Use and characteristics of the Lippizaner
Lippizaners are often called “the dancing white horses” and with good reason! The Spanish Riding School has raised riding to an art form over the centuries. Horses of the breed mature late and live for a long time, being active into their 20s and even 30s. Many equestrians buy a Lippizaner knowing that their relationship will deepen and grow for a long time. Standing between 14.2 hands (58 inches/147 cm) and 15.2 hands (62 inches/157 cm) high, the compact Lippizaner is an excellent choice for many riders and is suitable for several equestrian activities. Breeders also sell a taller Lippizaner for carriage driving.
Origin and history of breeding Lippizaners
Lippizaners have an almost magical reputation among people who love horses. Their story is an important part of European history. It begins in the 16th century when two brothers of the imperial Habsburg dynasty established two famous stud farms. Maximilian II, son of the emperor Ferdinand I, first established a stud at Kladrub in Bohemia in 1562, while in 1580 his brother Archduke Charles founded the Lipica (Lipizza) stud near Trieste. They both used Spanish and Neapolitan horses, as these were the two elite types of European warhorse. They also represented the future, as the solid great horse of medieval times was giving way to the more athletic form of a cavalry horse, suitable for new tactics and weapons. The first coaches and carriages were also coming into use, a revolutionary change in transport that would bring about radical changes in horse breeding. In time, the Kladruber horses developed into a heavier coaching type, while the Lippizaners were ideal for carriage work and for riding. Over the centuries, different breeds of horse, including Arabians, also contributed to the Lippizaner breed. All modern Lippizaners descend from eight stallions of the 17th and 18th centuries, six of which are called the “classical dynasties”. While most modern Lippizaners are famous for their white coats, they are born black and lighten with age. In the past, Lippizaners had diverse coat colours, including piebald, many of which were recorded in paintings by Hamilton and others.
In 1735, the Spanish Riding School was constructed in Vienna and the enduring link between Lipizzaners and their famous school began. The training methods used were those of the Duke of Newcastle and Antoine de Pluvinel, and this tradition of Baroque horsemanship continues to this day. The beautiful white Lippizaners have survived wars, illness and even an earthquake at Lipica in 1802. At the end of WWII, during "Operation Cowboy," the school’s director Alois Podhajsky and the US military under General Patton rescued 375 Lippizaners and many other horses as the Soviet army advanced. Eventually, the Lippizaners were restored to the Piber Stud in Austria, which is home to the school’s breeding stock today.
Lipizzaners in equestrianism
These intelligent, talented horses excel at dressage, particularly dressage to music. In the Spanish Riding School, they are famed for their “airs above the ground” a series of spectacular movements such as the courbette, which take great skill and time to perfect.