Last year, we introduced you to the Lipizzan horses of Tempel Farms—their tradition, their lineage, and the riders and caretakers. We talked about the art of the classic school of riding, which carries on the tradition of the Spanish School of Riding and involves these very special, very carefully preserved and protected horses, who have been learning the very specialized art, borne of war exercises, that today guests can see in the performances at Tempel during summer weeknights and weekends. This year, Tempel Farms celebrates 60 years upholding this tradition, a world treasure (in fact deemed such) and have invited some friends and colleagues along who are continuing the tradition.
The folks from Escuela Clásica Lipizzana, a relatively new classical school and the only one in Latin America, hailing from the Purranque region of Los Lagos, Chile found the anniversary of this American farm carrying on the tradition and bloodlines of these magnificent animals so important, they packed up six of their stallions and several of their riders, and made the journey to spend July celebrating this amazing equestrian art and tradition. Oscar Coddou Molina, the director at Escuela Clásica Lipizzana, spoke with us about the journey, the horses and how special Tempel and their traditions are worldwide ahead of their final performances in the US.
Getting these beautiful horses to Old Mill Creek from Chile was no easy task. “They travelled for many months.” says Molina. “It was a very long travel because they trucked to Santiago about 14 hours, wait in Santiago, then it’s 15 hours more by plane to Miami, and in Miami there’s a 7 day quarantine for the horses, and then 26 hours by truck from Miami to Chicago. It was a long, long trip.”
So why spend all the time and money? Escuela and Tempel are the only places in the Americas where the Lipizzan bloodline and breed is celebrated and preserved. “For us this was so important because the anniversary of Tempel is so important for America, because we are so interested in that school and that breed. 1958 (When Tempel Farms was established) was 60 years ago. I think it’s so important to be here with the first true international show. For us it’s so important to come to the USA with the Lipizzans here at Tempel Farms to celebrate this special occasion,” Oscar said with a smile.
You might wonder if there was trouble integrating the animals and riders together—separated by land and culture. In fact though, it wasn’t. “It was easy” Molina says. “Because the classical school of the Lipizzan is the same everywhere. Tempel Farm, for 60 years, continued the same line from the Spanish Riding School, and the Spanish Riding School is our partner. It’s the same way they train. That’s the reason it’s so easy for us to incorporate—because we have the same language, the same system of training the horses. As far as the personality of the horses? The temperament is similar too. In fact, Oscar tells us, one of the stallions’ mothers is from Tempel. And she’s not the only one. Many of Escuela’s stallions met back up with cousins, brothers and the like, because the bloodlines are so important and so carefully protected, both at Escuela and Tempel.
Lipizzans are specialized through these bloodlines, and able to perform feats that even other highly trained dressage horses cannot. These “baroque” horses, as Molina refers to them, are trained differently. And despite the similarities in training and performance to the traditional sport of dressage, the “classical” training the horses receive are an equestrian art. “In many parts it’s similar, but the sport horse that’s trained for dressage events is trained a little different. The name classical—it’s smooth and natural. It takes more time. The brain of the horse needs more time for it. Our specialty is absolutely classic, using the same exercise they use in competition, but the only difference is all the airs above the ground, like the cabriolet or courbette.“
“The baroque horse (the Lipizzan, in this case) is more strong and supportive and has good balance to do airs above the ground. The dressage horse, maybe even going to ecole, it’s different, because you need so much strength in the back, and you must understand, our Lipizzans have about five centuries of development of this race especially for art ecole.” Quite literally—these horses are built differently.
But it’s not simply the horses. When I asked Oscar what someone who knew nothing at all about the horses, the Lipizzan tradition or dressage what he’d say people need to come and see, the first word out of his mouth was passion. “I work with the school for over 50 years. I think the most important thing is the passion. You like horses- passion. If you have a real passion for a horse (Like Oscar and the Escuela team do, and of course, Tempel as well), you can learn absolutely. It’s possible. But if you don’t have this passion, if you don’t like to study the real history, the classical equestrian art, and if you don’t put in strong work all day, day by day, step by step, It’s impossible. In our sport, you need training all day. It’s not work—it’s a system of life. That’s the big difference with this school.”
As I stood on the pastoral lawn of Tempel Farms watching Oscar’s team from Escuela and Tempel’s own fantastic horses and riders, that passion was the most obvious thing in the world. Horse and rider are one unit, and the teams from both Illinois and Chile are seamlessly integrated in their delicate dances and exercises. Horse and rider perfectly balanced, perfectly in tune, perfectly poised and concentrated, performing the same amazing routines that represent a tradition centuries old. To see these horses and witness their performances is a rare treat the world over, let alone in the Americas, with Escuela being only the second school located here, and very few across the world. These horses and their traditional classical riding have endured through wars, been preferred and secreted away by generals, and made it to the 21st century, where their magic is still as relevant.
If you’d like to see the Tempel Lipizzans in performances with Escuela Clásica Lipizzana, the international collaboration only has a few more shows scheduled through July 21st at the gala, so you’ll need to act fast. It’s a quick trip (about an hour) on 94 north and relatively easy to get to for an unforgettable day of poetry in motion. Tempel Farms Lipizzans regular performance schedule will extend past Escuela’s exit until September. To see the final performance at the 60th anniversary gala tomorrow, click here, or click here for more about tickets to the regular season.