Em’s Odyssey – Part 1

You know those vacations where you just don’t want to leave would do anything to stay there?  That was my spring break this year!

I flew down to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to visit my parents (who had been living there at a motor coach resort since February in our new motor home – those jerks!) but they definitely deserved the vacation.  While I was there, I knew that my parents planned to take me over to Wellington – which I’m sure many of you know is huge horse country.  The farms and show grounds are overwhelming but mesmerizing at the same time.  A few days before I flew down, my mom also emailed me a link about this show, Odysseo Cavalia, which she had gotten VIP tickets to for our family.  If you have ever heard of or seen Cirque Du Soleil, Cavalia is very similar to it but it involves horses.

We showed up to the venue at 6:30 sharp because that’s when our pre-show dinner was served. Then it was off to our seats – in the front row.  Three or four feet in front of us was the short wall that was the barrier between the performance and the audience.  There were fake tree trunks that went up the sides of the tent to the top, which couldn’t even be seen from the audience’s view because of how gorgeous the lighting was.  A sheer curtain was closed tight with a light behind it shining on the audience as we took our seats- and let me tell you, what we imagined was behind those curtains was nowhere near what we were about to see!

The show starts out with information begin given to the audience about Odysseo Cavalia itself.  There are 70 horses total in the show; 31 are stallions and the rest are geldings.  There are no mares.  The average age of the horses is nine years old, with the youngest being three and the oldest at 16.  Then curtains slowly open and the show begins.

The music starts and horses are slowly let into the arena where they can move at will.  They start to groom each other and some even bite at one another but they are free to do whatever they want.  Then a man walks in from the right side just looking at the horses, making his way past each horse, gently touching them as he passed – then all of a sudden I noticed there are now more men in the middle doing the same thing.  Then the loud music began, the lights got brighter, the men started yelling, and a rush of excitement filled everyone in that tent – along with the horses in the middle!

On the left side, the smaller curtains opened and another horse ran in with a guy on his back, no bridle and no saddle. He had the biggest smile on his face and yelled with excitement to the audience.   (That’s when the tears started for me.)  Behind all of this commotion was a hill that just looked like a hill that they could run up and down but certainly not over on the other side – but of course that wasn’t the case.  At the beginning of about the second or third scene, a group of four riders descended over the top of the hill and rode towards the audience.  (All I could hear at that moment was “Wow!” coming from the audience because it was not what we were expecting at all!)

This two and a half hour long show is filled with acrobatic moves, liberty work, carousels, dressage movements, and at the end, a pool of water fills the bottom of the arena and twelve Arabians are turned loose to run at will.

During the show, I looked over to my mom and said, “I think I want to do this.”  She just smiled and said, “I was thinking the same thing.”

Because we had VIP tickets, some of the actors came back to meet us and sign our programs (and of course pose for a dorky picture).  Then we were able to go to the stables and see the horses.  We even ran into the director himself so I asked him for his autograph.

Now, I love my mom to death, but out of nowhere she asks, “If someone wanted to try out for this show, what would they need to do?”  I just laughed out loud, figuring he would laugh as well and say have a good night and be on his way, but that’s not what happened at all.  He turned to me, looked me up and down, asked me if I rode (which is when my helpful dad jumped in and answered, “She’s been riding since she was seven and she rides dressage…”  Thanks, Dad.), he also asked how old I was and where I lived.  He told us we could go on the website and send them an email and I would have to send in a video and then things would go from there.  I caught myself with my mouth literally hanging open because I couldn’t believe that was his answer!

After talking it over with my parents on the ride home from Miami, I ended up telling them that there is nothing that I have found (yet) that I am passionate about besides horses and performing, so we looked into the possibility of me riding for Odysseo Cavalia one day.  I “liked” Cavalia’s page of Facebook and recognized one of the actor’s names on the side, so I decided to shoot him an email.  (He’s French and an AMAZING rider/performer.)  I asked him some questions about how he started and all of that good stuff – and he actually emailed me back two days later.  Then my mom had the idea to try to get in touch with the equestrian director we’d met to possibly interview him for this blog!  We called one of the numbers on the website and asked if he (Benjamin Aillaud) would call us back to set up for a time for an interview.  At this point, I only had three days left in Florida, so we weren’t expecting him to call back for a few days and probably not even be able to meet with us.  But no!  Benjamin called my mom’s cell phone asking when I would be available to do the interview.  We said we would work with his schedule and I could do anytime day (or night!).  We were just in awe! So we met with him backstage of Cavalia, where I hoped to just get a good 20 minutes with him. He gave us over two hours!

Needless to say, there was a lot he had to share.  So my next blog will include our interview and what has happened since spring break!  I never knew so much could happen in just one month!

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