Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 22, 2017
By Kenneth R. Rosen

Windham, N.Y. — See the mailbox? (click here) This is hallowed starlet ground.

Painted to imitate a big top circus tent, the mailbox on Jenny Vidbel’s property hints at the lives she cares for on her farm in the Catskill Mountains. Down in the fields, a group of horses convened at the edge of woodland during a recent visit. From her house, Ms. Vidbel monitored them and a variety of the animals roaming about 70 acres. She is a third-generation circus trainer and the overseer of recently arrived retirees — more than two dozen horses, a few pigs and a rowdy cluster of dogs from the Big Apple Circus.

It was on this farm more than three decades ago that Ms. Vidbel, 41, entered circus life, a result of her grandparents’ love for performing in circuses and training animals. Ms. Vidbel performed with the animals at Big Apple for more than six years.

With the permanent closing of the Big Apple Circus, which it announced last summer after failing to secure financing for another season, the animal performers became unemployed. Animal advocates worried that they might end up in shelters where they could be euthanized. Instead, the animals have come to live with their Big Apple Circus trainer, Ms. Vidbel.

They retire, and that’s it,” she said. “I’m going to give them this in return for their whole life and make sure they have a great retirement.”...