Southern Illinois has a rare opportunity to be among the first regions to host the internationally acclaimed Gala of the Royal Horses.

Renowned horse trainer Rene Gasser and his 15 exquisite equines have only been touring the United States for three months, and on Saturday, May 31, they will arrive at the SIU Arena.

“The response has just been amazing,” said Gasser, a native of Switzerland who spent the last 15 years living and showcasing his horses in Australia, while also touring New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Until late last year, the United States had only been a vacation destination. But, deciding that the time had come to move on from Australia, Gasser began the process or applying for passports for himself and the animals and making the transition stateside.

“It was a long job to get these horses here,” he said of the majestic creatures, representing all the royal breeds of Europe. The show features the Andalusian, Friesian, Lipizzaner and Arabian breeds.

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But the show goes beyond horses to include music, tradition and culture representative of the equine’s homelands. Spanish flamenco dancers, for example, will don authentic, vibrant costumes as they perform to the mellow notes of a single guitar, bring to life the sights and sounds of Spain.

“We want to take people away from everyday life and bring them into the world of these horses,” Gasser said. “You have music, costumes; you get the whole experience.”

The Gala of the Royal Horses will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets range from $25 to $55. The $55 VIP tickets include a meet-and-greet and photo opportunity with Gasser and some of the horses. Tickets can be purchased online at siusalukis.com or by calling 618-453-2000.

Gasser stressed that seeing some of these equines with one’s own two eyes is a rare treat.

“These are the sort of horses that usually aren’t seen live,” he said.

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