The Ride of her Life

Trick rider Kansas Carradine continues her quest for trust and understanding between horse and rider…

This story first appeared in The Age, July 6, 2013

Kansas Carradine in <i>Cavalia</i>.

Kansas Carradine in Cavalia which opens in Melbourne on July 24

”A trick-riding horse has to be straight as an arrow and strong as an ox,” says Kansas Carradine, who knows a thing or two about horses. ”They need fire and heart. They need to be the kind of horse that can be brave and fast, and then fall asleep as soon as they’re off stage.”

Not your average thoroughbred then? Carradine, one of the stars of the horse-based circus show Cavalia, laughs. ”Not usually. We tend more towards the quarter horses, but the horses come in all shapes and sizes and breeds – it’s the temperament more than anything else.”

Just as the quarter horses have a genetic suitability for a show such as Cavalia, Carradine herself comes with impeccable genes for a life in the spotlight involving an element of derring-do.

Her father, after all, was actor David Carradine, the star of the 1970s television series Kung Fu, and her grandfather, John Carradine, was a prolific character actor in Hollywood. David Carradine’s somewhat chaotic home life – he was married five times – meant his daughter moved around between family members, but the one constant in her life was horses.

”Even when I was as young as two, there were a couple of high-school girls up the road who used to look after our horses, and they would literally tie me on to a horse with a jacket and take me riding on the beach,” she says. ”When I was five, I apparently used to stop riders on the beach and ‘command’ them to put me on a horse. I would do anything to get a ride.”

As it turns out, it was an ideal background for Carradine’s future career which began at 11 when she went to a horse camp where they also taught trick riding.

”Initially I resisted, but when I got there I loved it so much I basically didn’t go home for seven years. Tom and Vicky Maier, who own Riata Ranch, became my second parents, and within six months I went from doing my first trick riding lesson to appearing in my first show.”

She performed for the next seven years, before taking some time off due to burnout.

”I really questioned what I was supposed to be doing with my life,” she says. ”I was tired of dressing up in red, white and blue and performing at rodeos. It was an adolescent team, and I was maturing as a performance artist.”

Carradine remembers sitting in her bedroom and asking for help. ”I was saying to the universe ‘just give me a sign, I just want a sign’,” she says. ”At that very moment the phone rang and it was somebody telling me that there was this new show – a circus show with horses that had been created by the Cirque du Soleil team.”

Carradine almost chose to ignore the call. ”I told them I didn’t feel prepared, or in shape enough to audition. I hadn’t even been on a horse in a year, and I was afraid I wouldn’t make the cut. Then I put the phone down and just sat there for a few minutes – and it was like a flash in my brain. Of course it was the sign.”

In very quick succession she auditioned, was accepted into the troupe and fell in love with and married Alain Gauthier, the show’s choreographer and resident director.

Carradine performed for a year and then took a training position buying and starting trick riding horses. Two are still on tour with Cavalia and five are touring North America with Cavalia’s other show, Odysseo. She also took leave when she had daughters Phoenix Rose, 7, and Bodhi, 4.

If there was anybody who would understand her love of horses and performing it was Gauthier, an original cast member of Cirque du Soleil. They travel the world constantly. ”We’re part of the Cavalia family; that’s how we live,” she says.

It’s a large family – 50 horses, the acrobats, the riders and a huge daily crew. ”We’re dedicated to the horses’ well-being,” Carradine says. ”When we’re on tour they get a huge amount of attention – not just the performance. We work them at liberty, we ride them every day, we train with them – their health is paramount to us.” The show has been running for almost 10 years, and Carradine has been with it on and off since 2004. She works as a back-up performer, so on any given night she might be Roman riding, trick riding or lassoing.

Carradine was pregnant with Bodhi when she heard about her father’s death in Bangkok in 2009.

”I closed my computer for a couple of weeks, turned off the phone, and sang and prayed and communed with the spirit of my father in a deeply personal way. I chose to shield myself from anything that wasn’t positive and I forced my mind to focus on the gifts I had received from my father.”

Her ability to focus has helped her to continue to grow as a horse person, and her relationship with the animals is not just about riding. ”I was lucky enough to discover Ariana Strozzi at Skyhorse Ranch in California – the creator of equine-guided education – and I very quickly realised that this was the missing piece of the jigsaw for me.”

Now a qualified instructor, Carradine has seen it work wonders for humans. ”Watching people who know nothing about horses interact with them in a non-forceful way is very powerful,” she says.

 Cavalia opens in Melbourne on July 24 at Docklands.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/the-ride-of-her-life-20130705-2pgw1.html#ixzz2YPYgyc9Y

From Paris to Paradise

Sarah Turnbull’s journey along the rocky road of hope…

This review first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on July 6, 2013

Sarah Turnbull

Author Sarah Turnbull.  Photo Andrew Goldie

It’s a hard thing in life to know when to let go of a dream and when to fight for it. In Sarah Turnbull’s first memoir, Almost French, we followed her journey as she bravely let go of her Australian life to move to Paris to be with Frederic, the man with whom she’d fallen in love.

After many trials and tribulations, all seemed to be well that ended well, and this is where we once more plunge into Turnbull’s story at the start of All Good Things.

Turnbull proves once again what an accomplished, versatile and humane writer she has become.

The couple are renovating their apartment; Frederic is working as a lawyer and Turnbull is researching a novel; they have their terrier, Maddie; and their life is full, to the outside eye at least. The only thing missing is a baby and, although for the reader there is no reason to suppose that a little one won’t make its presence felt there is a slightly wistful air almost immediately, as Turnbull describes her visits to her local church where she lights candles for her cause.

When Frederic is suddenly offered a job with his firm in Tahiti, their first thought is to refuse it. After all, they reason, why would they leave their perfect city life? And why, too, would they leave the place with the technology to help them make babies?

Because, as it transpires, after discovering that Turnbull is in the throes of early menopause, Frederic and Sarah have taken the IVF route several times with no success and a lot of heartbreak. Quite soon it becomes evident that the Holy Grail of this book is their quest to have a baby, and Turnbull writes with searing honesty about the hormonal swings, the debilitating effect of IVF on her body, the moments of optimism, and the crash when yet again it doesn’t work.

Gradually, the idea of Tahiti takes hold. After all, Turnbull reasons, what could be so bad about a place that inspired Gauguin and Matisse?

They settle on Mo’orea – a ferry ride to Pape’ete where Frederic will be working, and not as busy or as populated. So that is where Sarah, Frederic and Maddie find themselves in a cottage by a lagoon, in a landscape full of vivid colours, with friends and an entire new culture and way of life to absorb. They both decide that it’s time to close the book on the baby quest.

Except that Turnbull, despite her glorious surroundings, finds herself sinking into a depression, unable to write, and becoming more and more withdrawn. When she finds a sympathetic psychiatrist, she dwells on the subject of her infertility so much that in the end he points out to her that she is not moving on; she is, he says, not even going backwards. ”It’s not a crime to hope, you know,” he tells her.

The story of their last, successful try and the subsequent birth of their son, Oliver, is interspersed with wonderful descriptions of learning to dive (not very well); travelling to atolls and the tiny islands that surround the mainland; their introduction to the darker side of island life – thieves that have no fear of invading a house at any time of the day or night – and the ongoing, often amusing account of a marriage between two people from very different cultures. A small example from early in the book: guests arrive both five minutes early and 90 minutes late for a dinner party in Paris. Turnbull can’t believe people would turn up so late, while Frederic thinks it’s the height of rudeness to arrive early. Vive la difference.

”All good things come to those who wait” goes the expression, and in Turnbull’s case there is a happy ending – a lively, healthy son and a new start again in Sydney for the family. In All Good Things, Turnbull proves once again what an accomplished, versatile and humane writer she has become.

All Good Things by Sarah Turnbull.

ALL GOOD THINGS

Sarah Turnbull

HarperCollins, 325pp, $29.99

Download the ebook here.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/from-paris-to-paradise-along-the-rocky-road-of-hope-20130704-2pct3.html#ixzz2YPVnlZkY