March 23, 2010

The white tent went up at the state fairgrounds last week. The signs appeared all over town and the full-page ads appeared in the paper…Cavalia was coming to town!

What, you may ask, is Cavalia? The shiny official brochure calls it “A magical encounter between Man and Horse.” Some have described it as “Cirque du Soleil with horses.” It isn’t affiliated with Cirque du Soleil, but it was created by one of the Cirque co-founders, Normand Latourelle. The show takes place under a castle-like white tent, billed as the largest touring big-top tent in the world. Twenty-five hundred tons of sand and dirt make up the stage area.

I read about this show in a magazine article a couple of years ago, and promised myself I’d go if it ever came to a town near me. Saturday, I was able to keep that promise when a barn buddy and I went to the afternoon show at the state fairgrounds in Tampa.

All I can say is wow. The troupe of human and horse performers thrilled us with lavish costumes, unbelievable displays of horsemanship, acrobatics and romantically beautiful or humorous scenarios.

My favorite section featured one trainer working with nine horses at liberty (wearing no tack of any kind). The horses trotted or cantered on stage by ones and twos, and spent the first few moments being horses: sniffing the ground, grooming each other, reinforcing the equine hierarchy with flattened ears and other body language. The trainer entered and took control. The horses moved in a circle around her, around the larger stage, responding to her almost imperceptible cues. Poetry in motion!

Other highlights for me were the trick riding and Roman riding (riders stand on two horses, with one foot on the back of each).

My friend and I agreed that having some knowledge of horses helped us to appreciate the difficulty of what we saw on stage. But anyone who enjoys the beauty of horses or seeing the close relationship man and horse have developed, will enjoy this show. To learn more about Cavalia, visit Or click here to see a short video.

Two happy audience members