Equestrian Theme Park - Spotlight on Parc Cavaland

A few weeks ago on a gloriously sunny (and very warm) day, I headed due west to the little town of Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson, Quebec to photograph the incredible equines and equestrian artists of Parc Cavaland.

This gem is located an hour outside of Montreal and close to Mont Tremblant. I wasn’t sure what to expect because their website boasted a number of varied equestrian activities including: shows, trail rides, swimming with horses (yep, you read that right!) and a ton of other interactive and immersive equestrian experiences. In my mind, I was imagining a combination of trail rides meets horse show? Little did I know that I should have raised the bar on my expectations! This place was such as treasure-trove of horse and human skill that I can’t contain my excitement, so let’s dive in:

Who should visit Cavaland?

The best part about Parc Cavaland is that you don’t need to know anything about horses to visit. I was surprised to notice that a majority of the people visiting, weren’t that familiar with horses. Everyone was given thorough explanations of each horse during the stable tours and the activities were fascinating for equestrians and non-equestrians alike. So whether you know a lot about horses or are simply an admirer, as long as you’re a horse-fan, I think it’s definitely worth it to visit.

When to visit

I have the thrilling opportunity to photograph during one their ‘Grand Spectacle’ days which run on most Saturdays during the summer. It is an action packed day with a midday medieval show, activities and their afternoon show which was well beyond what I expected (more on that later). I highly recommend choosing a Saturday if you can to take advantage of all the activities the Parc has to offer.

What type of horses do they use?

I was blown away by the advanced schooling of their horses, many of whom I was pleasantly surprised to learn were rescued from a nearby agricultural auction. (The auction is normally an animals ‘last-chance’ before being sold for slaughter - many of the horses they have saved have numerous medical issues which need to be addressed so Parc Cavaland gets them the appropriate medical care and brings them back to health.) Some of the Parc’s newest additions were a mare and foal who were introduced during the afternoon show. Audience members were asked to refrain from clapping so that they could receive a gentle reception as being in front of a large audience was new for them. The mare was reserved while the little foal put on quite a show zipping around the arena with all the confidence and bravado of a horse who is going to have a very bright future.

A rescued mare and foal make their debut at Parc Cavaland.

A rescued mare and foal make their debut at Parc Cavaland.

The main event!

During one of the many acts of their afternoon live show, one lucky participant got to experience the ‘join-up’ technique used in liberty training (liberty: horses don’t have any equipment on them and are free to come and go as they please). We met some of their rescue horses and their stories were shared with us. Beyond the wonderful work that Parc Cavaland is doing for their rescue horses, the level of horsemanship and incredible breadth and depth of disciplines I saw while there was astounding.

A gentleman from the audience was chosen to demonstrate the join-up technique where a horse, without force or coercion, decides to ‘join-up’ and follow you.

The equestrian disciplines displayed in the show were so numerous that I’m afraid I’ll forget to mention one! Here’s a run-through of you can expect: liberty work (horses moving in harmony with a human without any tack or equipment), Cossack riding (trick riding including the incredibly impressive and difficult ‘death drag’), Dressage (the ballet of horses and my personal favorite), Vaulting (think: gymnastics on horseback), Roman Riding (a person stands on two horses at once and rides!), Lasso work and SO much more. 

A talented rider demonstrates the ‘Death Drag’.

Parc Cavaland has an impressive theatre and they are fully equipped with lighting, music, a massive screen, fully choreographed numbers, costumes and GORGEOUS tack that at one point I looked around and wondered if everyone could truly appreciate what was being presented; this was a high-level production with talent (of both horses and humans) and I had to stop and wonder how I hadn’t learned about this sooner! 

Here are a few of the images I captured of the lovely people and horses of Parc Cavaland: