July 11, 2013 — For budding equestrians fresh from “My Little Pony,” to those who’ve brought blue ribbons home more than once, Performer for a Day at Arabian Nights is the ultimate horse lover’s reality experience. The exclusive, interactive program not only takes participants behind the scenes at the award-winning equestrian attraction in Orlando, Florida, but straight into the limelight of an actual production.
“We get them in the show so they can see what it’s like to be on stage with hundreds of people cheering for you,” says Mark Miller, who founded Arabian Nights 25 years ago and made preservation of equestrian performing arts a priority from day one. “Very few places offer an opportunity to do anything like this. People can experience both the horses and participating in the show in a completely unique way.”
Charlotte Reynolds, a veteran Arabian Nights performer who’s worked closely with Performer for a Day program since its inception, describes the kind of one-on-one instruction, performer “secrets,” and interaction with the show’s horses and artists, that holds a particularly magnetic appeal for children. “They spend the ‘day’ with us. They get lessons. We do hair, makeup, costumes.” And, they get to be in the show. “We get kids who have never been on a horse before and others who compete in horse shows,” says Reynolds. Typically, around eight years old, participants have ranged from age four to adults.
An immersion into life behind-the-scenes and on stage, participants can choose specialty riding (bareback!), trick riding, or a “combo” package with both. Advance measurements sent to Arabian Nights’ wardrobe department ensure that costume options will be ready and waiting, when the countdown to show time begins. But first, budding performers get accustomed to the production setting, starting with lunch in the arena with Reynolds during rehearsals, great for getting to know the artists. An in-depth barn tour and familiarization with Arabian Nights 50+ horses and stable procedures, pave the way for afternoon lessons in the arena.
“Bareback is the most popular package,” says Reynolds, whose personal forte is, nonetheless, dressage. “I always recommend bareback. There are not a lot of places where you can go and safely stand up on the back of a horse!” Strapped into a safety harness, or in show biz terms “the mechanic,” atop a Percheron named Aries, participants are instructed by one of the foremost bareback riders in the world, Enrique (Ricky) Suarez, who first somersaulted above a horse at age five. “The combination package includes a half-hour lesson from Enrique and a lesson from me,” says Reynolds, who teaches drill patterns from acts like the square dance to participants, typically aboard the Arabian gelding Al-Marah Temptastar. “We also teach tricks–like the lay down and bow.”
As showtime approaches, Reynolds escorts the Performer for a Day to the dressing room for costume and makeup before he, or she, joins the cast in the stable to be part of the Arabian Nights VIP Experience—meeting guests, signing autographs and posing for photos.
Cloaked in a dark robe (like celebrities dodging paparazzi!), participants experience the start of the show from a special seat in the audience, where food and beverage await. At the appointed moment, Reynolds returns to whisk the “performer” backstage to take position for the show’s gypsy parade, a procession of draft horses, caravans, and twirling gypsies, that appear in the exhilarating blaze of spotlights.
“We’ve got 14 breeds of horses in the show–amazing stallions, great mares, and national champions,” reflects Miller, who’s devoted his life to sharing horses with millions of visitors since founding Arabian Nights www.arabian-nights.com in 1988. “People want to know what it’s like to work with these horses.”
Miller comments, “I performed in the show for seven to eight8 years; mostly the drills. But, I’ve done about everything except participate in the chariot race. I was also the genie on three different occasions. We try not to let that happen anymore,” he says with a laugh.
“It’s fun. You get to be on a great horse in front of a bunch of people who appreciate what you’re doing. We’re in this business to make people happy and keep them entertained. Our horses make that experience possible.”
The entertainment side of the horse industry is also the key to uniting breeds, disciplines, and so importantly, attracting new enthusiasts and interest to all things equestrian, says media consultant and journalist Elizabeth Kaye McCall. She reflects, “What’s happening at Arabian Nights is a portal to the horse world that our entire industry can benefit from. Who knows, I may just want to give Performer for a Day a whirl myself.”
To schedule the Performer for a Day experience, contact Jason Temple, Arabian Nights account executive for pricing, information and reservation details at 407-589-2411 or [email protected]
The largest family owned and operated entertainment business in Central Florida, Arabian Nights features a cast of 50+ horses and 20 human performers in a 90-minute dinner show performed, without intermission, 365 days a year. Founded by Mark Miller in 1988, Arabian Nights is located in Kissimmee (Orlando), Florida, minutes from Disney World. Devoted to preserving equestrian arts, Arabian Nights is a “sister company” to Al-Marah LLC, which Miller also owns. Al-Marah Arabians, which is known around the world, was established by his mother, the late Bazy Tankersley.
Said to be the oldest, privately owned, continuously bred band of horses in the world, the Al-Marah Arabian herd will migrate to Florida from its longtime residence in Tucson, Arizona, over the next two years. The herd will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2014. Known for producing national champions in all divisions to Tevis Cup contenders, Al-Marah Arabians continues its mission to produce the best Arabians possible. Classic beauty, amenable dispositions and athletic ability are stated priorities for Al-Marah Arabians.