PHOTOS & REVIEW: Cavalia Odysseo


Cirque du Soleil has been around so long, its brand has become a style — even shows not put on by CdS seem like it. That’s the case with Cavalia Odysseo, an equine-driven arena show that combines the familiar acrobatics of Cirque with the majesty of horsemanship. It’s remarkable.

But it’s not just its uniqueness that excites you. Odysseo is a jaw-dropping spectacle, as surprising as being on safari, but with popcorn. The production is an awesome mix of acrobatics, visual effects (an IMAX-ish widescreen projection system that turns the big top outside the DrPepper Arena in Frisco into everything from the savannas of Africa to the mountains of Europe to the stars in the heavens) and the power of wild animals. It’s also sexy as hell, as the slideshow below can attest. And definitely worth the drive up the Tollway.

Odysseo has extended its run, and will be in North Texas through Feb. 22 before heading to its home base in Toronto and Montreal.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Man arrested for fight at DFW Airport has record of theft, abusing horses

14-4670 Mugshot - Benham

McCleish Christmas Benham

DFW Airport Police arrested a man Thursday, Oct. 23, after the suspect called another man a faggot, punched him and kicked him in the crotch. McCleish Christmas Benham, 27, of Shelbyville, Tenn., has been charged with public intoxication and simple assault. (You can see video of the fight below.)

According to police reports, the problem apparently started when Benham got angry with an American Airlines gate agent who was trying to help him with his flight arrangements. He “became belligerent and began cursing at her.” Another passenger, described in reports as an “older white male” but whose name was not released by police, said he had seen Benham “verbally assaulting” the gate agent. He said he told Benham that police were on their way, and that he needed to calm down. Benham, instead of taking that advice, reportedly called the man a “San Francisco faggot” and punched him in the eye.

Benham then started to threaten  a different male passenger when the first man again warned him to calm down or the police would arrest him. At that point, Benham “kicked him in the groin and punched him in the head.”

That’s when a group of “approximately three to five male passengers” decided to take matters into their own hands. They tackled Benham to the floor and held him there until Officer Derrick Niblett arrived. “i intervened to control the situation,  but the subject in question [Benham] continued to struggle with me and the unidentified passengers while he was on the floor.” A second officer arrived and the two policemen were able to subdue Benham and handcuff him. “The subject continued to be belligerent as Officer Mister and I assisted him to his feet. As the subject was talking, I noticed his speech was slurred. I also noticed that he had glossy, blood shot eyes,” Officer Niblett wrote in his report. “The subject was deemed to be a danger to himself and to others and was placed under arrest for public intoxication and simple assault.”

A quick Internet search shows that this isn’t “Mac” Benham’s first brush with the law. He was jailed on Sept. 19, 2013 in Bedford County, Tenn. (where Shelbyville is located) on charges of property theft. Another report indicates that in October 2012, also in Bedford County, Benham was arrested for “failure to appear.”

He has also been in trouble with the US Department of Agriculture at least twice for violations of the Horse Protection Act for allegedly mistreating Tennessee Walking horses he was supposed to be training. He was charged for “soring” a horse named Major General’s Ritz in the 43rd Annual National Walking Horse Show held March 18, 2011 in Shelbyville, and again for doing the same to a horse named “Willie Twilight” on Aug. 31, 2012, at the 74th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, also in Shelbyville.

Benham was disqualified from showing horses for six months, from Feb. 21 to Aug. 20 this year, because of the “soring” charges against him.

According to the USDA website, “Soring is a cruel and abusive practice used to accentuate a horse’s gait. It is accomplished by irritating or blistering a horse’s forelegs with chemical irritants (such as mustard oil) or mechanical devices. Walking horses are known for possessing a naturally high gait, but in order to be more successful in competitions their natural gait will often be exaggerated. The exaggerated gait can be achieved through proper training and a considerable time commitment, but some horse exhibitors, owners and trainers use improper and inhumane training methods to shortcut the process.”

—  James Russell

Events you can expect to see at the IGRA Rodeo


ROUNDING THE BARREL | Barrel racers ride a three-point cloverleaf pattern as quickly as possible. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

• Calf Roping on Foot: The contestant stands in the roping box and when a calf is released, attempts to throw their loop over the calf’s head. Once the loop passes over the calf’s head, the contestant must pull up the slack in the rope.

• Steer Decorating: This event requires a two-person team. One member stands 10 feet from the chute gate holding the end of a 25-foot rope, which is looped around the horns of the steer that is in the chute. The other team member stands 40 feet from the chute holding a 24-inch long ribbon. When the chute gate opens, the first team must bring the steer out and across the 10-foot line. The second team member then tries to tie the ribbon on the steer’s tail while the first team member tries to remove the rope from the steer’s horns. When the ribbon is on the tail and the loop is off the horns, the team member who tied on the ribbon must tag the timer.

• Mounted Break-Away Roping: The roper is mounted on horseback with one end of his or her rope tied to the saddle horn by a piece of string. When the calf is released from the chute, the roper  follows to try and rope the calf. When the loop is thrown, it must pass completely over the calf’s head. As the calf pulls away from the rider and horse, the rope grows taut and will break away from the saddle horn.

• Team Roping: The team consists of two ropers mounted on separate horses. One roper is called the “header” and his or her responsibility is to rope the steer by the horns while the teammate, called the “heeler,” must get the rope around the steer’s back legs, or heels.  When the header makes the catch, he or she must wind the rope around the saddle horn, called “dallying off,” turning the steer away from himself thus causing the steer’s heels to fly in the air for the heeler’s loop to catch. When both ropers have been successful in their tasks, they must turn their horses to face the steer and pull their ropes taut.

• Junior Bull Riding: A junior bull is a young bull that has not built up the bulk, or testosterone, of a full-grown bull. The rider has a “bull rope” wound around the animal just behind the front legs and then around the rider’s hand; no knots are allowed. This handhold and the riders legs, locked like scissors around the animal, are all the rider has to count on to stay on top. A rider who is able to spur, or move their legs back and forth on the animal’s sides, will receive a higher score. The rider must stay on the bull for a designated length of time to receive a score at all.

• Bareback Bronc Riding: A specially designed “bareback riggin” with a built-in handhold is tied onto the horse. The rider climbs on the horse’s back in the chute, and settles him or herself before the chute gate is opened. When the gate is opened, the rider has to start the ride with both of his or her feet extended forward over the horse’s shoulders and, on the first leap out of the chute, must “rake” the feet backwards toward the horse’s rump. If the rider misses this, they are disqualified and get no score for the ride. If the rider stays on the horse for six seconds, then pick-up riders move in to help the rider dismount safely. Contestants may elect to ride two-handed from start to finish, but will receive a lower score if they do so.

• Goat Dressing: This two-person event was created specially for gay rodeo. The team stands 50 feet from the point where the goat is tethered. One of the team members has a pair of jockey-style underwear pulled over their forearms. When the whistle sounds, the team runs to the goat. The team member without the underwear picks up the goat’s rear hooves, grabs the underwear from around the other member’s arms, and pulls it up the legs of the goat.  Both team members must then race back to the start/finish line and cross the finish line to stop the time. The underwear must stay over the goat’s tail bone until the timer is tagged by both members.

• Chute Dogging: The steer and the contestant both start in the bucking chute and face a 60-second time limit. When the chute gate opens, the contestant must bring the steer out to a 10-foot line in front of the chute, and then attempt to wrestle, or “dog” the steer to the ground. The contestant will turn the steer’s head up and toward the steer’s shoulder, to force the steer to fall over on its other shoulder, causing all four feet to point in the same direction as the head was turned. If the steer is contrary and falls the other way, it is termed a “dog fall” and the contestant can either attempt to turn the head the same direction or let the steer up and start over.

• Pole Bending: In this event, horse and rider compete for fastest time working a linear pattern through six equally spaced poles. The poles must be at least six feet in height and spaced 21 feet apart. A running start is allowed and a five-second penalty will be assessed for knocking a pole down, and disqualification will take place if the team goes off course.

• Wild Drag Race: Teams are made up of one male, one female, one “drag” (either male or female), and one wild steer. The steer, with a halter and a 25-foot lead rope, is in a bucking chute at the beginning of the event. The cowgirl holds the rope and the cowboy and drag stand 40 feet from the chute. When the chute gate opens, the team tries to direct the steer toward the finish line, which is 70 feet from the chute. They must get the steer across the finish line, mount the “drag,” and then ride back across the finish line. The “drag” must be mounted on the steer before the steer starts back across the finish line and must stay on the steer until all four feet of the steer have crossed back across the finish line.

• Barrel Race: Contestants vie for the fasted time in running a triangular, cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. The horse and rider are allowed a running start and time begins and ends upon crossing the starting line. A five-second penalty is assessed for knocking over a barrel. The pattern can be started either from the left or right, and contestants that go off the prescribed course are disqualified.

• Flag Race: A triangular pattern similar to that of the barrel race is used, with the substitution of a pole in place of barrel number three. The two other barrels will have a bucket that is three-fourths full of rabbit pellets placed on top of it, and a flag in one of these buckets. The rider may choose to run to the right or left and as they pass the first barrel, they pick up the flag, race past the pole, back to the second barrel, and attempt to place the flag in the second bucket. If the rider knocks over the first bucket or the pole, a five-second penalty will be assessed. If the rider does not pick up the flag or misses the second bucket, no time will be given. If the second bucket or barrel is knocked over, the rider is disqualified.

• Bull Riding: The same as junior bull-riding, only with bigger, meaner bulls.



Friday, Oct, 7
• After registration, in the lobby of the Crowne Plaza Fort Worth South Hotel, 100 Altamesa Blvd. East, western dancing in the ballroom begins at 7 p.m. hosts a party at Best Friends from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. The group put together a calendar that will be on sale at the club. Proceeds of sales benefit contestants who participate in the gay rodeos. All 12 models will be at the club for a signing party, according to organizer Michael Castlow. He said there will be a buffet for members.

Saturday, Oct. 8
• Lone Star Dance Competition and Country Hoedown takes place in the Grand Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza at 7 p.m.

• Lipps LuRue of the United Court of the Lone Star Empire presents a candidate’s show at Dallas Eagle at 7 p.m. hosts a calendar signing party at Woody’s Sports and Video Bar on Cedar Springs in Dallas at 8 p.m. Castlow said he would be at the Eagle with a number of the calendar models before heading over to the signing party.

Sunday, Oct. 9
• A banquet with entertainment begins at
7 p.m. at the host hotel followed by the final awards ceremony at 9 p.m.

• The World Gay Rodeo Finals closing party takes place at JR.’s Bar & Grill in Dallas.


Rodeo tickets are $15 per person, per day, with those under 12 admitted free.

The rodeo will be held at the Watt Arena in the Will Rogers Memorial Center, 3401 W. Lancaster Ave., in Fort Worth. Gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, and at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9.
Tickets will be sold on site, and will be available Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


Grand Marshal: David Hill of Colorado

Honorary Grand Marshals: Gary Miller and Alan Pierce of Dallas

Community Hero: Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

DPD officers won’t clean up horses’ poop

The horses may be pretty to look at, and their presence is a sign of spring, but not everyone is thrilled to see mounted DPD officers in the area of the Katy Trail this year.

Earlier today the proprietor of the 7-11 on Fitzhugh told me the horses make a mess in his parking lot, and the officers refuse to clean it up, leaving him to do their dirty work.

As you can see in the above photo, two mounted officers were hanging out in the 7-11 parking lot earlier today, and not surprisingly, one of the horses dropped a deuce in a parking space. I watched the officers leave without cleaning it up.

“If anyone else did that they’d get a ticket,” the 7-11 proprietor told me. “Just because they’re police doesn’t mean they should be able to do whatever they want.”

It’s unclear why the police horses aren’t equipped with bags that catch their poop, but they’re not. Budget cutbacks?

In any case, this is clearly horseshit! Just wait till some queen from one of the nearby gay bars steps in that stuff. Then you’re really gonna have a problem.

—  John Wright

Road trip! Head to Justin for Ranch Hand Rescue benefit concert

Giving a horse a hand

Honky Tonk for Horses is expected to be the largest fundraiser for the Argyle-based large animal sanctuary Ranch Hand Rescue which is founded by Bob Williams. His partner Marty Polasko owns the neighboring American Pet Spa & Resort. The event features a silent auction features DVD players, race packages including hotel stays and tickets, autographed sports and Hollywood memorabilia, Rangers tickets, restaurant gift certificates and more. A lineup of eight bands including Randy Brown, CC Cross and The Deaf Cats play the through the night. Andrew “AC” Carver of radio station The Ranch,95.9-FM MCs the event.

DEETS: The Mule Barn, 218 Hwy 156, Justin. 6 p.m. Free.

—  Rich Lopez