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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
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Legendary ‘Royal Horses’ make leap to Tampa

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The first time Rene Gasser spotted Javano, he knew the horse was something special.

The Andalusian stallion’s beauty, grace and athleticism took his breath away.

“I fell in love with him the moment I saw him,” Gasser said of the 6-year old mare he purchased in 2012 from monks in the Cartuja region of Spain. “And his eyes were so beautiful.”

One of the world’s most iconic horse breeds, Andalusians, also known as the Spanish horse, are admired by equine lovers all over the world. Known for graceful leaps through the air, they have for centuries been a favorite subject of painters and sculptors.

“He’s the most talented horse I’ve ever owned,” Gasser added. “Everyone falls in love with him when they see him. He’s just extraordinary.”

Javano will demonstrate his talents as one of the stars of Gasser’s “Gala of The Royal Horses,” coming Saturday to the Lakeland Center and Sunday to the Forum in Tampa.

It marks the first time Gasser, creator and producer of the Gala, has brought the tour to North America.

Gasser, a seven generation master trainer and rider born in the Swiss town of Schaffhausen, near the banks of the Rhein River, will feature 14 of the most celebrated breeds of horses. In addition to Andalusians, there will be Friesians, Lipizzaners and Arabians.

During the show, the horses and riders will perform “The Airs Above the Ground,” classic dressage maneuvers and jumps once used on battlefields.

The stallions also will dance alongside Spanish flamenco dancers wearing authentic vibrant costumes.

In the south of Spain, the tradition of flamenco dancing is rivaled only by the tradition of breeding fine Spanish horses, Gasser said.

“It is something that is so exciting to see,” he added. “The beauty and athleticism of the horses is like nothing else.”

Gasser said finding the right horse takes time; it’s about much more than breed. “I look for that something extra special,” he said. “You can feel it when you see the horse. It’s like meeting someone beautiful for the first time and then discovering there is so much more to them than outer beauty. Their eyes also speak to you.”

Gasser also must match the stallions to the right rider. The riders, he said, are as much performers as the stallions and must also connect with the audience.

“The horse actually selects the rider,” said Gasser, adding only he and his daughter, Katrina, ride Javano. “You must have the right rider for the right horse. And they have to trust each other.”

Stallions can perform for many years, Gasser said. They usually begin their training at around age 3 and can perform well into their 20s.

“I had a horse that was 30 (years old) that was a magnificent performer,” he added. “It’s like gymnastics. They are not running, so they are not overworking their muscles and joints. Their movements emanate from centuries-old battlefield maneuvers. And it’s really magnificent to see.”

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