A popular saying states that "zebras are horses of a different color" - which can mean, among other things, that a lot of beauty can be found in diversity. Diversity such as there is in a totally non-mainstream profession, more a calling than a daytime job - even because the dedication it demands is 24/7. And who could argue about the beauty to be found in an equestrian spectacle which combines dazzling horsemanship, handsome Iberian horses and medieval pageantry, complete with falconry? Such is "Le Zebre", an equestrian group founded by Silvia Elena Resta, an Italian woman who from early age set out on a quest for the world's finest showmanship on horseback.

As a child, Silvia saw for the first time one of Mario Luraschi's renowned performances, in which his troupe of stunt riders demonstrates daring horsemanship
astride beautiful Spanish horses. Being also devoted to the theatre and fascinated by the circus, Silvia decided she wanted to become a trainer and show rider of Iberian horses. Further inspiration would arise from watching "Zingaro", the equestrian theatre
founded by Bartabas, and Manolo's Centaur Theatre, both from France. Later on, falconry also became one of her interests, destined to be one day incorporated
into her equestrian presentations.

Putting the act together
All her studies and endeavors thus converged into the establishment, in 2000, of "Le Zebre", Silvia's equestrian show team, which currently is based close to Rimini. Nowadays, three women besides Silvia herself and four male riders constitute Zebre's show team. Most of the horses are Iberian purebreds, but Friesians and Arabians, as well as Ibero-Arabian crossbreds, are also used.
The group favors Iberian horses, due to their greater aptitude for High School exercises, such as pirouette, passage, levade and pesade, all of which are incorporated into the performances. Of course, in Silvia's words, "there are interesting horses, with
lots of scenic presence, in many other breeds. For shows of this nature, it is essential that the equine actors be stunning to look at! It is also important that they combine a strong physique with great character, making themselves available both physically and mentally. I generally chose my horses by a rather instinctive way, and have been fortunate so far, blessed with kindness and generosity from all my horses".
Of her several equine actors, Silvia considers the Andalusian Fidalgo, with his cremello coat and blue eyes, to be the greatest magnet for the public. "He has a strong personality and is a bit of a character. He likes to show off better than to rehearse: many times things do not go so well during training, but once on the stage he will behave impeccably and always give his best."

     Talons and hooves, manes and wings
In recent years, falconry both as sport and as show or demonstration has regained popularity in Europe and North America. This ancient form of hunting reminisces people of the pageantry of the Middle Ages, with the beautiful birds of prey holding a mystique all their own. Equestrian artistic performers have been very
aware of this, for if the public is already fascinated by horses and hunting birds separately, together they do come off as stunning.
Silvia herself has always been captivated by falconry and "by the idea of empathy and trust that must develop between the bird and its master: it is put to
fly in absolute freedom, and yet one must be certain of its will to return. Thus, a bird may share with us a sense of freedom, of conquering the skies". Still according to Silvia, "It isn't hard to get horses and birds used to each other; this part of the training
process, as most others do, demands patience and kindness."

The show hits the road
"Le Zebre" specializes in combining classical riding with diverse art forms including martial arts such as capoeira. Historical or fantasy costumes for horses
and riders add dramatic impact. The use of fire is also a riveting part of many presentations. For instance, "Oriental Fires", an original Zebre choreography, is inspired by the Japanese "kabuki" theatre. It features riders maneuvering their mounts
through complex patterns while handling "garrochas" set afire (the traditional long javelins used by Spanish vaqueros for the driving and handling of wild cattle). Falcons and hawks are used in other shows, such as open-air festivals and country fairs in which Le Zebre also takes part.
With these innovative acts, Zebre has already been invited to perform at events such as the Fieracavalli's Gala show and at the International Umbria Endurance Competition, held in honor of the Prince of Dubai. In June 2006, Silvia and Le Zebre won the Italian Cup for "Best Horse Act" with their performance "Amarcord", homage to the great Federico Fellini.  Thus the group was noticed by  Peter Massine, director of "Apassionata", an equestrian spectacle from Germany, who invited Silvia to be the only Italian guest star at Massine's 'Horse Gala' held at the Mazda Palace in
Milan, later that year. 

Little routine, lots of work
For Silvia and her group of performers, daily work involves constant training, preparation and caring for the animals, and also study and research for new
presentations. These involve many details, from choreography and stunt work to costumes and dramatic content, as well as public relations to develop new
business contacts. According to Silvia, "passion and dedication must go hand in hand to achieve any constant success in this area; ability to communicate with the public also is important".
Projects for the immediate future include many presentations in Italy and also in France. Up and coming is Zebre's participation in "Oriental Image", a show dedicated to the Arabian horse, which will happen in an ancient estate close to the city of Verona. By taking part in this spectacle, directed by Antonio Giarola, Silvia has achieved a dream of working alongside names which are internationally reputed
among the best in the field of equestrian shows, Mario Luraschi and Pasquale Beretta. Silvia says that "This is not the first time I have been working with Mr. Giarola. I consider him one of the best professionals in the field of artistic riding, and it is always a pleasure to work with him".
Silvia also gives riding and training lessons, and several working students are constant part of her entourage. Always working to perfect her presentations both from technical and artistic viewpoints, Silvia states that "we would like to go on a more extensive tour, perhaps as a part of an already established circuit. We are working to obtain a sponsorship, which would help us to develop and promote many young
equestrian artists among our students, many of whom have great potential for success".

Soaring towards new heights
Silvia and her "Le Zebre" intend to promote Italian and European equestrian culture, rising public awareness of horses’ continued importance for humankind, through history and into the XXIst century. She also works towards educating new generations of horsemen according to a training philosophy which considers equitation as an art form. From the Spanish Riding School of Vienna to voltige, from falconry to
equestrian theatre: many are the subjects which with study and from which an artist may draw inspiration for his or her art. It all can also be seen as a form of martial artistry, where the goal is not to conquer the opponent, but rather, to overcome our own limits. Silvia Resta and her partners - be them on two legs, on four, or winged - strive together towards this most honorable of goals.

././././././  By Claudia Leschonski


How one young Italian woman brought many talents  together to make magical visions of power and beauty come true.

To dream of horses

Silvia was born in Treviglio, a small town near Bergamo, Italy. Her family traces its roots back to an old lineage of Russian aristocrats, from which sprung cavalrymen as well as dramatists and poets. Silvia likes to think that her passion for horses and for the scenic arts originated in the Russia of the czars. She began to ride at age ten, as a student of Paola Donarini, Italian champion in Western Equitation, under whose tutelage she became a graded F.I.S.E. (Italian Equestrian Federation) technician.