Friday, September 26, 2014

Sandy's Crowd Splash

We can't wait to see Sandy's finished crowd splash!

After seeing the dolphins and sea lions show off, guests often ask “How long does it take to teach them?” That is an excellent question and the answer depends on the individual. Sandy is learning something brand new that is a great example of how many steps are included in the training process. As a 35 year old male; Sandy has come up with some awesome behaviors on his own. He’s the only dolphin that does a full belly flop and often steals the spotlight when he shows it off. While knowing a few amazing behaviors is great, we like to continuously challenge the dolphins both mentally and physically and add new twists to familiar behaviors as well as teaching something entirely new.

Sandy is in training to learn a behavior some of the other big males know, his crowd splash. The end result of asking a dolphin to do this is a lot of wet guests, but in the hot Florida Keys sun it’s pretty refreshing. However, to do this there are several steps a trainer has to work out with the dolphin.

The first of which is how to swim on their side while still moving forward in a straight line. Dolphins use their side flippers, called pectorals, to steer. This is how they are able to do such amazing turns and spirals. Sandy has to use his pecs in conjunction with his peduncle and ab strength to get the right angle in his swim. His trainer, Jamie, uses a target pole to teach him to wiggle his body in the correct way. He’s almost learned how to do it but still needs reminders on occasion. Once he’s got that movement down, she’ll ask him to put some strength into his kick so that he can give his crowd a splash.

Once he has that combination down, the next thing is take the speed up a notch. Crowd splashes are fun because they come out of nowhere. You see a trainer station a dolphin and ask for something, then before you know it, you’re soaking wet. It’s the sneak attack that makes it so fun!

We have no doubt this big guy, who is nearly ten feet long, will learn this behavior and enjoy it. He’s a goof to begin with, so something this fun is right up his alley. Just think, one day you’ll be relaxing by the back causeway, and then before you know it you’ll be splashed by Sandy! It’s literally going to be a blast.