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Cavalia Odysseo Rides Into National Harbor

Jordan Wright
September 23, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times

The Travelers III / Les voyageurs III

The Travelers III / Les voyageurs III

On October 9th the equine extravaganza that galloped into town four years ago will return with an even more spectacular show.  Sixty-nine horses ranging from Andalusian and Arabians, Belgians to Appaloosas, and Percherons to Paints along with other exotic horse breeds from around the world will grace a big top the size of two football fields.  But you don’t have to be horse crazy to be wowed by the beauty and raw power of these magnificent animals performing on a “stage” the size of two hockey rinks and a surface made of sand.

Forty-nine artists (half that number are actual riders) will ride in three major styles.  There’s the hell-bent-for-leather “Liberty” style; the side-by-side and in synch for the “Roman” style; and the elegant prancing and posing techniques best known for the elegant “Dressage” style.  Watching these massive beauties go through their paces is as riveting, as it is awe-inspiring, and a tribute to the intimate relationship riders and trainers have with their horses.

Grand Cavalia | Credits: Color-ish company

Grand Cavalia | Credits: Color-ish company

Canadian Marc-Olivier Leprohon, head of artistic and equestrian operations, spoke to the Alexandria Times about Cavalia Odysseo.

Can you describe the development of Cavalia Odysseo?

When we began in Quebec in 2011 we were twelve people.  Now there are 130 that are on the tour.  Also we bring on an extra one hundred people for seating and food wherever we go and another fifty people to help move the show, tear down the big top, and pack up supplies into one hundred trucks.

That’s a huge production!  What’s planned for the future?

There are two distinctly different shows, Cavalia and Cavalia Odysseo.  Our Artistic Director, Wayne Fowkes, has a goal is to create different shows in North America and around the world.  Right now it’s the biggest show ever built and includes a huge lake and a hill in the background that the horses run up and down.

What kind of surface do the horses perform on?

We all work in sand.  All of the acrobats or aerialists have to adapt, because the ground is not even.  Every day we smooth the sand and roll it.  It’s soft enough for the horses and compact enough for the artists.  In the show there is nothing to obstruct the view of the horses.  It’s like bringing nature indoors.  In the beginning the horses strut, then jump and canter.  We work them into dressage and finally into trick riding.  So their warm-up is actually on stage, not backstage.

How are the horses trained and do they perform in every show?

We follow what the horse wants to do and try to understand what they are telling us.  Each one is trained to do four different disciplines even though they don’t do the same things every day.  In addition we always have some that are in training when we are on the road.

Where do the horses go between cities?

We usually have two weeks in between that’s when we take them to a local farm.   Before we open at National Harbor they’ll stay on a farm in Delaware that provides sixty-three stalls with paddocks and fields to run around in with their friends.

Nomads / Nomades | Credits: Pascal Ratthé

Nomads / Nomades | Credits: Pascal Ratthé

Stephanie Evans is one of the artists in the show also spoke to the Alexandria Times about her experiences with the horses.  Raised on a horse farm in Canada, she has competed in many international equestrian events and trained in dressage in Lipica, Slovenia, the original home of the Lipizzaner breed.  She also learned equestrian skills in Spain at the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre.

What is the breakdown of horse to rider and how do they get pampered?

Each rider is assigned three to six horses and each horse creates a bond with their rider.  We have eleven different breeds – – some are stallions and some are geldings.  On site we have round pens and an outdoor stand ring for sun and fresh air.  We travel with two vet techs who are in contact with local veterinarians and we have a farrier who travels with us in case a horse throws a shoe.

What are some of the quirks of their personalities? 

I have three horses I ride now.  One is an Andalusian stallion, who’s super relaxed, super sweet and super lazy.  Another Andalusian I ride is very excitable and always looking around for things.  Sometimes he is unpredictable!

Do the horses play well together?

No!  We have to separate them because we have a lot of stallions, although the geldings get along.  There is a group of Arabians that are in a big “Liberty” number and they get turned out together.  The oldest is fifteen and the youngest is five.

Why do you have so many stallions?

Stallions have a greater presence and are known for having more muscle tone.  Their mane and tail create a more visually impressive horse and they have more character.

Since the artists are from so many different countries how do they communicate with one another?

We mainly speak English and French.  You’ll also hear Spanish, Portuguese, and Susu since we have a big group from New Guinea.

Cavalia Odysseo opens at National Harbor, MD on October 9th and runs till October 27th.   For tickets and information visit

UPDATE: For the DC Metropolitan area a 50% discount will apply for a limited time only.  This major rebate will apply on all tickets for Cavalia’s newest production Odysseo

“The shutdown of the national government will affect thousands of employees and businesses in the Washington, DC area,” said Normand Latourelle, Cavalia’s Founder and Artistic Director.“Considering the impact of the shutdown on the local economy,we want to offer a special promotion so everyone can experience the magic of Odysseo.

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