Cavalia - An Inspiration

CavaliaSign1Australia has been captivated by the arrival of Cavalia and all horse lovers who have seen the show, enthusiastically report, “this is the best ever horse event to hit our shores”.  The international success of the show has relied on a formula of beautiful and well-trained horses and a fantastic of mix of Cirque du Soleil making this a theatrical spectacular beyond compare.

Cavalia has been of particular interest to me since learning about the show at Equitana in November last year.  In late July, I saw the Melbourne show as a special birthday treat from my daughter and I just loved EVERYTHING Cavalia! 

Cavalia Roofline
Meals area and Kitchen
One of the big bo
Hay and Pithforks ready for the
afternoon feedup

The Docklands venue is spectacular, with the Westgate Bridge and city sky-scape adding a dramatic backdrop.  The horses were in wonderful condition and there was a happy atmosphere under the “big top”.  The performance showcased my favourite creatures in wonderful style and I decided to make it a mission to find out more and later arranged to meet the Aussie stable manager Donna Morton to find out just what goes into keeping this number of horses happy and in peak condition so that the show can meet the demanding schedules such as the two months in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct that was part of the 12 month travelling road show in Australia.

I was already aware of Donna’s experience in the horse world, as she is one of the three dynamos who put together the on-line publication - Local Horse Magazine  (  Donna works alongside Kristi Canty and Mel Spittal and the girls are delighted by the uptake of their site.  She also owns horses and has a special penchant for their care.

DonnaTroubador1 TroubadorSport2
Left Donna Morton and Troubador 
Troubador stays in top form on
Pryde's EasiSport

Donna explained that the drive behind Cavalia was the French/Canadian Artistic Director Normand Latourelle who has drawn on his 40 yeas in performing arts to put the show together.  Latourelle has explored all aspects of the industry, from lighting designer to production manager, director and artistic director. As a pioneer of Cirque du Soleil from 1985 to 1990, he has been the driving force behind many impressive and memorable events, such as the sound and light show on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the spectacular Légendes Fantastiques in Drummondville and the 350th anniversary celebrations for the founding of Montreal. Normand Latourelle is renowned as a visionary in the constant quest for innovation, and shows his unique artistic skills by combining different forms of artistic expression with the ultimate goal of taking audiences into new dimensions. Since 2003, Normand Latourelle is fully dedicated to Cavalia, instilling his talent, passion and imagination into the productions. In 2007, he received the Ordre national du Québec for his achievements.

Stables Aisle 1

Stables Aisle 2 
Shavings store
Tack Room 

Cavalia transports all of the horses, people and equipment including the amazing and uniquely styled “big top” all over the world.  The production employs 110 performers, stage crew and stable hands and an additional team of specialists, who fly in to help dismantle and erect the site when each season has come to an end and Cavalia sets up in a new location. Donna laughed and said, “pulling everything down is the easy bit, that takes 3 days.  Putting up the tent, setting up the stables and installing the flooring, stables, public areas, staff amenities and making the site user friendly, takes 3 weeks.  The team work long hours and to a very slick routine to get the job done.  We arrived in Melbourne on the 15th July and will finish on the 15th September, when we set off to Adelaide.  

Back to the stable after in-hand work
What a tail!!! 
rehearsal10 rehearsal9
Above and left - rehearsals 

The horses have nearly a month off between shows and enjoy a spell in a paddock with grass and country air.  It is part of my job to find the right property and facilities for the horse’s vacation.  The horses have a complete rest from shows and training and sometimes we need to rotate the paddocks to give them all time out.  We have been fortunate to find really nice “holiday resorts”, the horses certainly deserve their break”. I also make arrangements in advance to have specialist equine vets and other professionals on call and in Melbourne we used the well-respected equine vet Johnny Walker.

49 horses took part in the Melbourne show and a visit to the stables gives a revealing insight into just what a massive logistic exercise comes with the Cavalia name.  The title – Stable Manager, carries with it a huge responsibility of care as keeping the stars happy and well is a key to keeping the business of Cavalia viable.  “Would you like to come and meet the horses?” Donna asked … I was delighted to get back stage and meet the real stars.  The horses came in many shapes and sizes and the Cavalia performances feature a wide variety of breeds.

GorlobesResult1 KilometerResult1 
NeoResult1 NimbinResult1 

The stable doors tell the prydes story - this is just some of them.

I was impressed to see the neat and clean presentation and the many happy faces hanging over the stable doors, all seeming eager to meet me, the the visitor.  The first stable was for Troubador, a palomino mini who stole my heart when I saw the show.  Donna said, “He is everyone’s favourite and as you can see, we keep his forelock tied up as it is very long and gets in his eyes.  Troubador turned on the charm!  Donna said, “this pony knows he is special, he is 15 and has been a Cavalia star for a long time and reminds us all of his position.”  I noted his name and feeding details on the door and observed that Troubador was a “Pryde’s EasiSport boy”.  EasiSport was the mainstay feed for many of the horses and Donna said, “It is a great choice as it does not contain grain and for many of our breeds this is important.”

The ID signage on each stable door told a detailed story including of the horse’s name, breed, country of birth and feeding instructions and Donna explained the many considerations that go into a perfect diet designed to meet the individual nutritional requirements of each horse to keep them healthy, happy and sound.

The beautiful Pinsapo
Emilio - loves his BioMare Cubes
RenatoSport2 RenatoSport3
Left and above Renato

Donna said that prior to the Australian touch down, she was in charge of sourcing feed, hay, bedding and any other consumables for the horses.  She told me that in Canada the horses eat a lot of “Timothy Hay” which is a specific type of grass that the horses like and then an addition of “pony pellets.  She frowned and added, “trying to get “Timothy hay” in Australia was nearly impossible with only small quantities being produced in Toowoomba … and it is seasonal.  I was able to source Rhodes Grass meadow hay, which is very similar, and the horses love it.  We use 200 bales of hay a week and at $18.00 a bale it is a big part of the costs.  We also use huge quantities of wood shavings for the stables.  Our temporary venues do not give us the opportunity to buy in bulk so we are stick with paying top price to buy the product in plastic bales.

Prydes250“Typically the horses diet is made up of 85% hay.  They are fed 4 times a day and each horse gets between 6 – 8 biscuits of hay a day and 2 hard feeds with a dipper or so of Prydes.  We add Biotin to the feeds as well as Rose Hip and Chammomile.  I did quite a lot of investigation into the feed options and want to thank Ron Major from Pryde's EasiFeeds for his special help.  Ron came to see the horses in Brisbane (our first Australian stop-over) and helped me to put an individual diet plan together to suit each horse.  It has worked very well and they LOVE their Pryde's.  EasiSport is a great product, as it does not contain any grain, yet it has all of the vitamins, minerals and trace elements.  Many of the horses need this sort of specialist feeding.  We weigh the horses regularly ad as you can see Berni, they are I peak condition right now!” Donna said.  (left - ydes EasiFeeds - with all these good ingredients, no wonder the Cavalia horses look and feel so good)

Donna had already given me more time than I knew she could spare and I made my way out into the Friday afternoon traffic.  Even this could not spoil the positive feeling of satisfaction that the opportunity to tell the Cavalia gave me. 

As a long time use of Pride’s EasiFeed I felt I was in good company and proud to see this Australian company making their mark on the care of internationally famous equine stars.

Berni Saunders (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) Phone 0422 38 1217 


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