From Academic Kids

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A Lipizzaner
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A Lippizzaner of the Spanish Riding School

The Lipizzan horses, or Lipizzaner, are very closely associated with what is called the Spanish Riding School, which is the oldest riding academy in the world. It dates back to at least as early as 1565, during the Habsburg monarchy. The horses take their name from the fact that the stud farm where they are bred is located in a Kras village Lipica (Italian: Lipizza), near Trieste in nowadays Slovenia.


Breed Characteristics

The typical horse of this breed measures between fourteen and sixteen hands. They are compact and muscular, with very powerful hindquarters, allowing it to do the difficult High School Dressage movements. They generally have a fairly large head, carried quite high, and a convex face. They have short cannons, their legs have good bone, and the breed has sloping shoulders.Their gaits are powerful and elastic, although perhaps not as flamboyant as some of the warmblood breeds. They are naturally balanced, with excellent trainability, for which they are well-known, and are very intelligent.

Aside from the rare bay, all Lipizzans are gray. As with all gray horses, they are born dark and slowly lighten as the graying process takes place, resulting in a horse that looks white by the time they reach their teens. The Lipizzaner is a long-lived horse, used into its 20s.

Breed History

The breed is founded on Spanish horses, from which the Spanish Riding School takes its name. In the 16th century, High School riding became the fashionable thing for European courts. In 1580, Archduke Charles II of Austria imported nine stallions and twenty-four mares from Spain. With these horses, most of them Andalusians, he established a stud in Lipizza to breed for mounts for High School Dressage. The stud continued to import Spanish horses, as well as Neapolitans from Italy, as the years went on. Today, all Lipizzaners trace to six stallions, all with Andalusian blood from horses imported in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These six stallions are:

  • Pluto: a gray Spanish stallion from the Royal Danish Stud, foaled in 1765
  • Conversano: a black Neopolitan stallion, foaled in 1767
  • Neapolitano: a brown Neopolitan stallion, foaled in 1790
  • Favory: a dun stallion from the Kladruby stud, foaled in 1779
  • Maestoso: a gray stallion foaled at the Hungarian stud of Mezohegyes in 1819
  • Siglavy: a gray Arabian stallion, foaled in 1810

Although today most Lipizzaners are gray, there were many, up until the 18th century, other common coat colors, including dun, bay, and spotted. Today, it is traditional for the Spanish Riding School to have one bay Lipizzaner in residence, and if there is none, it is thought to bring bad luck to the area.

In 1735, Charles VI established the Spanish Riding School and recorded the bloodlines of the Lipizzaners. He also built a winter riding hall in the imperial palace in Vienna.

World War II was a dangerous time for the Lipizzaners, and they had to be rescued by US troops. Only 250 horses remained.

After 1945, Piber became the main stud for the horses used in Vienna. The breeding became very selective, only allowing only stallions that had proved themselves at the Riding School and mares that had passed rigorous performance testing.

The Modern Lippizzaner

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Lipizzan of italian breed

Today, the breed is rare, with only about 3,000 horses registered. However, their numbers are increasing, with Lipizzaners bred around the world. The purebreds are excellent harness horses, as are the crossbreds. In Slovenia, stallions are used for dressage displays, and are crossed with local farm mares to make good agricultural horses. Of course, the horses shine in Classical dressage, performing the High School 'airs above the ground' with ease. And the Lipizzan stallions are the only horses still used by the Spanish Riding School.

The 'Airs'

The 'airs above the ground' are what the Lipizzaners are known for. They include:

  • The levade: a 45 degree position haunched over the ground that requires an incredible amount of strength.
  • The courbette: where the horse balances on its hind legs before jumping, keeping his forelegs off the ground and his hindlegs together as he "hops."
  • The capriole: where the stallion leaps into the air, tucking his forelegs under himself, and kicking out with his hindlegs at the height of elevation.
  • The croupade: similar to the capriole, but both fore and hindlegs are tucked under the body at the height of elevation.

Other moves include the Piaffe, pirouette, flying changes, extended movements, and other Classical dressage movements.


Alois Podhajsky, My Horses, My Teachers, Doubleday, 1968, ISBN 1570760918. P. 132f.

The motion picture entitled Florian (1940) depicted the Spanish Riding School and the rescue of its horses from invading Nazi forces. It was directed by Edwin L. Marin and scripted by Noel Langley and James Kevin McGuinness. It is not currently available.

External links


sl:Lipicanec sv:Lipizzaner


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