Inside Cavalia: The world’s biggest equine touring show revealed

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Cavalia's new show Odysseo, is being performed in Ontario, Canada, until July 16.
Cavalia’s new show Odysseo, is being performed in Ontario, Canada, until July 16.

Taking a touring group of 65 horses and more than 200 employees on the road is par for the course for Cavalia, the world’s biggest equine touring group, which is thrilling audiences in Canada with its latest production, Odysseo.

Some of the Cavalia horses enjoying a vacation before the show.
Some of the Cavalia horses enjoying a vacation before the show. © Cavalia

After a holiday for the horses following their last round of shows in Chicago, Cavalia’s second and latest production Odysseo is under way in Mississagua, Ontario, taking audiences on a magical journey of art in motion, physical strength, precision, joy-filled spirit and beautiful harmony celebrating the ancient bond between horse and human.

Some 10,000 tonnes of sandy stage is the playground for these pampered horses. Choreography is present but with great latitude to allow the horses to express themselves, especially in the liberty scenes. Body language is the training tool for these beautiful interactions. With no reprimands for deviating from the exact plan, each show is a little bit different. The expression of strong communication established between the trainers and their horses is evident.

The scenography, emitted from the simultaneous use of 18 projectors, is derived from original paintings of incredible landscapes all over the world.  High energy, acrobatics are performed to live music against stunning projections. Constant transformation from awesome to ethereal culminates in a spectacular water scene where 150,000 litres of recycled water inundates the stage in just a few minutes, giving the horses and their co-stars another opportunity to frolic.

The show offers a VIP experience, which includes a tour of the stables. There, the passion and dedication of the staff is plain to see, ensuring top horse care and well-being. Everything has been designed to minimize stress for the horse, and since change can be a major stressor, the troupe has eliminated any change that they can control. The same tent and layout is used for every location, creating a familiar environment. After traveling (by land or by air) they will always return to the same stall, with the same neighbours, located in the same area in the tent, and everything else will also remain the same (e.g. location of the riding area). Each horse has a large box stall with ample space to stretch, lie down, sprawl out, roll and relax.

They always eat the same hay brought from Quebec, have an individual diet program and plenty of time for walks and stretching. The horses live in a climate controlled stable tent complete with showers, tack shop and a blacksmith department. They are kept impeccably clean with daily grooming from attentive caretakers who outnumber the horses.

The entourage of close to 200 permanent employees includes veterinary technicians, grooms and 48 talented performers. The team includes the same farrier flown in to take care of routine hoof care.  In between shows, all 65 horses of 12 breeds (Appaloosa, Arabian, Quarter Horse, Canadian Horse, Canadian Warmblood, Holsteiner, Lusitano, Paint Horse, Percheron Hanoverian Cross, Selle Français and Spanish Purebred) enjoy downtime with a break from training at farms with large paddocks.  Then the co-ordinating marvel begins arranging for 65 horses to all arrive on location at the same time, often chartering a Boeing 747 up to $250,000 for longer trips.  There are up to seven shows a week and the horses are on a rotation to ensure adequate rest.

“It is not always obvious or easy when working with horses for performances as they can’t talk, but it’s important to take the time to understand them and our No.1 priority is always the horses,” says Cavalia founder and artistic director, Normand Latourelle.  The company fosters an environment where patience, trust and deep-seated respect for the four-legged stars come first.

From multi-cultural backgrounds, 11 nationalities come together as family in this inspiring travelling show. They give back to each host community, sourcing local workers to help with set up and certain operations, sourcing local products such as the massive amount of sand and textile fibre used for the footing. At the end of the engagement, the sand is often donated to a local equine charity.

Acknowledgement was given citing how Canada has been different from a lot of other countries in that it has welcomed refugees with open arms. To recognize and emulate the tradition, on opening night, June 21, Cavalia welcomed 1000 Syrian refugees to enjoy the performance for free.

In short, Cavalia is an uplifting celebration sure to engage and impress horse lovers and everyone else.

The show runs until July 16, 2017.

Box office 10am – 7pm:  5399 Rose Cherry Place, Mississauga, ON, L4Z 1R9. Phone in 9am – 9pm Eastern time: 1-866-999-8111. Or order online

Members of the equestrian community receive a 10 – 15% special discount on Gold and Rendez-Vous VIP Category tickets. The promo code is GALLOP and the tickets can be purchased here.

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