'Cavalia's' horse whisperers

By Anjali RaguramanEvents - 08 August 2014 12:00 AM | Updated 09 August 2014

'Cavalia's' horse whisperers

While the stallions and geldings are undoubtedly the stars, their human counterparts are just as necessary to creating the spectacle that is 'Cavalia'.

The show opens in Singapore on 12 August and runs through 14 September.

When inSing visited the stables housed under the show’s White Theatre Tent at Marina Bay, the riders who work with these majestic creatures seemed to share an uncanny relationship

Commonly described as "Cirque Du Soleil with horses", the show’s founder Norman Latourelle said, “When you see a horse having fun with humans, it brings you happiness when you witness that. That’s what this show is about – the special bond between the artists and the horses”.


The connection between rider and horse is apparent in the quiet moments, away from the media attention, where they’re nuzzling their horses affectionately. The horses do the same, unprompted — for example when Tardon, a Spanish Purebred, playfully nibbles on the tail end of French rider Laura Baubry’s watch strap.

She doesn’t mind her horse’s mischievous antics. Like the other riders, she’s already familiar with the personality and idiosyncrasies of her horse.

"His name means ‘the late one’ in Spanish, which is really true for him because he’s kind of lazy sometimes. He doesn’t want to go too fast for too long, so his name really suits him very well," Baubry said.

Rider Laura Baubry taking Tardon the Spanish Purebreed through his paces (Photo: Anjali Raguraman)

Tardon is one of Cavalia’s 50 horses from 11 breeds, which are presented in an equine fantasy world. The horses come from Canada, Europe, Australia and the USA, and are accompanied by an international cast of 42 riders, aerialists, acrobats dancers and musicians.

Tardon performs in the Carousel section of the show, which is based on the military tradition of dressage, where eight riders and their horses performed synchronized and choreographed movements.


It seems that horses, like humans, do not always do as they're told. In fact at Cavalia, horses are never told what to do. Instead, Baubry and the other trainers maintain that what they have with the horses is a relationship that breeds understanding between human and horse.

“They don’t do it because they’re forced to, but because they want to do it for us. If you know him and know how he works, then you can get him to do whatever you want,” Baubry added.

Fellow rider and performer Fairland Ferguson concurred: “They always say that if you ask a horse to do something and they don’t do it, you’re asking the wrong way.”


Like Baubry, Ferguson shares a special bond with her horse. In the stables where the horses are tended to by their human counterparts, it’s hard to miss the American performer’s fiery red head of curls.

cry baby
Fairland Ferguson performs death-defying stunts off her horse Henry in Cavalia

“We don’t share horses here at Cavalia, (in order) to develop that relationship and bond,” said Ferguson, who is now on her sixth year with the travelling show.

Ferguson, who hails from South Carolina and has been riding horses since the age of four, works with American Paint horse Henry. Horse and human even look alike. Just like her, he has red hair and blue eyes.

Together, they perform in the trick riding section of the show, which involves acrobatics on a very fast moving horse across the 50-metre stage. According to Ferguson, “Henry loves to run, it’s his absolute favourite thing to do. He’s the fastest horse at Cavalia”.

The entire performance takes place in front of a 60-metre wide screen that projects various virtual environments, as sweeping live music accompanies the various segments. Some horses perform tricks that showcase their powerful and regal nature, while others mesmerize with dancing and majestic bows on cue.


Like with the case of Ferguson and Henry, the horses are even able to gallop at full speed across the stage, unfettered by bridles or saddles. That trust between human and horse is essential in situations where she is artfully dangling off the side of a thoroughbred that is travelling at breakneck speed.  

Training of new horses that join the fold typically takes between two months and a year. “We really use respect and understanding in the training here at Cavalia. We work with the horses in a way that’s very patient and develop the relationship that way,” explained Ferguson.


Horses have been domesticated by humans for thousands of years, and they have shared interdependence through the rise and fall of civilisations. But perhaps this friendship between rider and horse, can be explained by Cavalia’s philosophy to train horses based on their natural behaviours, and not perform trick like humans do. Cavalia’s founder Norman Latourelle sums it up best.

“We have horses that are coming on stage to play, so you don’t hear whip cracking, and you don’t feel the horses are doing tricks because the artists demands them to. We want them to be real horses, and that’s the beauty of it. They’re just happy because the stage is their playground”.  

'Cavalia' | Date: 12 Aug – 14 Sep | Time: various | Venue: White Theatre Tent | Address: Bayfront Avenue (beside the Sands Expo and Convention Centre) | Tickets: $58-308 from cavalia.net/en/cavalia-show/tickets-info/singapore


Cavalia in Singapore

Cavalia in Singapore

Date Aug 13, 2014 - Oct 05, 2014

VenueMarina Bay Sands Singapore

Ticket PriceS$58.00 - S$308.00
 (excludes booking fee)