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presented by Senor Fernando Alvarez at the Westpac Stadium, Christchurch, April 4-5.

April 5, 2001

A team of five dancing horses - four Andalusians and one Lippizaner - dazzled the capacity crowd in Christchurch on Wednesday night. The sparkling white horses pranced through several haute ecole movements, and a few others to boot.

The show was part display and part demonstration of training methods; in many movements Senor Alvarez walked alongside the horse and rider showing how the horses are trained to do their work. The arena was tiny - only three horse-lengths wide and about eight long - meaning that, for example, the intricate quadrilles such as those performed at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, were not possible.

A couple of the riders appeared to be too inexperienced with their mounts to get the best from their horses. Several movements were simply not performed, or not performed to expected standards. This did not bother the crowd, which, as evidenced by the applause at the most unusual of times, was thrilled to see these horses at such close quarters.

The dressage purists in the audience might have been disappointed by some of the movements - for example the passage was barely performed, and during the finale, named the Dance of the White Horses, only two of the four horses managed an acceptable shoulder-in. The dance itself was disappointing, with much of it consisting of simply trotting around the tiny arena.

Throughout the show the horses were rewarded with sugar cubes.

There was also an element of circus in the performance. At one stage the Andalusian Meloso lay down on the ground, and Vienna, the Lippizaner, managed a couple strides of backwards canter - an extremely difficult feat to achieve and one which must be confusing for the horse.

Darcelo tried his hardest at the capriole, where the horse leaps from the ground and kicks backwards - another difficult movement.

Undoubtedly the stars of the show were Cortez, a 10-year-old Andalusian, and his master Fernando Alvarez. Cortez did a lovely Spanish Walk (where the horse lifts each front leg slowly and throws it forward), a reasonable courbette (where the horse stands on his hind legs and then jumps forward), and a piaffe to music whilst between the pillars. The highlight of the show was at the end, when Cortez did a spectacular capriole ... this is the stuff that we had waited to see.

At $40, the ticket price was quite expensive. However, as movements such as capriole, levade, and courbette are not performed in normal dressage, this would be the only chance for some people to see these movements without travelling to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

 

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