Lipizzans Have an Air About Them
Jochen Hippenstiel remembers the moment he rode his favorite Lipizzan horse, Favory VII Andorella, past President Barack Obama in the 2009 presidential inauguration parade.
“I could see the president sitting in his box, and we made eye contact,” says Hippenstiel, head trainer for Tempel Farms’ Lipizzans. “He was nodding his head. You could almost feel him thinking, ‘What beautiful horses.’”
Tempel Farms in Wadsworth, a northwest suburb of Chicago, is the only place in the United States where the rare, white Lipizzan stallions are bred and trained, then perform.
Tempel Farms was founded in 1959 by the late industrialist Tempel Smith and his wife, Esther, and features training, breeding and dressage facilities. The 4,000-acre site is also home to the largest privately owned herd of Lipizzans in the world. The horses have performed four other times in presidential inauguration parades, not counting their recent trip to Washington, D.C.
And if Chicago gets the nod to host the 2016 Olympics, Tempel Farms is the proposed site of equestrian events for the Summer Games.
“Hosting the Olympics would be a great thing,” Hippenstiel says. “I think the world is ready for Chicago. Having the equestrian events here would be a great opportunity to represent this farm and our country.”
Until then, the horses will be performing for visitors every Wednesday and Sunday throughout the summer months.
The performances are based on an art of riding that has survived for more than four centuries at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. The training begins when the horse is 4 years old and lasts between three to five years.
Upper-level horses are trained according to the classical principles of dressage, (pronounced dre-sazh), a form of ballet on a horse. In recent years, those same movements have been featured on the Olympic dressage test. By the end of the training time, the gravity-defying Lipizzans leap effortlessly through the air just like the white horse that Prince Charming rode in fairy tales.
“The difference between Lipizzans and warm bloods is that they mature later,” Hippenstiel says. “But they also last longer. These horses are still working in their 20s. We train mostly stallions, while the mares and colts are used for driving.”
“A Lipizzan’s temperament is good – very trainable – and they are hardy and sturdy horses,” adds Andreanna Stucker, barn manager and assistant trainer. “Lipizzans specialize in airs above the ground – literally leaping through the air. We see those same natural movements from foals. I love the training process.”
Stucker also rode in the inaugural parade.
“There was a lot of waiting,” she says. “But that showed the character of the horse. All of our horses were so well behaved, even though we had to wait five hours in the cold.”
Stucker also does the breeding at the farm and says that five to 10 foals are born each summer on the farm.
“I delivered my first foal last May,” she says. “It was an amazing experience, especially considering it’s a tradition that was started over 50 years ago on this farm.”
See the Horses Perform
On-farm performances are held each Sunday and Wednesday during the warmer months, and their last performance for 2009 is Sept. 6.
During the off-season, farm tours are available by appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Visitors can see the stables, watch as the trainers prepare for the next season, learn about the farm and the horses’ storied history and intricate training, and ask questions of their tour guide.
For more information about farm visits, visit www.tempelfarms.com or call (847) 623-7272.