Fifty horses have arrived in Singapore and they are stars of a theatrical extravaganza called Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Man And Horse.
The multimedia and multi-disciplinary production, which runs from Aug 12 to Sept 14, features the horses and 42 international stunt riders, aerialists, acrobats, dancers and musicians.
They will perform under the White Theatre Tent at Bayfront Avenue, next to Marina Bay Sands. Each show runs for 21/2 hours, including a 30-minute intermission. The show is presented by Mediacorp Vizpro International and Base Entertainment Asia.
It was created by Canadian Normand Latourelle, who co-founded the famed Cirque du Soleil and was with the group from 1985 to 1990.
The horses in the show come from Canada, Europe, Australia and the United States. The 11 breeds include the Quarter Horse, Arabian, Paint Horse, pure Spanish breed, Percheron, Australian Stock Horse, Lusitano, Comtoise, Criollo, Warmblood and miniature.
As the stars of the show, they are given some pampering.
Before coming here, they spent five weeks relaxing on a farm in Brussels, where the show was last held. After their mandatory government quarantine in Brussels, the horses boarded an aircraft specially chartered for them.
Mr Latourelle, 58, says: "The horses ride first class. They don't get champagne, but they get good hay."
Here, they have settled into their 1,500 sq m stables next to the tent where the performances will be held.
The production rides on the energy and mood of the horses, so it is the team's job to ensure that they are happy at all times. The team is made up of 20 people including trainers, veterinarians, health technicians, grooms and a farrier, who fits shoes on the horses.
Ms Sascha Nott, 22, one of the two veterinary technicians, is responsible for making sure the animals are healthy and well-fed. The Australian is in charge of their meals, veterinary checks and first aid, and also helps with managing transport and the stables.
The horses get hay four times a day a well as grain in the morning and night.
"We also give them treats because we love them," she says, adding that she gives rewards such as sugar cubes, carrots and apples to perk the horses up or when they deserve it.
While she generously gives the horses treats, she also watches out for their health when feeding. Sugar cubes, for example, are bad for the teeth, so it is important to give a moderate amount.
Being athletes, the horses also need to maintain a good weight to keep them in shape for their high-energy performances. They are routinely weighed every month and, depending on their weight, she adjusts the amount of food they get.
The horses get plenty of exercise too. Training for the show happens in the afternoons. The horses and performers go through the complete set of stunts, practising different parts of the show every day.
Each horse performs for about 12 minutes in the show, during which it gallops across the 50m-wide stage amid colourful lights and live music. At times, it is completely uncontrolled by bridles or halters, and can go as fast as it desires.
Says 28-year-old Laura Baubry, a rider in Cavalia: "The horses and riders work together to animate their movements on stage and make it impressive for the audience."
The French native has been part of the production for five years and does trick riding and dressage in the show, where eight pairs of horses and riders perform a series of movements across the stage.