World-renowned horse show takes months of travel prep work

Brittany Hobson, Arts & Culture Editor
Infographic by Vanessa Ogibowski

Infographic by Vanessa Ogibowski

Cavalia’s Odysseo isn’t your grandparents’ dog and pony show. The $30 million extravaganza debuted in Winnipeg on Sept. 10 and the stars of the show are 65 four-legged creatures.

Who might have been a bit jet lagged when they first arrived.

“We have to choose between transporting the horses by truck or by plane,” said Odysseo’s equestrian and artistic operations director, Marc-Olivier Leprohon. “Not every airport will accept horses landing.”

The world’s largest touring production has been on the go since 2011, but a production of this size is no easy feat. According to Leprohon, travel plans can sometimes require up to three months of preparation.

“We have to find farms to rent so the horses can rest when we travel by truck,” he said. “Plus there’s medical care and food that we have to worry about.”

The long-faced group is made up of 11 different breeds of horses including the Australia Stock Horse, the Oldenburg and the Quarter Horse.

“We find horses from all over the world for this production,” said Leprohon. “Most of the horses are for circus use, but we try to keep a variety of different horses around.”

Odysseo rides into town on Sept. 10 and runs until Oct. 18. SUPPLIED/Francois Bergeron

Odysseo rides into town on Sept. 10 and runs until Oct. 18. SUPPLIED/Francois Bergeron

On a smaller scale, Shaelynn Landry said she knows just how much work has to be put into a horse show. The 19-year-old Steinbach Campus student has been training with horses since she was 12 and competes in events as part of the Heartland Rodeo Association.

“I try to work with my mare, who I race with, at least three times a week during the rodeo season,” said Landry. “She also needs to be fed five times a week so she can perform her best. It takes a lot of dedication, strength, training and passion for what they are doing.”

Odysseo runs until Oct. 18, which means lots of practicing here in Winnipeg. The horses’ training happens with about 22 riders. The horses and riders train for about three to five hours per day, or until the horses say otherwise.

“It involves a huge amount of communication between rider and horse. Some horses are hyperactive and some are quiet. We pay attention to their needs,” said Leprohon. “Our mentality is not to keep the horses on tour if they show us they don’t want to be.”

For a young equestrian like Landry, who’s planning on enrolling in RRC’s animal health technician program next fall, that mentality is important.

“I believe that the horse portrays certain values in a person,” she said. “There is something extraordinary about a person having a great connection with a horse, especially to the extent of [Odysseo’s] performances.”