An Inspiring Night Under the Big Top
by: Katlyn Schaer
Two horses galloping across stage is how the show Cavalia begins. Man tried to conquer the spirit of the horse after the introduction of the performers, however, once they discovered the willfulness of this majestic creature they decided to work with it instead of against it. Then the live cello player begins playing slow and stifled psalms.
Cavalia is unique from any other show I’ve seen. It is a great demonstration of the bond that man and horse have shared since the very beginning. However, the show reveals that it wasn’t always a strong bond. The horse once feared us and vice-versa. As humans, we had to earn the trust that we now share.
The acrobatics, the horses themselves, and the atmosphere are all over-the-top. The best way to describe it is like ballet on horseback. Having so many horses (all males) and all the performers in the same area is just incredible; it’s amazing how much these horses can do. They are even better at keeping beat to the music than some people! The horses are very well taken care of and the connection between them and their trainers is impeccable. It is that exact bond that allows the horses and people to work so closely. Trust is the key when it comes to doing back flips over the horses, standing up on two Quarter horses while they are galloping, and having the horse do what you command them by the flip of your hand. I have tremendous admiration for those handlers. Amazingly, none of the 41 thespians on horses were acrobats to start with. They all began as riders doing simple jumps and basic moves. Even after the crowds have gone, the horses and riders return the arena to practice for the next show.
One of the performances that stood out to me the most was when the 6 Spanish purebred horses did a synchronized dressage act. The perfectly white horses danced around the stage as if floating on a cloud, their manes cascading down the sides of their neck. In another act, riders on multiple breeds of horses dashed to and from the stage doing different types of acrobatics such as hanging from the side of the saddle, or jumping from either side of the horse while it is still galloping. Bareback riding is not easy to do. But what the riders on the two Percheron horses did—leaps and flips from the back of the horses— appeared effortless, like something they could do in their sleep.
After the performance I was one of the lucky ones who got to go back stage and see the stables. The horses there were already groomed and washed with a bale of hay in front of them. That is when I saw the true beauty of the horse. They were tired, and very hungry, but they looked so proud of what they had just accomplished. All 45 stallions and geldings were living in harmony, side by side with man, just how it was supposed to be. I am very grateful I got the chance to see this amazing show; it should not be missed.
Published February 2012 Issue