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April 4, 2008

Camie Stockhausen trains with Kelsey at Stagecoach Stables in northeast Ames. A communications specialist in the office of biotechnology, Stockhausen splits her time between communicating about science and communicating with horses. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Finding the perfect mix

by Erin Rosacker

Some may call her lucky. In fact, many have.

But Camie Stockhausen, a communications specialist in the office of biotechnology, will tell you differently. It was just a matter of time until she found the perfect mix of science, communications and horses (with a splash of basketball to liven things up on the way).

Stockhausen went to college in pursuit of a career in broadcast meteorology. At 6-foot-3, she earned an athletic grant to play basketball for the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where she set the career blocked shots record. After graduating with a degree in mass communications, she marched over to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and earned a second degree in atmospheric science.

"I have two undergraduate [degrees]," Stockhausen said. "I regret that. I should have pursued an advanced degree."

She landed her first job as an on-air meteorologist for WAOW in Wausau, Wis., then moved to KDUB in Dubuque. But it wasn't until she took the morning weather position at WOI-TV in Ames that Stockhausen learned a thing or two about winter.

"In Wisconsin, we don't have as much wind," she said. "Here, the wind starts and it just goes forever. I was a little stunned when I experienced my first blizzard."

After four years at WOI, Stockhausen made a career decision. Several reasons factored into her exit from television weather, including the rotating shifts and the requirement to move herself and her husband from city to city to continue up the meteorology ranks.

"Having a bad hair day can be a career ender," she laughed.

Stockhausen leaned on her communications background to start down another path. She landed a job as a patent administration assistant with ISU's Research Foundation in 1998, then moved to the office of biotechnology in 2003, where she wears her science hat in cooperation with her communications role.

"Working to get the word out about all the great work in biotechnology happening at ISU is fascinating and rewarding work," Stockhausen said. "I love what I do and the people I work with and meet."

Horse therapy

Now, back to horses. They've always been there. Growing up in rural Waldo, Wis., Stockhausen jokes that she was riding horses in the womb. Maybe that explains her lifelong passion.

"I had a pony when I was born," she said. "I always knew when I was a little kid that I would do something with horses. When I was in second grade, I wanted to be a jockey, but the eventual 6-3 height shut that down pretty quickly."

Giving up the odd hours as a meteorologist helped her earn more time at the stables and plan her weekends around various competitions. But it wasn't until she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2003 that it came full circle.

"Riding keeps me well, quite literally," she said. "I kind of laughed when I was first diagnosed because the doctor told me, 'One of the things we recommend is riding horses, it's really good for the nervous system.'"

Instead of being deflated about her diagnosis, Stockhausen embraced it. She adjusted her diet. She adjusted her work schedule to half days. But all she had to do with her horse time was increase it. Just what the doctor ordered.

"I have no symptoms. My neurologist fired me after two years," she said. "Managing stress is managing MS. I really learned to chill out and not let things bother me as much as they used to. It's been a blessing."

Communication on every level

Stockhausen considers herself a communications specialist when it comes to her flourishing horse career as well.

"I communicate with horses and I help people communicate with their horses," she said.

Is there a height advantage with horses like there was in basketball?

"I think horses are all about size," Stockhausen said. "If you are a little bigger, usually you don't have to make your point as loudly. You can be quieter."

She and her husband Jay have four horses on their Cambridge farm, but she also spends many hours with her clients' horses at Stagecoach Stables in northeast Ames. She teaches clinics; trains horses and riders; consults with clients on buying the right horse (many of them Iowa thoroughbreds that did not make it to the track); and exhibits horses in competition.

She trains and competes in equestrian "eventing," which includes three phases: dressage (obedience), cross country jumping (long outdoor route with obstacles) and show jumping (obstacles in a show ring). Stockhausen also trains horses and riders in fox hunting, a no-kill sport.

"My lessons, after a while, get to be a little unconventional," she said. "I'll get on a horse and ride along with [my clients]. I'll teach them to ride up and down hills and how to cross ditches."

Bringing it all together

Spending half her days communicating about science and the other half communicating with (or about) horses, Stockhausen has successfully meshed three parts of her life together.

"There are always three things going on in my life. There's always the communication thing, there's always the science thing, there's always the horse thing. It's just a question of which one of them steps to the forefront at a particular time," Stockhausen said. "Now my life has come to a point where they're funneling all together. It doesn't sound like it could happen, but it does. That's what I have right now."

With an infectiously positive attitude, Stockhausen agrees this is right where she planned to be. Luck had little to do with it.


"There are always three things going on in my life ... Now my life has come to a point where they're funneling all together. It doesn't sound like it could happen, but it does. That's what I have right now."

Camie Stockhausen