For those who dream of horses: Cavalia's Odysseo (video)

For those who dream of horses: Cavalia's Odysseo (video)

For those who dream of horses – their spiritual splendor, their majestic beauty, their athletic ability – this is for you.

Captured here are two conversations with two enchanting equestrians, one French and the other Spanish, who have taken their talents beyond the barn, away from the show arena and into the big top. You, too, will be awestruck by their skill, yet touched by their love for horses.

These two, along with 43 other acrobats, riders and musicians play the supporting roles to 67 horses representing ten breeds in the spectacular one-of-a-kind new Cavalia production, Odysseo. A tribute to the human relationship with the horse, Odysseo presents equestrianism, acrobatics, aquatics and technology. Horses dance and play against incredible backdrops that transport the audience around the world.

S'enchanter avec Elise

Elise Verdoncq started riding at age six in northern France. She's ridden dressage for most of her life and also vaulted, which she refers to as “dancing on the top of the horse.” When her riding instructor told her Cavalia was hiring, she thought what could be better than working and performing with horses while traveling the world? So she sent in her video and was thrilled to be offered an opportunity to join the troupe.

“I've ridden horses all my life. My degree was in law, I was just breaking in to the field when I decided to submit my video.” Practicing law can wait; Elise is entertaining the world through the will of the horse.

Her role in Odysseo is two-fold: she presents nine Arabians at liberty and rides a horse in Haute école (advanced Dressage movements) for the finale. The performance is ridden while splashing on a stage doused with 80,000 gallons of water in front of splendid video imagery.

When asked about the bond that she has developed with these nine horses on stage, Elise explained, “My role is to be part of the group. I'm in the middle and I play with them. I've built a unique relationship with each horse. And each day is different. I read how they are feeling at the time.”

Essentially the performance is based on the horses playing with Elise, which can vary each day. “The routine is never the same. The exercise may be the same but the reaction and direction can be completely different. They are like kids at the school playground. Some days they are energetic, other days they're not. It's a game and we always find a way to play.”

While the 'at liberty' playtime is always alluring, Elise is on cloud nine during the Haute école. “I'm riding dressage on an amazing stallion. Every moment I am riding him it is like I am flying. I know I am in front of an audience but I feel like I'm in a bubble. We are splashing in the water while doing dressage – it's incredible.”

As we closed our conversation, Elise emphasized how important it is that the horses are happy. “We work hard to make the horses as happy with their job as we are with ours.” Each horse is well tended to from feeding to grooming. They spend no more than ten minutes on stage and, as Elise explained, enjoy the job.

Encantada con Dorian

Dorian Escalon comes from the coastal town of Valencia, Spain. Having ridden horses since he was a toddler, as a teenager Dorian trained with Cavalia's Equestrian Director Benjamin Aillaud in France. Although his specialty is show jumping, he has expanded his repertoire while working with Odysseo.

Full of energy about his work, Dorian emphasized that the philosophy is the relationship between the horse and humans. “We teach our horses freedom. So they start out with a sense of freedom, which we continue to support with each and every horse.”

Intent on this goal, he further emphasized, “We listen to the horse. Find out what they enjoy and don't enjoy doing, because ultimately we need to know what motivates them. So each horse has its own exercise program in order to achieve the best relationship.”

And, he noted, that bond is communicated to the audience in each performance. “We are looking to show the audience the relationship we have, that we enjoy playing with the horses. It's a pleasure for us to work with them, and the horses enjoy performing with us. We work together as friends, the humans and the horses, so it doesn't feel like work. And this is what Odysseo is truly about.”

When asked about his favorite part, Dorian describes doing acrobatics on, beside and around the horse at a full gallop. “I have the most fun, and need the most intense focus, while galloping at full speed and performing movements all around the horse. I try to improve each and every performance. I give each performance 100% of my energy and concentration.”

He spoke with enthusiasm about how it all comes together. “All of the riders in the show have the same basic philosophy and love of horses, yet all of us are different. Different disciplines, different strengths, different personalities. But what is beautiful is that our skills come together to allow us to put on a show each night each with a unique relationship with one another and with the horses.”

Taking that comment beyond the human aspect, he continued, “The great atmosphere and positive energy between us all, you see exactly the same with the horses. They too have different attributes, personalities, different breeds and colors, but each plays a role. You can feel the energy that they pass along to the riders. You can look in their eyes and tell. And it's that energy that we work for every day.”

Whether it is the spark of a playful moment or the splendor of the larger-than-life scenery, Odysseo brings humans and horses together in a magnificent setting. So for all who dream about the wonder of equines, this is for you.

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