NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (WJLA) - For children with visual impairments, every day experiences many may take for granted often come with barriers and challenges. But on Wednesday afternoon, a group from Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind got a unique opportunity to visit the cast and creatures behind Cavalia, currently performing under the big tent at National Harbor.
Because of her visual impairment, 8-year-old N'Dea Banks-Mackey sometimes feels more frustration than fun attending a production like Cavalia's elaborate equine production of "Odysseo."
"It's dark and I can't see anything and I might trip over something and I'm scared to move," said Banks-Mackey.
Nine-year-old Lotus Goetz's mom says that unless their family gets the most expensive seats, it's often not worth buying tickets to big performances.
"Because she doesn't see anything," Goetz said. "And you don't want to spend a lot of money just to build up a frustrating experience where she's not really understanding and loses interest. So this kind of opportunity is perfect for her."
Thanks to the cast and crew of Cavalia, Banks-Mackey, Goetz and other visually impaired children were invited to a special behind-the-scenes, hands-on tour of "Odysseo."
The group fed the horses lunch, brushed and braided their hair, and even learned some acrobatic tricks featured in the show.
The highlight for 5-year-old Eva Edman seemed to be a drum session with Cavalia musicians.
Her mother, Tracey Edman, said, "It's fantastic. It's a sensory experience for her."
Cast members say the horses benefit as much as the children from these visits, especially animals who tend to be less social.
Rider Dorian Escalon said, "Next to children, they are awesome horses. They are curious because [the children] have good energy."
Acrobat Kamila Ganclarska said, "I think [the horses] feel everything that the kid[s] feel. If they are stressed, the kid[s] are stressed, the horse will feel it. If the kid[s] are happy, the horse[s] will feel it. So it's like kind of [an] amazing connection, you know?"
The tactile tour wrapped up with the horses galloping in circles around the group, allowing them to hear and feel the ground rumble beneath them.
After several pictures to remember their visit, it was time to say goodbye.
Lotus Goetz said, "It's just phenomenal to get to know a horse They're just really gentle and elegant creatures."
Cavalia has extended its run of "Odysseo" for two more weeks here in the Washington region. Shows continue through Nov. 17 at National Harbor.