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Cavalia — the Alberta connection

Cavalia, the production that combines horses with dance, acrobats and live music, seems to be the good life for Alberta horses and riders.

Stephanie Evans, an Olds College Equine Science graduate, has been working with Cavalia since April 2010. The job has allowed her travel from coast to coast, going as far south as Mexico City, and as far north as her stomping grounds of Alberta.

“Initially my goal was to compete as a hunter/jumper,” Evans says. “But Cavalia turned out to be my dream job. It combines my two passions; riding and traveling.”

Evans, who works as a rider and a groom, compares Cavalia to a dream world.

“It’s very different than the average horse disciplines,” she says. “It’s very natural, horses are allowed to be free, and we use our body language to communicate with them. There are a lot of different elements — trick riding, bareback riding, liberty work and dressage.”

Evans performs in two different portions of Cavalia, using a white Andalusian stallion who she describes as very calm and sweet, and a white Andalusian gelding with a bit of attitude. “It’s a lot of hard work, but I learn something new every day,” she says. “These horses have become my friends.”

Alberta horses also seem to enjoy the experience of Cavalia. The production recently purchased two weanlings from local breeders — a palomino Quarter Horse colt named Sirius, and a sorrel overo Paint colt called Canopus. The Edmonton show starts with a video showing the birth of a foal, and then Sirius and Canopus come onto the stage and interact with the acrobats.

Stable director Catherine Logan explains that part of her job is creating a happy and comfortable home for all the horses, including these newest additions. “Cavalia horses have incredible lives,” Logan says. “I worked with race horses for years, and often they’re forced or medicated to keep racing. I prefer Cavalia’s philosophy — each horse is treated as an individual, even as a diva!”

Ken and Kerri-Lee Schmuland of Strathcona County are proud to have bred and raised the Paint colt, Canopus. “Cavalia selects horses that like people, and enjoy interacting with them,” Kerri-Lee Schmuland says.

“From the day this colt was born, he’s been interested in people. I would say he’s one of the nicest foals we’ve ever raised in terms of personality. We own an older full sibling to Canopus, and he’s exactly the same way as a mature horse, so we’re confident this will be a good match.”

Last year Cavalia purchased two young horses from Bear Valley Rescue of Sundre, Alta. — Cricket, a blue roan Quarter Horse, and Linus, a sorrel Paint colt.

These colts are now residing at the Cavalia farm in Sutton, Que., where they’ll grow and develop for several more years until they’re ready to be trained for Cavalia’s show.

“We try to purchase young horses with good feet, and the conformation to handle their future jobs, whether it is trick riding or dressage,” stable director Evans says. “I’ve always had good success purchasing nice horses here in Alberta.”

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