Candace Wade reports from middle Tennessee.
Candace Wade is following the arrival of unique equine performance Odysseo to her home state of Tennessee. If you missed her first report, check out the raising of the tent.
The Odysseo horses are enjoying a bit of sun, Tennessee bluegrass and “horse time” at a private facility south of Nashville before they begin rehearsals at the big top venue on August 24. I was thrilled as I drove up to the press event to meet them.
Like a scene from Monuments Men, Cavalia’s Artistic and Equestrian Operations Director, Marc-Olivier Leprohon described how the 65 horses were trucked-in to the farm in the dark of night in boxes. “We fly them in a 747 if the trip is near 20 hours or more. We stop every five hours when traveling by truck. Boxes are used to give the horses some room to move.”
The Odysseo equestrian caretakers bring hay from Quebec and limit the amount of grazing time on “foreign” grass. The horses get two brief turn-outs a day to limit time in the blazing Tennessee sun. A relationship is made with a local equine veterinarian even though the Odysseo team includes a vet, farrier and 16 to 20 grooms. Note to local starry-eyed dreamers, a few locals are hired to round out the numbers of grooms.
I wanted to actually meet some of the horses — to experience them as individuals – especially a few that my past trainer (and Odysseo rider) Emmy Love had known.
The Arabians perform in the “at liberty” segment through the lake. Emmy told me of Chief (stoic, independent and trustworthy); Gus, pronounced Goose (independent, but would come to her) and Shake (child at heart, sweet and full of energy). Motion (one of the originals, could be a challenge) has retired.
Mikko and Cowboy are always together. I saw Cowboy wait while Mikko got sunscreen slathered on his pink nose before they ambled off to turn-out. Mikko is a dark paint with a bald face and endless blue eyes. Cowboy is copper penny. These two work well for the Roman riding (where riders stand astride two horses) because of their emotional connection and that they are physically matched at 15 hands.
I missed Intrepido, the long-backed grey Lusitano who loves to jump. But, I got up close and personal to Drago, the grey Portuguese Cross. I felt lost in his direct eye contact. I swear I did not break protocol and reach out to touch him, Drago nudged me. Really. Well, okay, I did walk pretty close and kissed.
Odysseo employs 12 breeds: Appaloosa, Arabian, Canadian, Holsteiner, Lusitano, Paint, Percheron/Hanoverian cross, Quarter horse, Selle Francais, Thoroughbred, Spanish Purebred and Warlander.
Not used, abused and thrown away, I overheard one of the equestrian handlers say that the horses retire “before the light goes out of their eyes.” Some can be adopted, but a strict contract is enforced. The adopted horse is monitored for a year before ownership is signed over.
My next Odysseo adventure will be the presentation of the horses at the big top on August 24, then the preview on August 30. I settle into my seat as a spectator on Wed. September 6th.
Odysseo will enchant audiences August 30-September 10 in Nashville, TN.