Hooves of Fury

On Sunday afternoon, my wife, father-in-law and I cantered over to the Rose Garden Arena to watch the “World Famous” LIPIZZANER STALLIONS. (Please note that the official, branded name of the company is exactly that: The “World Famous” LIPIZZANER STALLIONS).

The company tours nationally and internationally and has reportedly been seen by some 27 million people since 1970. The tour stop before Portland was McMinnville; the next eight stops are Yakima, Pendleton, Okanogon, Ellensberg, Spokane, Moses Lake, and Walla Walla. At the end of July they’ll be performing in Wasila, Alaska. We’ll see how it plays in Peoria when the show arrives there in mid-September. You get the picture? This is one heavy-duty touring show. To survive under such touring conditions, you would have to be strong as a … well… as a horse.

One of the benefits of working in the nonprofit arts world is the occasional complimentary ticket thrown your way. Sometimes you're offered a comp as a friendly gesture, sometimes they're given to curry favor, and often someone just wants to fill empty seats (“paper the house”) so the paying guests won’t be alarmed by finding themselves sitting alone in an empty venue.

My wife grew up with horses. Her family still have a brace of them kicking around the farm, so I figured she might enjoy the show. We offered the extra ticket to her father, who was happy to tag along and do the driving. As for me, I considered the show to be market research. I’m always curious about how our for-profit cultural competitors manage to grab a respectable share of the family entertainment dollar. Entertainment extravaganzas attract a sizeable audience to places like the Rose Garden and Memorial Coliseum. Shows such as Disney on Ice, the Ice Capades, and Kings of Death Metal on Ice are popular and, I presume, lucrative.

While my tickets were free, here’s what a family of four might have spent for the two hour show we enjoyed:

Tickets for 2 Adults = $80.00 ($32.50 + $7.50 fee each)
Tickets for 2 Kids = $76.00 ($30.50 + $7.50 fee)
Delivery Fees = $4.50 (with $2 extra for Will Call)
Order Charge = $4.75
Parking = $10.00
Souvenir Program = $12.00 (sorry kids, you’ll have to share)
Souvenir T-shirt for the boy = $25.00
Souvenir hoodie for the girl = $35.00
Souvenir throw blanket for Grandma = $75.00*
4 burger basket meals = $38.00
2 sodas in souvenir cups = $15.00
1 Red Bull for Mom = $6.00
4 Widmers for Dad = $32.00
3 frozen yogurt waffle cones = $16.50 (Dad will just have another beer)
1 cream cheese stuffed pretzel for Grandma = $5.00*

TOTAL $436.75

* Presumes Grandma is waiting in the car during the show.

Perhaps it was that potential price tag that left most of the seats in the Rose Garden empty. The north quarter of the arena was closed to create a backstage for the ponies, and the 300 level (nose bleed seats) was shut down. I’m bad at estimating numbers, but my rough guess is that the place was maybe one-third full ---2,000-3,000 people at most. That’s a full house in the Keller Auditorium. Not too shabby, except that I’ll bet the promoters took a big loss on that show.

Heavily represented in the audience were: (1) Little girls who love ponies; (2) People with walkers; and, (3) Sailors in town for Fleet Week. (I’m kidding about the sailors). The crowd was not what I would call diverse. Now that I think about it, there are probably more African Americans on the Rose Garden court at one time during a Blazer’s game than there were watching The “World Famous” LIPAZZANER STALLIONS.

What about the show? Despite my studied attempt to appear jaded and cynical, I tell you the show was fun--both entertaining and educational. The emcee, Troy Tinker (seriously), introduced the horses and riders while presenting the Lipizzaner's long history and explaining the various maneuvers as they were performed. The first half of the show was essentially a demonstration of dressage techniques. In one section titled, “Airs Above the Ground,” techniques honed in battle were demonstrated--techniques such as the “Capriole” in which the stallion leaps into the air, draws his forelegs under his chest, and kicks out violently with his hind legs. Then there’s the “Courbette” which requires the horse to rear up, then hop on its rear legs. This move is known to leave the enemy slack-jawed and dumfounded. Here’s the Courbette in action:

I don’t know how I would have felt had I paid for the tickets, but we had a good time watching some remarkable performers--human and equine. I can think of only six things that would have made the “World Famous” LIPIZZANER STALLIONS show better:

1) Add a unicorn or two.
2) Put on a jousting match in the second act.
3) Invite celebrity stallions to compete.
4) Add the word “X-TREME” to the name.
5) Harlem Globetrotters vs. Lipizzaner Stallions.
6) Narrator: Charles Bukowski.

Photo: Not a real Lipizzaner Stallion, this is one of Portland's famous sidewalk ponies tethered to a horse ring in my neighborhood.


Miss Laura said...

Oh, man. If I tried that Courbette trick, I would surely fall off and break my head. Actually, if I just got on a horse I would surely fall off and break my head. The perils of having not grown up in Pendleton. Could I just get a cream cheese stuffed pretzel to go?

Unknown said...

I ... am ... stunned.

What a glorious report! Haven't seen any unicorns in the vicinity since my daughter was 9.

Stephen said...

My company gave away two tickets to this event & really wanted to win them!
Lucky you. Great pic.