Whether it’s our shows such as “Companions of Light”, “Cinema of Dreams”, “CAVALLUNA – World of Fantasy” or the current tour “CAVALLUNA – Legend of the Desert”: Most of the time, it’s the horses themselves that move and inspire the audience. However, in the course of their visit, many people in the audience ask themselves how the animals are treated behind the scenes, or whether performing in a show isn’t too stressful for them. 

Every day, we receive many questions about how the horses are kept via our social media channels. We gathered some of the most frequently asked questions – and provided detailed answers. Before we start, we would like to mention one thing: Our animal’s wellbeing is of the utmost importance to CAVALLUNA. These aren’t just words, it’s a fact. After all, the horses are on the road with their owners / riders, and they are part of each riding team’s family.

light-coloured horses galloping on stage


Are your horses kept in accordance with the conditions of animal welfare?

Animal welfare officials and independent veterinarians check all horses, stable tents, the transport vehicles and the riding equipment – in every single city on the tour. They pay attention to every detail and only if they are satisfied with their inspection, the show can take place in the respective arenas.

Horse looking out of the stable tent


Are your horses kept in the stalls all day long?

In addition to being examined by official veterinarians, CAVALLUNA is committed to the horses’ wellbeing. During the week, the animals are housed in the so-called intermediate stables, where they can enjoy regular pasturing or visits to the paddock as well as plenty of leisure time and relaxation. They always find themselves next to the same “horse neighbours” and are always tended to by their carer. The same applies to their weekend accommodation in the mobile, heated stable tents: The stalls in these tents meet the standardised size of any German stable. Larger animals such as Shire horses are provided with double stalls to make sure that all animals have enough space. Here, we also make sure they always have the same “neighbours”, because horses are creatures of habit. If this is possible between the shows, the riders take their four-legged friends on walks, or they go for rides, to make sure that they also get time to relax on the weekends they are performing.

brown pony with a foal on a meadow


Who do the horses belong to?

The horses belong to the riders or the heads of the riding teams themselves. Most animals have been part of the teams and their families for many years. Often, they are already trained by their owners at an early age, or they are even bred by them. During the tour, the riders are also the most important contact for the horses: they feed their animals themselves, they clear out the stalls, they clean and prepare and practice for the shows together. And during the week, on the days when there aren’t any performances, there are always team members present at the respective stables to care for their horses. This is the only way to create such a trusting relationship between the humans and horses that is necessary for such a show.

Luber on a meadow with a Haflinger horse


Horses are animals of prey – Isn’t it animal torture to make them perform in a show?

Most of the horses at CAVALLUNA are stallions. There are two reasons for this: Firstly, stallions get along very well when there aren’t any mares present, and they can be easily paired of. Secondly, they have a natural urge to show off their skills. And based on these requirements, we select animals that are suitable to perform due to their nature and their character. It is simply impossible to force any horse in the world to present itself in a carefree manner that is beautiful to watch against its will – neither by beating it, nor by denying it food or by using other methods that are not acceptable in terms of animal welfare. There won’t ever be a person capable of forcing a horse to a liberty dressage performance or other riding disciplines that just doesn’t want to cooperate.
So if you have found a horse that likes to pose and that is willing to learn, it is trained and prepared for the show for years. The animals are accustomed to colourful lights, music, applauding, etc. in months of careful work. In addition, all riders give the animals the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the conditions in every new city on the tour.

black horse running freely on stage


Horses are animals of prey. The horses shown in our liberty dressage performances are all able to move away from their trainers because they are not holding them with ropes, holsters or snaffles, and have no way of preventing them from doing so. The same applies to the horses with riders: Of course, a Shire horse weighing 1.2 tons has the power and willingness to stand up to a rider of 50 kg if it wanted to escape the situation. It is a fact that animals and humans working together, as they do at CAVALLUNA, can only rely on years of trust and friendship and nothing else.

Bartolo on stage with a black horse


Isn’t the music much too loud for the horses?

In terms of music, CAVALLUNA has developed a sound system that enables the audience to be fully immersed in the sound – but the horses hear it at a low volume at most. This is made possible by convex speakers that are directed towards the audience and away from the hippodrome. The fact that the liberty dressage riders need to verbally communicate with their animals makes louder sounds in the hippodrome unthinkable and impossible. During their training sessions, the animals are taught to perceive applauding as a positive feedback for performances, and this is also what they experience during the show.

Icelandic horse on stage with a rider


Don’t the horses suffer from being transported?

Transportation from the so-called intermediate stables to the show is made possible in professionally equipped transport vehicles that meet all standards of the Protection of Animals Act. The transport routes are kept as short as possible due to the central location of the intermediate stables. However, depending on the distance, they take several breaks on the way.

Rider Filipe sitting on a Friesian horse in the countryside


Do you ride or train your horses in hyperflexion?

Let’s start with an explanation of what hyperflexion actually means: Hyperflexion of the horse’s neck is used as a training method in some riding disciplines. However, it is frowned upon in classical riding. Critics believe that “pulling down” the horse’s head by using the reins leads to an unnatural and above all unhealthy attitude body posture that can cause long-term damage to the horse’s spine, tendons, etc. Although this is not scientifically proven, it cannot be dismissed, either. Hyperflexion is also referred to as low-deep-round (short: LDR), although some professionals believe that these are different methods. At CAVALLUNA, we don’t share this opinion. After all, any forced posture – even if it’s only a few minutes – will weaken the relationship between the horse and its rider. Moreover, it is not nice to look at.

Man and white horse with a snaffle


For these reasons, none of these methods are used by our CAVALLUNA riders! The horses are trained for years, which is not only time-consuming but also costly. Therefore, it would not be helpful to anyone to cause deliberate damage to their horses, rendering them unsuitable for riding. It’s a different case if a horse tries to escape the aids by purposefully moving away its head. This happens to every rider, and it is by no means desired in that moment. If this happens, the rider will try to actively work against this wrong position to get the horse back into an upright position. Also, there are breeds that tend to overextend their necks due to their physique (a high, short neck, etc.). In these cases, it is also necessary to pay extra attention to the right posture. For these reasons, it is wrong and also unfair to the riders to generalise individual moments and to assume they are practicing unprofessional training methods. Rest assured that it is in the interest of the riders and of CAVALLUNA that our animals are trained and kept in a manner that is appropriate for the species. Nothing could be farther from our minds than causing our horses harm

World of Fantasy Friesian horse rider on stage

Is it possible for me to see how the horses are kept?

For maximum transparency, we are offering visitors who are interested to take part in a stable tour before and after each show, and to convince themselves of the animals’ wellbeing in the stable tens as well as the backstage area.


To the stable tours
People at the horse stable