‘Cavalia’ performers, animals take time for horse therapy students

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DENVER -- Studies show animals can be the best therapy for children facing medical challenges. Students from the National Sports Center For The Disabled got a chance to interact with horses that travel the world in the famous Cavalia Odysseo show.

Performances in Denver continue through October 26 at the Pepsi Center.  Although the animal and human stars of Cavalia enthrall  audiences around the world, all enjoyed spending time with the students, who clearly loved seeing horses do a different type of “job.”

Trick rider and acrobat Rachel Gauthier carefully showed students how to sit in a saddle used in the show.  Thirteen-year-old Katie Leasure was an ace and beamed as Gauthier helped her onto the ground saying, “it was fun.”

Proud mom Jennifer was beaming as well. “She's 13 and she's feisty and she has a zest for life.”

Gauthier says she is touched by the dedication of the students. “We all face hard times and difficulties and ... hope is what keeps you alive and to give them this little bit of love I know it can mean a lot to them.”

The students also spent time helping the staff pamper the beautiful Cavalia stallions.

Medical experts say horses have a special way of communicating and some children who have never spoken before utter their first words in their presence.

Diane Eustance, Executive Director of the sports center shared one incidence that touches her still to this day. “We had one participant on a horse called Nibbles. We said if you want Nibbles to go you have to tell Nibbles,  and finally at one of our lessons she said ‘go Nibbles’ and that was the first word she had ever spoken.”

Medical experts say horse therapy helps to strengthen core, back and leg muscles in children with cerebral palsy and other conditions.

Of course, seeing amazing feats performed by acrobats can also be good therapy. The students were awed by a rehearsal of the show’s acrobats from Africa.

The interaction was energetic and charming.

The Cavalia performers say even though they have a thrilling job performing in the highly rated show, nothing compares to bringing a smile to the courageous kids who were lucky enough to be their special guests.  Due to popularity, the Cavalia Odysseo show has been extended through October 26.