Cavalia has made a name for themselves over the last decade and a half. Since 2003, they’ve been touring the world with their eponymous acrobatic and equestrian show. Even at the beginning they were a whole lot more than just a simple horse show and this colossal production hasn’t lost its edge. Renown worldwide for its performing stallions and geldings this show stands out against other horse shows. Watching these athletic horses running wild and pulling off incredible stunts throughout the show is magical and keeps fans coming back. Both productions: Cavalia (currently in China) and Odysseo (currently touring across Canada and The United States) are equestrian and acrobatic shows that are not to be missed!
The Particularities of an Equestrian Show
Touring with such a large-scale horse show is nowhere near simple. Everything revolves around the safety and well-being of the horses and artists. To begin with, an enormous team of groomers, health technicians, trainers, riders and caretakers must be on-site at all times. Between the horses’ meals, showers and massages, exercise, grooming and training sessions, grazing periods, health checkups and their handling throughout the show, a lot of dedicated professionals are involved.
Interacting with unrestrained animals on stage also means facing the possibility of unpredictable moments. The public is generally more than forgiving, but the music and the whole setting still need to adapt to the occasional fooling around of the younger or quicker-tempered horses. To be able to adjust with the rhythm of both the artists and horses, the rich musical accompaniment – consisting of a singer and a group of musicians – is played live during Odysseo.
Moreover, for these equestrian ballets, as Cavalia productions are often labelled, an enormous stage of 17,500 square feet is needed to recreate nature. Odysseo, the world’s largest touring production, also has the world’s largest big top tent stretching over tons of a carefully balanced sand and textile mix (the material prevents the sand from clumping and compacting too hard, sparing the articulations of the horses and artists) and 40,000 gallons of water for a splashing finale.
A gigantic cyclorama (half a 360° screen), is used as a backdrop and evolving decor for the different numbers. The surreal quality of images and overall visual effect often gives the impression that the whole show is happening on a Hollywood movie set.
In spite of all this, Odysseo’s 58,000 square feet White Big Top is as comfortable and glamorous as a permanent theatre, to guarantee the best possible experience for spectators of all ages. In the Rendez-Vous VIP lounge, adjacent to the White Big Top, a gourmet full meal buffet (including decadent desserts at intermission), a boutique and two bars make you forget you’re under a tent.
The organization and workforce needed to erect these kinds of installations are as massive as they are meticulous. In addition to their 65 equine counterparts, the 50 artists starring in the latest Cavalia production all need space to train, eat balanced meals and put on well-fitted costumes. In the midst of all these daily considerations, there are things that you simply can’t plan for in advance that must be taken care on-site. That’s why a dedicated team of talented and versatile handymen, technicians and workers is essential to make this most prodigious acrobatic and equestrian show possible.
The Life of an Equestrian Show Horse
The Cavalia herd has an exciting but very well-balanced daily life. After travelling from city to city on a chartered 747, the horses always get up to two weeks of leisure at a local farm. There, they can relax, roll in the mud, graze and bond as a group while the cast and crew prepares for the opening.
Before, during and after transport, the horses are under the watchful eye of Cavalia’s equine specialists. A 20-person stable team including trainers, health technicians and grooms create a comfortable environment and provide the show stars with daily health care, grooming and activities.
A few days before the horse show opens, the 65 four-legged stars are transported to the show site in specially equipped trailers. Once settled in the 17 000 square-foot stable tent adjacent to the White Big Top, the horses each have a designated box with ample space to stretch, lie down, sprawl out, roll and relax. They always have the same neighbours to ensure a familiar and comforting environment in each city. This arrangement allows a certain steadiness in each horse’s routine.
Similarly, the groups of horses will always enter the stage in the same order to insure the hierarchy is respected and that the peace is maintained in the herd.
When a horse is ready to retire, depending on his age and level of energy, he’s either offered up for adoption (new owners must meet strict selection criteria), or retired to the magnificent Cavalia domain in Sutton, Quebec. Horses here spend the rest of their life unwinding with fellow ex-stars and sometimes even get to spend time with new recruits in training or the horses still performing in the show, while they’re on vacation in Quebec.
How are Cavalia and Odysseo “more than just horse shows”?
Aside from their frolicking four-legged stars, Cavalia’s productions are an impressive mix of the performance and equestrian arts. These shows feature exotic dance, aerial and acrobatic stunts, top-of-the-line technology, multimedia, special effects, live music and singing!
Thanks to the unique bond between humans and horses on and off stage, what you get is way more than a horse show or a circus show, it’s a truly unique theatrical experience; a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The synergy between the horses, the humans, the music and the visual effects is the very soul of these artistic and action-packed productions.
Prepare to be wowed.