Monday, June 19, 2017

REVIEW: Tempel Lippizan Show: Great way to spend a Sunday

Photo from the program of the Tempel Lippizans
For the Father's Day holiday, my family and I (wife, son, and mother in law) trekked out to Old Mill Creek, a rural area near Gurnee and about 70 minutes north of Chicago) to see the Tempel Lippizan dressage show.

It was a great show, and a wonderful day trip to take- the perfect way to spend a Sunday.

(DISCLOSURE: We received free tickets to this event in exchange for a possible review.  No money changed hands, and my opinions and ideas are mine alone. My integrity is important to me, and it should be to you too!)


After a leisurely sleep in and breakfast, we all took showers, and got on the road.

 The GPS told us to take the highway, but we decided to go straight up Sheridan Road.  I am so glad we did!  It's a much more beautiful drive than the highway, as you hug the lake for a good portion of the way, and get to see all of the beautiful houses and mansions in Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, and Winnetka.

We drove right by the beautiful Bahai Temple in Wilmette, and that will be another of our day trips I'm sure.

The 13 million dollar house with a private beach.
Up on Sheridan road, the houses become mansions and estates, one more opulent after another.
(If you have a spare 13 million, there's a house with a private beach, a swimming pool, a detached coach house, and 8 bathrooms available.  Of course, the property taxes are over $100K a year. )

 Maybe that should be our third daytrip?

We arrived around 12:35 pm, perfect timing for the 1 pm performance.

There is a small tent for a gift shop/cafe, with burgers and brats and some other snacks available.


The Tempel Lippizans started when  Chicago steel magnate Tempel Smith visited Austria in the late 1950s.  He and his wife visited the Spanish riding school, and fell in love with the Lippizan horses featured there.  The Lippizaners had been bred in Vienna for classical riding and art since the seventeenth century.  During World War II, they were in danger of being eviscerated as casualties of war, but General Patton and his men worked to save the breed.  (This story was made into a 1963 Disney film Miracle of the White Stallions. Buy on Amazon)

When Tempel Smith,  saw these horses, he and his wife decided to bring them to the United States.  By the early 1970's he and his wife had built up their herd to over 450 horses.  In 1982, the first public performances started at their training and breeding facility.

The mission of the Tempel Lipizzans is to promote classical dressage and the Lipizzan breed in the United States through a careful breeding and training program.  This is the 35th year of public exhibitions, and the current owners, Linda Smith Buonanno and Martha Smith Simpson received the Officer's Cross, Grand Decoration of Honor for Service to the Republic of Austria in 1993, for their "careful management of a cultural institution with such close ties to Austria".


This is a rare dark Lippizan horse.
1 in 400 do not become white.
Mare with foal.  Lippizan horses are dark at birth, but gradually
become white as they age.

Horses pulling a carriage in perfect alignment.  Driving
a team of horses like this is a lost art.

The performances show the development of the horses from young stallions all the way up to the Quadrille: A Ballet for Four Stallions and their riders.  All of the performances/demonstrations are set to classical music.  There is even one exhibition showing horses pulling a cart, as apparently, that is something that the Lippizans are well known for.  There are also some aerial jumps and two leg maneuvers.

This horse can jump!  A classic Lippizan trick.

The performances are quite beautiful and stately.  The horses are amazing.  Unlike another horse show we recently reviewed (Cavalia's Odysseo ) this show is not about entertaining and thrilling the audience as much as it is about displaying the amazing precision that both horse and rider need in order to perform these complex cadences and maneuvers.

The show succeeds on its own terms admirably.  It is not without its risks, however-- one of the riders was thrown during the performance that we saw.  She was able to walk it off, and they paused the exhibition to let the horse take a few moments to gain his composure and they continued on.

The show is narrated before each exhibition with a brief informational paragraph or two about each exhibition.  There are 8 different styles shown, including Olympic Dressage, The Long Rein,  Aerial moves (Courbette, Capriole, and Levade) and the aforementioned Quadrille.

At the end of the performance, the audience is invited into the stable to meet the stars and there are even some photo opportunities.

Our day was absolutely beautiful in the mid 80's with a nice breeze.  The stands are shaded, although they do advise to bring sunscreen.

In the case of rain, they have an indoor performance area as well.


The performance season began this past weekend, and will continue on through September on select Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays. Tickets are $27 for adults if purchased online, with a $5 discount for veterans and a $17 rate for kids 4-14.   You can also occasionally find discounted tickets online via Goldstar and other outlets.

 Tempel Farms is located at 17000 Wadsworth Rd in Old Mill Creek, IL.

 For more information, visit

My son and I pose with one of the stars of the show after the exhibition.

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