Kendall's Korner: Gala of Royal horses delights sparse crowd

Jeanette Kendall/ TimesNewspapers
Rene Gasser rides one of his horses at the Peoria Civic Center Saturday night.

Horses are beautiful creatures. Combine them with Rene Gasser and they are amazingly beautiful.

Gasser brought his Gala of Royal Horses show to the Peoria Civic Center Saturday night. 

Gasser, who was born in Switzerland, is a horse trainer and performer. According to his website, his great-grandmother was “an accomplished horse trainer and performer” and his great-grandfather was “a highly decorated military horseman.” For the past 10 years, Gasser has been touring with his horses. He brought a revamped show to Peoria.

After the posting of the flags and the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” the European horses were introduced by breed and a story of their background. Some of the breeds were Friesian, Arabian and Lipizzaner.

The Friesians were a popular war horse that carried knights into battle. The Lipizzaners are born dark but turn white. Gen. Patton lead a daring raid to protect these horses during World War II. The story of the Arabian is that it was created by God from gifts given by the angel Gabriel.

I took my mom, a horse lover, to the show. She has been around horses her entire life. She had a horse as a youth and currently has five horses. It was helpful to have her by my side. She told me what the horses were doing.

As people in decorative, Spanish-style outfits led the horses around, music played in the background. It appeared as if the horses were prancing and dancing to the music.

During the first act, three women came out on white horses and three men on black horses. It appeared to look like a wedding. The men were dressed in black tuxedo coats and the women wore white satin dresses with black lace. They rode in intricate circle patterns. Everything was quite pretty until the horses began pooping and drooling. I was a bit grossed out by that, especially when the horses kept stepping in the poop. My mom said the drool was caused by the bit in their mouth, which keeps their mouth moist. Later, the announcer said the drool was a good thing; it means that the horse is relaxed.

After the number, what I call the pooper scoopers came out to clean up the mess. The announcer lightened the mood by saying, “Well, it happens. Give a hand to some of the hardest working people in the business.”

Next, a live four-piece band began playing and featured drums, guitar and a woman in a red dress singing Spanish songs. The horses that came out did some fancy footwork. As one horse walked it extended its front legs all the way out and then appeared to canter (slower than a gallop) in place.

My mom liked the next act in which Gasser showed how he trains some of the horses. He uses a whip, not to punish, but to touch the horse on the area of its body where he wants a result. For example, Gasser touched the horse by its left leg until the horse moved it. He then praised the horse. 

“As soon as he moves when you touch him, it’s an understanding,” Gasser said.

My mom said it takes a lot of patience and time to train a horse. 

Gasser then used a longer whip to get a horse to kick its back leg out.

As Gasser stood near the rear of the horse as it kicked, Gasser said, “That’s what the long whip is for” and laughed.

In the next act, a woman rider used a 13-foot stick she twirled and hung onto as she rode. She placed one end of the stick on the ground and had the horse go around it. When she placed it behind the horse, it would change direction. It looked quite challenging to coordinate and she did drop the stick twice.

After a 15-minute intermission, a ring was assembled. Gasser brought two white horses into the ring and had them run in circles and change directions. At times they ran side by side. He then had them come to the middle of the ring and stand on their hind legs. It was majestic, but more of that was to come, and it was even more impressive.

Gasser rode out next on a white horse in a cantor, then had the horse do a side step the length of the ring in front of the space audience.

Next, a woman rode out. She had her horse take a bow and lie on its side. The women laid on top of the horse. The trust between these two was amazing. She sat by the horse’s belly and put its back leg on her lap. It was touching. 

My favorite was a battle pose in which a horse stood on its hind legs and moved its front legs up and down as if hitting something in the air. My mom said they trained horses to do this during war to attack and stomp on the enemy. 

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more amazing, Gasser had a horse stand on its rear legs, lunge forward and kick its back legs out. Wow. The horse was airborne. It was a jaw-dropping moment.

Another act had a women in a red dress dance to Spanish music and stomp her black shoes on a hard surface. Gasser rode a black horse out, and the woman and horse stepped in time together. The horse eventually did its own tap dance across the hard surface.

Overall, the almost two-hour show was educational, amazing and entertaining. Gasser and his troupe are to be commended for their performance.

With that being said, I still enjoy viewing horses more in nature. Watching a horse roam somewhat free with its mane flying in the wind, for me, tops any trick man can train them to do.

— Jeanette Kendall is executive editor at TimesNewspapers and editor of the East Peoria Times-Courier.