cavalia2Under a gleaming white tent towering above the Potomac, the equine stars of Cavalia’s Odysseo will be delighting audiences starting Oct. 9 and continuing for several weeks.

The horses, 64 in all, are just one part of the iconic show, which is the world’s largest live entertainment spectacle. On its self-contained stage at the National Harbor, Odysseo blends elements of acrobatics, aerialists, music, dance, equestrian expertise and stagecraft genius into a two-hour treat for the senses. Its “wow” factors include a lake that springs into place, then vanishes (its 80,000 gallons of water are recycled!) and a massive carousel that descends into place on the stage.

While the 365 costumes display more dazzle than a dozen Broadway musicals, and theatrical effects create constant drama and mystique, it is the horses whose presence ‘makes’ the show. A dozen breeds in all are represented, from familiar ones like Arabians and Appaloosas to the lesser-known Luisitanos, with 19 stallions and the rest geldings. Of the 64 traveling on tour, 40 perform regularly, as the others serve as substitutes or are training for their own day in at center stage. Their average age is nine years, and most are on tour for about six years. Seeing them stride into the spotlight, commanding every eye in the audience, you know these animals revel in their work.

Anyone who’s patiently trained a horse to do anything, from rein back to change leads, can appreciate the Cavalia horses’ skill, versatility and precision during the shows, which include dressage, trick riding and Roman riding. They participate in daily workshops with their riders, and enjoy a lifestyle that any backyard horse would envy: individually personalized feed, daily showers and massages. While a crew of 80 people moves the Odysseo Village to its next city, the horses travels with a dedicated team of Cavalia’s equine specialists to a local farm for two weeks of leisure, where they run in the pasture, sprawl out, roll and relax under the sun. Their travel accommodations fit their equine diva status. Five customized trailers complete with surveillance cameras and a traveling crew of 20, including vet technicians, a stable manager, blacksmith and grooms accompany the horses. If they’re going by air, a support team and veterinarian are along for the trip. Cavilia horses eat well, too, consuming an annual 37,400 pounds of grain as well as 18,000 bales of hay. Carrots too, 1800 pounds of them, to keep the horses happy.

Stable accommodations for the Cavalia horses match the giant white tents used for the performance. They’ll be stabled in one of the largest tent within the Odysseo village on the National Harbor grounds for the duration of the show, where the horses each have a designated box with ample space to stretch, lie down, sprawl out, roll and relax.

Odysseo’s 130 permanent employees, 49 artists, as well as choreographers and stagehands galore, are a ballet in motion at putting the show together, and those signature white tents will stop traffic. But its four-legged lead actors guarantee spectators a unique attraction that draws on every equestrian discipline and delivers like no other.

Visit the Cavalia website for more information and for tickets.