Wednesday, 31 January 2007

El Caballo Blanco, Jan 31, 2007

El Caballo Blanco
By Equestrian Entertainment (dinner and show)
 Burnley Oval, Melbourne, from Jan 31, 2007 (no closing date)
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

El Caballo Blanco (The White Horse) is a misnomer – not all the Spanish Horses in this show are white although all are magnificent, intelligent and strong. 

The range of horses in Rene Gasser’s equestrian feast includes the white Lippizaners, those spectacular and powerfully built white stallions with impeccable regal bearing and a deeply arched neck. These striking beasts were bred for the Arch-Duke Charles of Austro-Hungary in the 16th century and are a cross breed of the Andalusian, favoured by European royalty, and the descendants of the horses used in Roman chariots.

These snowy beauties share the arena with the pretty, glossy, dark-coated Friesian that shares some Andalusian blood and has an extraordinarily long mane, forelock and tail. The Arabian, also historically mixed with Andalusians, is the final elegant breed and, it is said, was made by God from the wind.

The show is enthralling. The exceptional horse trainer and ringmaster, Rene Gasser, leads a team of riders as he puts the steeds through their astonishing paces on the sand-filled arena. The audience sits on four sides of the purpose-built Palacio Grande, a large marquee, and eats a delectable dinner before witnessing the incredible dexterity and athleticism of these majestic dancing stallions.

An onstage narrator provides us with the history of the stallions and we are treated to a display of training techniques as Gasser imperceptibly encourages the horses to perform complex moves including the Levade, Piaffe, Courbette and the Capriole. The last is a stunningly difficult posture with the horse rampant and kicking out with the hind legs.

These extremely sensitive and intelligent horses were originally bred for the battlefield so the Capriole was designed to scatter enemy horses.

Although the equine beasts are the stars here, the skill of the unobtrusive riders is fascinating and the Flamenco guitarist and two passionate flamenco dancers add a further artistic dimension to the evening.

Gasser’s rapport with and love for the stallions is palpable and compelling for the audience. Even those with no horse knowledge can delight in the intricate, delicate and powerful movements of the equine cast and reminisce about those childhood dreams of owning a pony.

By Kate Herbert

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