By Vickie McDonough
A few years ago, I had the delight of seeing the beautiful Lippizaner horses perform. I have been enamored with them ever since I was a child and saw the Disney movie, The Miracle of the White Stallions.
Around 1562, Archduke Maximilian, later Emperor of Austria, began breeding Spanish horses. A powerful but agile horse was desired both for the military and for use in the fashionable riding schools for the nobility of central Europe. Eighteen years later, Archduke Karl, ruler of four Austrian provinces, established a royal stud farm in Lipizza, located in the hills of Karst, near Trieste.
Fresh Spanish stock and Oriental stallions were added to the bloodline to maintain the strength of the breed. In the 17th and 18th centuries, horses from the northern Italian stud farm at Polesnia and the highly regarded Neapolitan strain were brought to Lipizza to mingle with the resident stock and the descendants of the original Spanish line out of Denmark and Germany.
|Spanish Riding School of Vienna, where the Lipizzaners are trained.|
Alois Podhajsky, the director of the school, made a bold request of the Americans, especially General Patton who himself had ridden in the 1912 Olympics, to save the horses. Patton appreciated the tradition of the Spanish Riding School and arranged the rescue of the breeding mares along with the allied prisoners of war who’d been caring for them, effectively saving the Lipizzaner breed. Had it not been for General Patton, there would be no Lipizzans today.
From the time of their birth, the Lipizzans are raised with people around. Their caregivers and handlers interact with them so much that they are like part of the herd. It’s because of this close bond with their handlers and years and years of training that they are able to perform their beautiful dressage movements and magnificent feats. Originally, their “equestrian arts” were intended to be used in warfare, but today, they delight audiences worldwide.
The most popular dressage movements:
Levade - The horse must maintain a hunched position at a 45-degree angle to the ground, requiring muscle control and perfection of balance that is quite difficult.
Mezair - A series of successive Levades in which the horse lowers its forefeet to the ground before rising again on hindquarters, achieving forward motion.
Capriole - The stallion leaps into the air, drawing his forelegs under his chest at the height of elevation, and kicks out violently with his hind legs. The capriole can take many years of training.
Courbette - The horse balances on the hind legs and then jumps, keeping the hind legs together and the forelegs off the ground.
Here is a link to the official Lipizzaner website which shows a video of each of these beautiful movements: http://www.lipizzaner.com/home.asp Click on the “Airs Above the Ground” link.
|Lipizzan mares with their dark foals|
Though Lippizaners are found in many nations throughout Europe and North America, the breed is relatively rare, with only about 3,000 horses registered worldwide. The number of foals born each year is small, and breeders take extreme care to preserve the purity of the breed. Contrary to popular belief, Lipizzans are not actually true white horses. Most Lipizzans are gray, and like all gray horses, they have black skin, dark eyes, and as adult horses, a white coat of hair. Lipizzans are born dark—usually bay or black—and become lighter each year as the graying process takes place, with the process being complete at between 6 and 10 years of age. Only the most exceptional horses with stamina, beauty, and a good personality are trained to become performers.
More than 40,000,000 people in North America have had the pleasure of seeing the Lipizzaners perform. I hope that you also get to see them one day.
Just released! South Carolina Brides. Visit historic South Carolina where secrets disrupt the lives of three women. A cousin’s quest takes a drastic turn when she falls for the man she thought she despised. A young woman’s sheltered world crumbles after she finds a badly beaten stranger on a nearby plantation. And a sister’s heart is torn when the neighbor who killed her brother in a duel returns home a changed man. Between betrayal and lies, is there room for love?
Vickie McDonough grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams in her fictional stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen and others living in the western 1800s. Vickie is the award-winning author of 29 published books and novellas. Her books include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, and End of the Trail, which was the OWFI 2013 Best Fiction Novel winner. Whispers on the Prairie, which released last July, was chosen by Romantic Times as one of their Recommended Inspirational Books for July.
Vickie is a wife of thirty-eight years, mother of four grown sons, one daughter-in-law, and grandma to a feisty seven-year-old girl. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, antiquing, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com