Four riders from the Culver Summer Schools & Camps horsemanship program will be putting in extra hours as soon as they arrive on campus this weekend. They will begin preparing the Friesian Color Guard for an appearance at Tempel Farms in Wadsworth, Ill., on Wednesday, July 8.
The four riders will present the colors at the 1 p.m. (CDT) matinee performance of the Tempel Lipizzans. Tempel Farms is the home of the world’s largest privately owned herd of Lipizzan horses. Since 1958, when Tempel and Esther Smith imported 20 Lipizzans from Austria, the horses have performed at various fuctions throughout the United States. The performances at Tempel Farms follow in the tradition of the famed Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
As part of the 2015 performances, Tempel Farms is celebrating the 70th anniversary of “Operation Cowboy,” the saving of the Lipizzan breed by Gen. George S. Patton, said program coordinator Emily Riccio-Robbins, who attended Culver’s summer equestrian specialty camp in 2000 and 2001.
In April 1945, the Germans evacuated Hostau, Bohemia, where 350 of the horses were being kept. With the town between the U.S. and Russian armies, the fear was the Russians, who were running low on supplies, might kill the horses for food.
But a German officer who wanted to save the Lipizzans surrendered to the Second Mechanized U.S. Cavalry Regiment. Known only as Col. Walter H., he asked U.S. commander Col. Charles Reed to save the horses. They devised a plan and got Patton’s approval, who said, “Get them. Make it fast!”
On May 15, 1945, the horses were evacuated by train through the Bohemian Forest to U.S.-occupied Bavaria. From there, the horses were reunited with a small group Lipizzan stallions that had been moved earlier.
The mostly white Lipizzans will be a sharp contrast to Culver’s all-black Friesians. Standing more than 16 hands high and weighing more than 1,500 pounds each, the Friesians are part of Culver’s famous Black Horse Troop. The Friesian Color Guard is modeled after the United States Marine Corps Palomino Mustangs. The Friesians and the Palomino Mustangs may be the only two military single breed mounted color guard units in the country.
Summer performances provide the opportunity to use girl riders as saber bearers. The unit riding in the Tempel Farms ceremony will include two boys and two girls, said Frank Stubblefield, who is in charge of the summer horsemanship program. The farm is located at 17000 Wadsworth Road, Wadsworth, Ill.
The Friesian Color Guard has already made appearances at the opening ceremonies for Arlington Park (Ill.) Race Track and the Indianapolis 500 Festival parade. When the boarding school students return this fall, they will immediately begin practicing for major appearances at the Breeders Cup in Lexington, Ky., and the grand opening of a horse park in Aiken, S.C. The final appearance of 2015 will in the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Chicago.