Tempel Lippizans~ An Intricate Horse Ballet

by Jessica on October 4, 2011



When traveling with kids, even the most painstaking research cannot determine the success or failure of an outing.  Sometimes locales that don't seem to hold much hope for entertainment turn out to be a favorite fun memory.  Other times, you can be certain that the kids will be thrilled beyond words and the outing turns out to be, well, a dud. 

Enter the Tempel Lippizans in Gurnee, Illinois, about an hour north of Chicago.  After four weeks in Chicago, we had easily perused all that the city had to offer and we were looking into the suburbs for new experiences.  The Lippizan Stallions were actually something we had studied in school, so it seemed a shame not to take advantage of the opportunity to see them first hand.  

From the Lippanzan website: The Lipizzaner Stallions is the traditional Grand Quadrille, featuring six to eight Lipizzaner Stallions with their riders performing an intricate, equine ballet, exhibiting maneuvers through the highest level of dressage. The Lipizzans prance,march and intricately weave their way across the floor to the music of the Masters in a spectacular ballet of four-footed white dancers.  Sounds delightful!


My kids, like most, are fascinated with horses and surprisingly, are enraptured by classical music.  I couldn't see how it could be anything but thrilling.  Not to mention the picture on the website showed horses soaring like birds above the ground in gravity defying leaps and bounds.  Life lesson #1: never underestimate the power of a great picture to sell a ticket. 

After driving endlessly though cornfields hoping we were not lost, we arrived and took our seats front and center for the performance.  The music of the Masters swelled and the boys sat quite enraptured by the pageantry of it all.  Then the horses entered.   At first, it seemed as though they were just walking around the stadium and I was gently cautioning the boys to wait for the good stuff to begin. 


The scene unfolded something like this.  First imagine a slooooow waltz by Strauss playing in the background ,as the horses gingerly move their feet.  Doo, doo, dooo, dooo and feet cross.  Doo, doo, doo, dooo, dooo and pause.  Dooo, dooo, dooo, dooo and feet cross. Dooo, doo, doo, doo and pause.  Repeat. For twenty minutes!


Children everywhere began to squirm. Remarkably the entire audience was made up of mostly preschoolers, as it was a midday performance on a weekday.  Behind me a little girl began to whine to her mom that she was bored and the mom, who was selling it hard, told her that the horses were doing splendid ballet.  She thought for a moment and then said, "I don't get it."  I wanted to turn around and commiserate with her that I didn't get it either.

A quick check of the program and I realized that we are only two songs into an eighteen song repertoire.  This is when I began to break into a cold sweat like a cornered animal.   So, I did the only sensible thing I could think of: I faked a dirty diaper and we scooted out the side exit.  You would have to know that from years of stage performance, I have an overdeveloped sense of respect for performers, so it went against my very grain to get up mid performance.  It was one of those 'know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em" moments.

For the remainder of the performance, we strolled through the grounds, which were quite lovely and included displays of chariots and antique fire trucks.  Then we sat at a picnic table under a tree and enjoyed our lunch as we listened to the swells of music and occasionally caught a glimpse of the maneuvers in the arena, some of which were fairly awe inspiring.  From time to time, the boys would even stand up on top of the table to watch the show for a moment and then wander away again to play under the shade.  I can say, the work that both the horses and trainers had dedicated to their craft was apparent and I could appreciate the experience from that perspective. The kids, on the other hand, would have to be bribed with inordinate amounts of sugar to feign any sort of appreciation.


If I had it to do over again, I might choose to watch from the picnic table in the corner, but then again, I might just choose not to go at all. It was not a totally loss, however.  I learned that if you wouldn't take your kids to a regular ballet, then you probably shouldn't take them to a horse ballet.  Adding more feet does not make it more interesting.  Words to live by. 


Melissa Cleaver October 4, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Thanks so much for dropping by the Be-Bop-A Blog Hop!  I'm a follower and I hope you'll stop by again soon!  Have a great day!  :)

walkingontravels October 4, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Certainly fantastic words to love by. And it is so true that photos can be misleading. Just think of all the horrible hotels out there using wide angle lenses to sport teeny tiny rooms. They had a similar horse school in Chicago when we lived there, may have been a branch. Glad I never made the time to make it to a show. 

Lisa October 5, 2011 at 1:34 pm

At least now you can say that you saw the Lipizzaner Stallions and cross that off the list!  I'm very impressed with your quick thinking – always important to have an exit strategy.  (Off topic – didn't know you had a past in stage – I spend a great deal of time in theatres as both of my girls are very involved in music theatre.)

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