By: Patti Schofler
With joy, fantasy and beauty, Cavalia Odysseo celebrates the holiday season under the White Big Top in Ventura County through January. And among those rejoicing will be Andreanne Dumont, once a stable cleaner for the equestrian extravaganza, and now, seeing her dreams fulfilled as a groom/rider in the show.
While Andreanne had been passionate about horses since her first ride as a seven year old, a life with horses was only a vision that danced in her head. She took a temporary job as a stall cleaner when Cavalia Odysseo played in Montreal, Canada, and imagined about what life could be with horses. The daughter of psychologists moved on to earn a degree in psychology, but she stored that memory and inspiration. As the show traveled about North America, she moved to Australia to work on a cattle ranch.
“I was in Australia wondering how the Odysseo horses were and how my friends in the show were. I just had to see if they had permanent spot.” The show did have an opening for a groom. In a twinkling she flew home, packed few things, gave the family a kiss, and went on tour.
That was two years ago. “This is the best job in the world. It combines everything I love: horses, theatre arts, the aerial and acrobatic arts.“
This spectacular performance comes to life under the world’s largest touring tent housing the world’s largest touring production. More than 65 horses and 50 artists portray the tale of the horse and human journey through nature, blending enchanting, athletic equestrian arts, breathtaking stage arts and unique high-tech theatrical effects. Cavalia Odysseo’s signature White Big Top equals the dimensions of an NFL football field and presents incredible large-scale staging where spectators are mesmerized by the feats and beauty of the equines, riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians.
Andreanne continued her Cavalia Odysseo experience as a groom, taking full advantage of the opportunities to take lessons from trainers and artists. “All the grooms here want to improve in the horse world by learning from different perspective and disciplines. I was a hunter jumper rider, and I now have dressage and liberty lessons.”
Her job as a groom is so much more than brushing and fluffing. She is charged with keeping six horses healthy, happy and ready for the show. “It’s different than the horse show world. For example, we braid the manes, not to get them out of the way as with a show horse, but to keep them long, lush flowing for the show.”
A groom’s day starts about 2:30 p.m. for the 7:30 show. “We put the horses out in the sand turnouts for a roll and a nap in the sun. Then we bathe them if they need it. With so many shows we don’t want to over bathe them, but if a horse gray horse decided he wanted to be brown today, we bathe him,” she jokes.
Grooms feed dinner and prepare for the show. Some horses perform in a variety of acts – from Roman riding to jumping to trick riding – and require different tack for each act. The groom’s job is to place the saddles and bridles in strategic spots backstage so they can make fast tack and costume changes, sometimes with only minutes to spare.
During the show the grooms will tack up, warm up and cool down their horses, all at an efficient and quick pace. “With such a big production and so much is going on at once, it takes a big team effort. There is a whole different show going on backstage,” she says.
In this vast playground for 65 horses of 12 different breeds, the stage takes them and the audience literally through a variety of environments, weather conditions and terrain, reaching into the four corners of the earth with all the grace and fantasy needed for a once in a lifetime holiday experience.
One of the best opportunities to really immerse yourself in the show from the riders and the grooms point of view is the backstage tour of the stable as part of the Rendez-Vous VIP experience. As memorable treat and a terrific holiday season adventure, the VIP package also offers the best seats in the house, a full meal buffet dining before the show, open bar, desserts during intermission and a free program souvenir.
On the backstage tour, visitors may meet the six horses in Andreanne’s care including Farol and Quartz. Andreanne fell in love with the grey Spanish Purebred Farol on first sight. The dressage horse in an Haute École solo has attitude. “I have seen him grow from an eager young horse who didn’t know how to perform to a beautiful magnificent soloist. He’s such a diva with so much personality. He loves attention and pampering. He makes sure you know where he is. He’s a gelding with stallion attitude.”
On the other hand, you don’t hear from the Selle Francais Quartz who is on the quiet side. He’s an inconspicuous bay whose mane doesn’t flow like Farol’s. He doesn’t show it in his daily life, but he is a powerhouse and the master of jumping. The grooms call him the flying horse. When he takes on the big jumps at the end of the Village Celebration scene, he is no less fanciful than St. Nick’s reindeers.
Today, Andreanne is a groom/rider. “It’s a unique position to give grooms a chance to work hard and be in the show if that’s their dream. It’s a process. I’m getting to ride in small parts and I feel so fortunate.”
As you celebrate the holiday season at Cavalia Odysseo, watch for Andreanne riding her dream and caring for the stars of the show.
Cavalia Odysseo’s tale is told under White Big Top in Camarillo, right off Santa Rosa Road on US 101. Tickets are available at www.cavalia.com or by calling 1-866-999-8111.