence or the action is restarted so the animal can perform correctly the first time. Once the tiger performs correctly, we move on to the next behavior.

From the young tiger's error came a new behavior to train. In a separate sequence, I began teaching both the 13 month old tiger and the two year old tiger to stand with their front legs on the back of another tiger. This is a trick I first saw trainer Alex Lacey ( now with the Ringling Blue unit ) perform with a male lion as the base and a tiger on either side, effectively forming a prop-less "pyramid."

It was a process to choose which of my five older tigers would perform well as a base and which would do well as a top cat. The beginning training process for the top cat involved bating the tiger up onto the back of the base tiger. For the two year old, this was somewhat difficult as I have already trained her to stand on the arena with her front feet. After several attempts, she figured out how to correctly respond to my cues.

In the following picture taken by Jan Sopalek, I learned that my six year old will not do well as a base. She does not like the pressure on her back. Similarly, she will not lay as a base for the Garden Wall.

The Sopaleks enjoyed watching this unexpected training process begin. I was fortunate enough for them to be on hand to take a few pictures to share. Often, I video practice so I can later watch from a third-person scenario how the tigers responded to my cues and body positioning. It is an invaluable resource I learned from my original teacher. However, in an spur of the moment process like happened in Dalton, I am not always able to do so. The Sopaleks had a better appreciation for the patience that is required when training with exotic animals.

Ryan Holder
Tiger Trainer
Kelly Miller Circus