Saturday's Gala of Royal Horses show combines music, dance

The Gala of the Royal Horses, featuring European royal horses, comes to the O'Connell Center for a 4 p.m. performance Saturday as part of its first U.S. tour.

Courtesy of Gala of the Royal Horses
Published: Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 11:03 a.m.

Katharina Gasser was only 3 when she watched as her horse, Mozart, was born. She can still remember the night, she said, which was bright with a full moon.


Gala of the Royal Horses

What: Inaugural U.S. tour of production featuring European royal horses
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: O'Connell Center, 250 Gale Lemerand Drive
Tickets: $29-$60
Info: 392-1653,

She and Mozart grew up together, said her father, Rene Gasser. They're never apart. At 10, Katharina started training with Mozart in the ring. And now, at 15, they perform together with the Gala of the Royal Horses, Gasser's world-renowned equestrian show, which combines music, dance and horses.

In February the show began its first North American tour, which brings Katharina and Mozart to the O'Connell Center for a performance at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Katharina calls her act “horse whispering.” Using only touch and hand cues, she guides Mozart through a series of positions. She can make him sprawl on the ground and let her lie on top of him, she said.

Her father, Gasser, said all the riders have a deep connection with their horses. Mozart and his daughter, whom he calls “Gigi,” are like siblings. And the horses are like his children.

Gasser flies 14 Andalusian, Lipizzaner and Friesian horses directly from Europe, he said. These are royal breeds, meaning their ancestors rode in battle with Spanish, Dutch and Austrian royalty, he said. In fact, many of the dances the horses perform come from centuries-old military movements. When the horses pirouette, stand on their hind legs or march with high steps, they reflect a long history of European horse training.

The show has featured different cultural dances throughout the tour, Gasser said. Gainesville will see traditional Argentine dances, music and costumes alongside the horses. Throughout the performance, musicians will play traditional Argentine drum music, which are meant to sound like hoofbeats, Gasser said.

And as for the horses, Gasser said, they really do dance. Some jump in the air and kick up their feet. Others rear up onto their hind legs and flash their stomachs. They can skip sideways, and pivot while trotting like a Flamenco dancer. But whatever the choreography, Gasser and his family make sure all of the horses enjoy what they do, he said. Through training, the riders pick up the kind of movements each horse favors, which become the basis of their routine.

Gasser also will ride in the show on his horse, Habano, who moves in a special way, he said. It might be the softness in the height of his legs when he marches, Gasser said

“You can't stop smiling when you see him move,” he said. “It's one of those special things. A good friend of mine said, 'Watching that horse move is like therapy.'”

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