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Lipizzan stallions: The History of the Lipizzaner classical dressage horses

Updated on December 20, 2011


Lipizann stallions are some of the strongest and most athletic horses in the world. It can take up to a decade to train them to perform the stunning manoeuvres.

The Queen of England is a fan of the breed, and she is one of the few women who have been allowed to ride the powerful beasts. A year after she came to the throne she saddled up on a horse called Pluto Theodorasta when the Spanish Riding School of Vienna visited London.

The Spanish Riding School of Vienna was founded in 1572 with Andalusian horses that were very much appreciated by the courts of Europe for their elegance, their gait, and personality.

But from 1580, import difficulties, particularly because of the war, lead the Archduke Charles II to establish his own stud farm in Austria, near Vienna, to raise horses for the Imperial Stables. He chose the village of Lipica (now Slovenia) on the Kras plateau (or Karst) - whose conditions are similar to those of Andalusia and horses known since ancient times for their endurance and strength.

A white Lipizanner stallion performs a 'goat's leap' during a show in London
A white Lipizanner stallion performs a 'goat's leap' during a show in London

The Archduke imported from Spain the first three standards brincos and six other stallions and 24 mares. This double cross-breeding of imported horses with the old indigenous race of the Karst (Kras or) give birth to the breed of Lipizzan Horse. Subsequently the court of Vienna dedicated itself to improving this new race and continued to buy more Spanish horses.

From 1700, there was a new blood supply from standard Italian, German, and Danish origin. Montedoro breeders began to produce the grey wolf coats and piebald colours that were popular at the time. However, it is thanks to infusions of Arab blood, that genetically favored the white dress, the creatures became known as ‘imperial horses’. The striking white coat later became one of the characteristics of the breed.

A prestigious Lipizzan horse performs the very difficult levade
A prestigious Lipizzan horse performs the very difficult levade

The Lipizzan horses’s characteristics ensured that they were used in parades, battles and the the inauguration of the imperial riding school of the Spanish School of Vienna. The Lipizzan soon replaced the Andalusian and remained to this day the main stallion used in great carousels and lavish parties.

Under the reign of Empress Maria Theresa as the lines of Lipizzans become clearer, livestock was limited to five, then six lines called that were called pure. These were:

  • PLUTO: Andalusian grey
  • CONVERSANO: Neapolitan black
  • MAESTOSO: A Grey
  • FAVORY: Originated from the Stables of Kladrub
  • NEAPOLITANO: A Napolitain bay
  • SIGLAVY: : A Thoroughbred Arab that created a new and final line

These six ‘classic’ lines and eighteen classical families of mares (the gray Karts) form the basis of livestock and are the only accepted today at the National Stud Piber (where young males are raised from the Spanish School of Vienna).

There are two other stallions whose lineages persist to this day, the Transylvanian Incitato Tulipan and Croatian.

Originally, the horses were called ‘the Spanische Karst’ and was known as ‘ the horse of the strain of the Lipizzaner breed of Kras'. It was created in 1860 and the name ‘Lipizzaner’ was assigned to the remaining horses in Lipica, while the semi-heavy line moved permanently to Italy on the orders of the authorities, to be raised to Kladrub, and took the name ‘Kladrub’.

The various wars that ignited Central Europe for four centuries caused multiple outflows of the breeds. Large traditional National Studs which specialise in Lipizzan horses are now at: Piber in Austria, Lipica in Slovenia, Djacovo in Croatia, Szilvasvarad in Hungary, Topolcianskiy in Slovakia, Kladruby in Czech Republic, Simbata de Jos in Romania and Monterotondo, Italy.

That of Piber, selected for its expression, its nobility, the harmony between his body and his movements, his good character, his pride and his great intelligence, is designed for coaches of the Imperial Court and the Spanish School of Vienna. This work of school also serves as the ultimate selection for breeding stallions who return annually to the Federal Stud Piber.

The Lipica Stud Farm also provides breeding Lipizzaner noble, but the selection is different and the males do not pass to the Vienna School to participate more international dressage competition.

The selection of fillies in place of competition models and looks like it is rigorous.
In the other state the Lipizzaner stud farm is often high for the team, but also to improve the breeds of horses used in agriculture. The Lipizzan is more rustic, suitable for the terrain, the small mountain. It is durable, easy to feed and, also, of great kindness.

It is also a tradition to brand Lipizzans with markings. On the left part of the rump is the mark of the stud. For example, for Piber, a P surmounted by the crown of the emperors of Austria,will be placed here.

At the left part of the seat, the initial of the horse’s father or mother is placed here. On the right of the saddle is the number of the registration of foals.The point at which the jaw joins the throat is marked with an L for Lipizzaner.

According to tradition, the classic lines of the six standards are represented by the first letter of each line. This is ‘P’ Pluto, ‘C’ for Conversano, ‘F’ for Favory, ‘M’ for Maestoso, ‘N’ for Neapolitano or ‘S’ for for Siglavy.When it comes to the lineage and the relation to the father of the mother (maternal grandfather) of a colt or a filly they are branded with a sign.


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      6 years ago

      cruel no matter what..there heads are forced down at all times, they develop an unnatural curve to the neck with their heads being forced down..those "intricate moves" are abusive to learn and "perform" this is sadism at its worst who cares how much the Viennese "pamper" them these animals have no choice if it looks uncomfortable and cruel it is! Viennese should get a life.. and quit their Spanish Riding School abuse of horses..figures it began in Spain where animal cruelty is bred in mother's milk.. do not support this cruel sadistic treatment of horses and no, horses do not need a "job"!!!


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