The Tempel Lipizzans show off their mastery of equine ballet | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

The Tempel Lipizzans show off their mastery of equine ballet 

Then they nuzzle you and devour sugar cubes.

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John Borys Photography

Showbiz ain’t easy. Come hell or high water or 90-degree temperatures and biting flies, the show must go on—and smile, damn it. The Lipizzan horses at Tempel Farms up near the Wisconsin border are troupers of the old school. On a recent disgustingly hot afternoon when any horse with any sense would rather be hidden away in a shady stable with a nice trough of water doing the equine equivalent of Netflix and chill, the Tempel Lipizzans were out in the blazing sun performing the same precision maneuvers their ancestors did in imperial Vienna 400 years ago.

Lipizzans are big and white—they look like paintings of unicorns, minus the horn—and known for their strength, spirit, and intelligence. Seventy horses live at Tempel Farms, and the show demonstrates all the stages of their training, from the adorably undisciplined brown foals who trot around the ring after their mothers (they turn white as they get older) to the full-grown stallions who dance and leap in formation.

The Tempel Farms show is a soothing experience. Like classical ballet, the trick is to make completely unnatural movements appear effortless. (No Lipizzans were harmed in the name of art; their training consists of positive reinforcement and lots of sugar cubes.) The best part is that afterward, you can tour the stables and meet the horses and their riders. Conversano (Mima) Anita, aka Cookie, is an especially charming host; if you’ve been waiting since you were seven years old to be nuzzled by a horse, now is your opportunity.  v


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