Tem­pel Farms: An Ed­u­ca­tional Land­mark

the past present and fu­ture of this iconic home of clas­si­cal dres­sage train­ing

Dressage Today - - Content - By Sophia Chavonelle

Nes­tled in the hills of Old Mill Creek, Illi­nois, stands a beau­ti­ful old barn trimmed in deep spruce green, home to the coun­try’s most no­table “danc­ing horses.” A liv­ing his­tory mu­seum, the mar­ble-white stal­lions with Ro­man noses and big, in­tel­li­gent eyes look as though they have stepped out of a Baroque paint­ing. This year marks the 60th an­niver­sary of Tem­pel Farms and the in­tro­duc­tion of these ma­jes­tic Lip­iz­zan horses to the United States.

From Past to Present

Founders Tem­pel Smith and his wife, Es­ther, first fell in love with the Lip­iz­zan horse in the early 1950s when vis­it­ing the Span­ish Rid­ing School in Vi­enna, Aus­tria. In­tel­li­gent, re­spon­sive, ath­letic and pow­er­ful yet still beau­ti­ful to watch, the horses were his­tor­i­cally used for rid­ing in bat­tle. The phys­i­cal de­mand of dres­sage con­di­tioned the horses to use their bod­ies ef­fec­tively, achiev­ing the rider’s goals while main­tain­ing the longevity of the horse.

Tem­pel was im­pressed with the no­bil­ity of the Span­ish Lip­iz­zans and made the in­stru­men­tal de­ci­sion to im­port a frac­tion of this herd to

his home in Illi­nois. Over the next decade, with the help of many pro­fes­sional breed­ers, vet­eri­nar­i­ans and rid­ers, the Smiths grew their herd, main­tain­ing the high­est qual­ity of breed­ing and rid­ing. Dur­ing this time, they also be­gan to put on per­for­mances for pri­vate events or spe­cial oc­ca­sions for au­di­ences, draw­ing the pub­lic eye to the vir­tu­ally un­heard of sport of dres­sage. Formed dur­ing its in­cep­tion, the mis­sion of the Tem­pel Lip­iz­zans is still rel­e­vant to­day: to pro­mote clas­si­cal dres­sage and the Lip­iz­zan breed in the United States through a care­ful breed­ing and train­ing pro­gram.

To­day, this pro­gram is in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized, fa­mously rep­re­sent­ing splen­did horses that meet the high­est of the Lip­iz­zan breed­ing stan­dards.

To main­tain these high stan­dards, Tem­pel seeks to col­lab­o­rate with the ex­perts of the breed and in­tro­duce out­side blood­lines into the stock to keep lines healthy. For ex­am­ple, im­port­ing three preg­nant mares from Piber, Aus­tria, two years ago strength­ened these blood­lines and re­freshed the pro­gram. Even to­day, one can find horses with all six sire lines that date back to the orig­i­nal stal­lions that founded the Lip­iz­zan breed: Con­ver­sano, Siglavy, Neapoli­tano, Pluto, Fa­vory and Maestoso. It is due to the char­ac­ter­is­tics of these six horses that Lip­iz­zans are one of the best-suited breeds for dres­sage with a strong neck, low withers, broad chest and short back.

One of Tem­pel’s con­tin­ual chal­lenges in form­ing a clas­si­cal dres­sage rid­ing team in the United States is the di­verse train­ing back­grounds of the rid­ers, vary­ing from modern com­pet­i­tive to Euro­pean clas­si­cal to the Ger­man train­ing sys­tem. To stream­line and con­nect the­ory to prac­tice, Tem­pel has re­lied on the wis­dom of mas­ter coaches Arthur Kot­tas-Helden­burg and Con­rad Schu­macher, who have proven to be es­sen­tial in nav­i­gat­ing the in­tri­ca­cies of clas­si­cal rid­ing within the team. With help from the mas­ter coaches, mo­ti­vated rid­ers have found suc­cess com­pet­ing their Lip­iz­zans while fur­ther pro­mot­ing the Lip­iz­zan breed and clas­si­cal rid­ing.

Tem­pel has sup­ported its rid­ers in this en­deavor to a pres­ti­gious level. Just two years ago, Jes­sica Starck and her mount, Maestoso Al­faya II, earned the Na­tional Cham­pion ti­tle in the First Level Mu­si­cal Freestyle.

Giv­ing more ex­po­sure to the Lip­iz­zans has proven to not only meet the stan­dards of their mis­sion but also pro­vide per­spec­tive from an out­side eye through the judges. How­ever, when plan­ning com­pe­ti­tions, the rid­ers must also work around Tem­pel’s busy sum­mer per­for­mance sched­ule.

Shar­ing the Magic Of Dres­sage

Tem­pel is up to the chal­lenge of ex­plain­ing dres­sage to non-eques­trian folks, his­tory buffs and lo­cal rid­ers alike. This is not an easy task. When dres­sage rid­ing is har­mo­nious, it looks like very lit­tle is be­ing done. “Bring­ing this to the Amer­i­can pub­lic can be chal­leng­ing,” Ted Goad, lead trainer for Tem­pel, men­tions, “as clas­si­cal rid­ing is not as much a part of our his­tory or tra­di­tions as you would find in Europe.” Though if any barn can cater to the Amer­i­can pub­lic, it’s Tem­pel. By us­ing horses at dif­fer­ent lev­els of train­ing and age in per­for­mances, the ba­sics of dres­sage are shown, em­pha­siz­ing the link to the his­tory of the dis­ci­pline as well as demon­strat­ing their longevity. Each sum­mer, Tem­pel Farms hosts many per­for­mances and opens its doors for tours. Vis­i­tors can look for­ward to dis­cussing their ques­tions with train­ers and meet­ing sev­eral of the stal­lions.

Life at Tem­pel Farms

Not only does Tem­pel train the horses on site, but they are also born and later per­form at the farm. The train­ing of the horses starts at Day One: Foals are han­dled daily and learn the ev­ery­day rou­tines. Once the young are weaned

(at around 6 to 8 months of age), they spend three years ma­tur­ing with­out any in­ten­sive train­ing. Dur­ing that time, they are still han­dled daily and learn to be led, groomed, have their feet trimmed and build other gen­eral ground man­ners, though most of their time is spent out in the fields play­ing with their “class­mates.”

Once they reach 3 ½ years of age, colts and fil­lies are brought to the per­for­mance fa­cil­i­ties to be­gin their for­mal train­ing. Know­ing the horses per­son­ally gives the train­ers a sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage when start­ing them, as they are fa­mil­iar with ev­ery as­pect of the horse’s life up to this point.

The horses at Tem­pel aren’t the only ones re­ceiv­ing an ed­u­ca­tion. As Goad points out, “While Tem­pel Farms does do dres­sage, we are more of a clas­si­cal rid­ing school, which starts at the work­ing-stu­dent level and pro­gresses all the way up through the trainer po­si­tions. While the em­pha­sis of the pro­gram is on clas­si­cal train­ing, we go be­yond the train­ing and teach a whole scope of horse care and man­age­ment as well.”

Be­ing a part of the Tem­pel Lip­iz­zan team isn’t just about rid­ing; stu­dents learn to work as a team for the ben­e­fit of the barn. The team at­mos­phere at Tem­pel Farms is strong: “Gen­er­ally, in com­pe­ti­tion barns the team con­sists of horse, rider and coach. In our barn, our team con­sists of teams of rid­ers, horses and coaches all work­ing to­gether for a com­mon goal.” Tem­pel proves that work­ing to­gether is the best way to run a suc­cess­ful busi­ness, es­pe­cially one with the coun­try’s most pres­ti­gious dres­sage ath­letes in its stalls.

At any given time, there are roughly 35 Lip­iz­zans in full train­ing at Tem­pel. Their level of train­ing ranges from green as grass to Grand Prix. Train­ers and rid­ers work with the horses at a va­ri­ety of lev­els each day. In this way, the Tem­pel sta­bles run very much like any other dres­sage train­ing fa­cil­ity: Work­ing stu­dents and a groom pre­pare horses for the train­ers, stu­dents take lessons and horses ad­vance through the lev­els. The most sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence is the team as­pect of the pro­gram in that horses and rid­ers per­form in a group.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, com­pet­i­tive dres­sage is an in­di­vid­ual sport; very few com­bi­na­tions per­form in pairs or quadrilles at the com­pet­i­tive level. Since the fo­cus of Tem­pel’s pro­gram is the group per­for­mances, all train­ers and rid­ers must have a com­mon goal and be able to reach that goal as a unit. All stal­lions must learn to per­form to­gether, which is no easy feat. It re­quires years of cor­rect han­dling to pre­pare their minds for work in such close quar­ters with oth­ers.

Two days each week are spent in morn­ing train­ing ses­sions, work­ing the horses in-hand and to­ward—for those who have the tal­ent for it—the airs above the ground, also known as the haute Žcole. This time is also used to train the as­sis­tant train­ers, rid­ers and work­ing stu­dents in the art of the haute Žcole. Ex­pe­ri­enced train­ers show them how to guide a horse through each move­ment, which is a skill that takes years of ded­i­ca­tion to mas­ter. Work­ing closely with Ober­bere­it­ers (Chief Rid­ers) Hans Riegler, An­dreas Haus­berger and Arthur Kot­tas-Helden­burg from the Span­ish Rid­ing School, train­ers have high ex­pec­ta­tions and teach their stu­dents the way of Tem­pel. This is the only train­ing fa­cil­ity in the United States where they can learn this art at such a re­spectable level.

Len­don Gray, head of Tem­pel’s work­ing stu­dent and dres­sage ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram, said she is al­ways very im­pressed with the qual­ity of rid­ing at Tem­pel. “From my ex­pe­ri­ence teach­ing at Tem­pel, all of the horses are very well trained, the rid­ers are very tact­ful and pre­cise in their rid­ing,” she said. “I was ex­tremely im­pressed with the over­all im­pres­sion of the pairs.”

The work­ing-stu­dent pro­gram is still an ac­tive ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram in which young peo­ple can live at Tem­pel Farms and learn sta­ble man­age­ment, horse care and clas­si­cal rid­ing on horses at dif­fer­ent lev­els of train­ing. It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for young peo­ple with a spe­cific in­ter­est in work­ing in the dres­sage field. “Work-

ing at Tem­pel would give you a sense of run­ning a busi­ness or at least more so than you might find in your av­er­age dres­sage barn. Man­ag­ing clients, press and events, breed­ing and the his­tor­i­cal as­pect, as well as the barn man­age­ment and train­ing as­pects, are all jug­gled at once.”

To­day, Tem­pel Lip­iz­zans is owned by Martha Smith Simp­son and Linda Smith Buo­nanno, the daugh­ters of Tem­pel and Es­ther Smith. They have been deeply in­vested in car­ry­ing on the Lip­iz­zan tra­di­tion in the United States and con­tinue to sup­port this train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram.

In recog­ni­tion of this, the two re­ceived the pres­ti­gious Of­fi­cer’s Cross, a Grand Dec­o­ra­tion of Honor for Ser­vice to the Re­pub­lic of Aus­tria. This award hon­ored their care­ful man­age­ment of a cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion with close ties to Aus­tria. Their un­com­pro­mis­ing care of these horses and the preser­va­tion of this art will con­tinue to take this style of rid­ing into the fu­ture.

Modern Changes

Over the years, Tem­pel’s pro­gram has greatly ben­e­fit­ted from the ad­di­tion of women rid­ing, train­ing, breed­ing and as­sist­ing with the stal­lions. Un­til re­cently, the clas­si­cal dres­sage world had been dom­i­nated by men. This trend was bro­ken in 1983 when Tem­pel Farms ac­cepted June Ham­mond as the first fe­male élève (work­ing stu­dent). The Span­ish Rid­ing School has also be­gun to in­cor­po­rate more women into its pro­gram.

Also play­ing a role in Tem­pel’s pro­gres­sion over re­cent years has been the de­vel­op­ment of a pre­ven­tive-care team. Each horse’s biome­chan­ics are care­fully an­a­lyzed us­ing photo doc­u­men­ta­tion ev­ery six months, as well as sys­tem­atic video­tap­ing of horses, which pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties to mark progress in train­ing and re­ha­bilita- tion. By study­ing the con­for­ma­tion, mus­cle de­vel­op­ment and ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing for all horses, Tem­pel’s staff knows how to meet each horse’s needs best.

Equine biome­chan­ics, fit­ness and per­for­mance con­sul­tant Anna Haa­gensen has been in­stru­men­tal in pro­vid­ing su­per­vi­sion and plan­ning over the years, which in­cludes best prac­tices in con­di­tion­ing through phys­i­cal ex­er­cises and core-strength­en­ing, specif­i­cally for the highly trained horses. Haa­gensen helps Tem­pel in the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of in­jured horses as well. Tem­pel also re­ceives help from Dr. Ni­cole Rom­bach, sporthorse-ther­apy spe­cial­ist, and her Equicore Con­cepts, cre­ated to help strengthen the core of equine ath­letes.

Also play­ing an im­por­tant role is AVCA-cer­ti­fied equine chi­ro­prac­tor Mike Buskhol, whose knowl­edge in re­bal­anc­ing equine pos­ture has greatly helped keep the Lip­iz­zans happy and sound. While the en­tire Tem­pel team plays an im­por­tant role in the suc­cess of the Lip­iz­zans, cor­rect rid­ing is the most valu­able el­e­ment in main­tain­ing the health of the horses.

Though the phi­los­o­phy of Tem­pel Lip­iz­zans has evolved over the years, the core mis­sion has re­mained the same: to pro­mote clas­si­cal dres­sage. Over the past 60 years, the team‘s ded­i­ca­tion to their meth­ods of breed­ing, han­dling and train­ing these beau­ti­ful and pow­er­ful horses has proven to be im­mensely suc­cess­ful.

The hopes and goals for the fu­ture are many: To keep stan­dards high for the con­tin­u­a­tion of the breed; to fur­ther the ed­u­ca­tional por­tion of the pro­gram with a mu­seum ded­i­cated to the horses, horse­man­ship, Tem­pel’s his­tory and the his­tory of the breed; to share an ex­pan­sive col­lec­tion of books; and to keep Tem­pel Farms as an ed­u­ca­tional land­mark, where horse-peo­ple of all dis­ci­plines con­tinue to visit to find kin­dred spir­its with two legs or four.

Linda Leff­in­g­well and Pluto An­dorella

The mis­sion of the Tem­pel Lip­iz­zans is still rel­e­vant to­day: to pro­mote clas­si­cal dres­sage and the Lip­iz­zan breed in the United States through care­ful breed­ing and train­ing.

Tem­pel Lip­iz­zans brings dres­sage to the Amer­i­can pub­lic.

Tem­pel Smith and his wife, 'sther, first fell in love with the Lip­iz­zan horse in the early 19S0sL

With help from the mas­ter coaches, mo­ti­vated rid­ers have found suc­cess com­pet­ing their Lip­iz­zans, while fur­ther pro­mot­ing the breed and clas­si­cal rid­ing. *GRG .KNFC .GĘNIVGĚĚ RKFGS 2ĚTěO #NFORGĚĚC

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