Infobox Horse
name= Lipizzan
status = DOM

image_caption= A modern Lipizzan
altname= Lipizzaner
country= Developed in Central Europe from Spanish and local stock. Today associated with nations of Austria and Slovenia
group1= Lipizzaner Society of Great Britain
group2=Lipizzan International Federation
group3=Lipizzan Association of North America
features = Compact, muscular, generally associated with the Spanish Riding School|

The Lipizzan or LipizzanerPronounced "Lip-ah-Zahn" (from French) or "Lip-ah-Zah-ner" (from German).] (Slovene "Lipicanec"), is a breed of horse closely associated with the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria where the finest representatives demonstrate the "haute ecole" or "high school" movements of classical dressage, including the highly controlled, stylized jumps and other movements known as the "airs above the ground." The Lipizzan breed dates back to the 16th century, when it was developed with the support of the Habsburg nobility. The breed takes its name from one of the earliest stud farms established, located near the Kras village of Lipica (spelled "Lipizza" in Italian), in modern-day Slovenia.


The ancestors of the Lipizzan can be traced to approximately A.D. 800.cite web|url=|title=The Lipizzaner|accessdate=2008-09-17|author=|publisher=Equiworld|work=Equiworld Website] The predecessors of the Lipizzan included desert horses that were brought into Spain from North Africa and crossed on native Spanish horses, creating breeds such as the Andalusian and other Iberian horses.Fact|date=September 2008

By the 16th Century, when the Hapsburg Empire ruled both Spain and Austria, a powerful but agile horse was desired for both military uses and for use in the fashionable and rapidly-growing riding schools for the nobility of central Europe. Therefore, in 1562, the Hapsburg Emperor Maximillian II brought the Spanish horse to Austria and founded the court stud at Kladrub. In 1580, his brother, Archduke Charles II, established a similar stud in 1580 at Lipizza (now spelled Lipica), located in modern-day Slovenia), from which the breed obtained its name.cite web|url=|title=Lipizzan Origins|accessdate=2008-09-17|author=|publisher=Lipizzan Association of North America|work=LANA Website] Kladrub and Lipizza stock were bred to the native Karst (Kras) horses, and succeeding generations were crossed with the old Neapolitan breed and horses of Spanish descent obtained from Spain, Germany, and DenmarkThe studs also imported more Spanish horses, as well as Neapolitans from Italy, as the years went on. While breeding stock was exchanged between the two studs, Kladrub specialized in producing heavy carriage horses, while riding and light carriage horses came from the Lipizza stud.

Beginning in 1920, the Piber stud, near Graz, Austria, became the main stud for the horses used in Vienna. Breeding became very selective, only allowing stallions that had proved themselves at the Riding School to stand at stud, and only breeding mares who had passed rigorous performance testing.cite web|url=|title=The Lipizzan Horses|accessdate=2008-09-17|author=|publisher=Piber Stud|work=Piber Stud Website]

Foundation horses

Today, all Lipizzans recognized worldwide trace to six classical foundation stallions and two partially recognized studs. In order foaled, they are:
* Pluto: a gray Spanish stallion from the Royal Danish Stud, foaled in 1765
* Conversano: a black Neapolitan stallion, foaled in 1767
* Maestoso: a gray Kladruber stallion, foaled in 1773
* Favory: a dun stallion from the Kladrub stud, foaled in 1779
* Neapolitano: a bay Neapolitan stallion from Polesina, foaled in 1790
* Siglavy: a gray Arabian stallion, originally from Syria, foaled in 1810cite web|url=|title=Lipizzans|accessdate=2008-09-19|publisher=Ritter Dressage|work=Classical Dressage]

There are two other stallion lines, found in Croatia, Hungary, and other eastern European countries as well as in North America. They are accepted as equal to the 6 classical lines by LIF (Lipizzan International Federation). [cite web|url=|title=Breed Standards|accessdate=2008-09-19|publisher=Lipizzan International Federation|work=LIF website] These are:
* Tulipan (English "Tulip"): this line started in the Croatian stud farm of Terezovac, owned by Count Janković. Horses of this line are of Spanish Neapolitan descent, crossed with other Lipizzans during the 19th century, forming the Tulipan line around 1880.
*Incitato: the foundation sire of this Hungarian line was foaled in Mezőhegyes in 1802. The Incitato line is derived from Spanish and Italian sources.

In addition to the foundation stallions, there are 18 mare family lines in the classical tradition, along with three Arabian mare lines that are extinct. However, some organizations recognize up to 35 mare lines.

There are traditional naming patterns for both stallions and mares, required by Lipizzan breed registries. Stallions all have double names, with the first being the sire's lineage name and the second being the dam's name. Therefore, "Pluto Theodorosta" would be a stallion of the sire line tracing to the foundation sire Pluto out of a mare named Theodorosta. The names of mares must be complementary to traditional Lipizzan line names and also have the requirement that they must end with the letter "a". [cite web|url=|title=Rules/Evaluations|accessdate=2008-09-17|publisher=Lipizzan Association of North America|work=LANA Website]

The Spanish Riding School

The world-famous Spanish Riding School uses highly trained Lipizzan stallions in public performances that demonstrate classical dressage movements and training.cite web|url=|title=Famous Schoolstallions|publisher=Spanish Riding School|work=Spanish Riding School website|accessdate=2008-09-19] In 1572 the first Spanish Riding Hall was built, during the Austrian Empire, and is the oldest of its kind in the world. [cite book |author=Podhajsky, Alois |title=The Complete Training of Horse and Rider |publisher=Doubleday |location= |year=1967|pages= |isbn=0-948253-51-7 |oclc= |doi=] The Spanish Riding School, though located in Vienna, Austria, takes its name from the original Spanish heritage of its horses. In 1729 Charles VI commissioned the building of the Winter Riding School in Vienna and in 1735, the building was completed that remains the home of the Spanish Riding School today.cite web|url=|title=History SRS|accessdate=2008-09-17|publisher=Spanish Riding School|work=Spanish Riding School website]

The rescue of the Lipizzans

World War II presented perhaps the greatest threat ever faced by the Lipizzan breed. The breeding stock was taken by the Nazis from Piber to a German-run stud farm at Hostau, in what today is the Czech Republic. Threatened by bombing raids, the stallions later evacuated Vienna for St. Martin's, in upper Austria. Under the leadership of Alois Podhajsky, then the director of the Spanish Riding School, both the stallions and the equestrian traditions were preserved. However, there were still harsh challenges; while safe from aerial attacks, there was little food for human or animals, and starving refugees sometimes attempted to steal the horses, viewing them as a source of meat.cite web|url=|title=The 2nd Cavalry|accessdate=2008-09-17|author=|publisher=White Stallion Productions|work=The "World Famous" Lipizzaner Stallions]

In 1945, the United States Army took control of St. Martins. General George S. Patton, of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Group, had been a fellow equestrian competitor with Podhajsky in the Olympic Games prior to the war. The two men renewed their acquaintance, and after an impressive performance by the remaining horses and riders of the school in front of Patton and Undersecretary of War Robert Patterson, the Americans agreed to place the stallions under the protection of the United States until they could safely be returned to the people of Austria after the war.

When Hostau fell behind Soviet lines, captured German officers, under interrogation by U.S. Army Captain Ferdinand Sperl, reported the Lipizzans' location and asked the Americans to rescue the horses before they fell into Soviet hands, because it was feared they would be slaughtered for horsemeat. Patton issued orders, and on April 28, 1945, Colonel Charles H. Reed, Sperl's superior officer, with members of Troops A, C and F of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, conducted a raid behind Soviet lines and accepted the surrender of the Germans at Hostau. Reed later said that the surrender was "more a fiesta than a military operation, as the German troops drew up an honor guard and saluted the American troops as they came in." Although only 250 Lipizzans survived the war, the breed was saved.Fact|date=September 2008

In 2005, the Spanish Riding School celebrated the 60th anniversary of George S. Patton's rescue by touring the United States. [cite journal|url=|title=After 15 Year Absence Legendary Lipizzaner Stallions of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna Set Return for U.S. Tour|journal=Business Wire|date=2005-05-05|accessdate=2008-09-19]

The modern Lipizzan

Today, though found in many nations throughout Europe and North America, the breed is relatively rare, with only about 3,000 horses registered worldwide. However, their numbers are increasing. Lipizzans still shine in classical dressage, performing the High School "airs above the ground" with ease. Lipizzan stallions are still the "Dancing White Horses," the only horses used by the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Both purebred and crossbred Lipizzans make excellent riding and harness horses. While popular for dressage exhibitions and recreational riding in Europe and North America, in some countries (such as Slovenia) stallions are crossed with local mares to make good farm horses in addition to being used for dressage.Fact|date=September 2008

Because of the status of Lipizzans as the only breed of horse developed in Slovenia, via the Lipizza stud, Lipizzans are recognized in Slovenia as a national symbol. For example, a pair of Lipizzans is featured on the 20-cent Slovenian euro coins. [cite web|url=|publisher=Network Europe|title=Slovenia Banks on the Euro|author=Manske, Michael|accessdate=2008-09-24]


Most Lipizzans measure between 14.2 and 15.2 hands, with occasional individuals over or under. They are compact and muscular, with very powerful hindquarters, allowing them to do the difficult "High School" (Dressage) movements, including the "airs above the ground." They generally have a strong-featured head with a convex profile, set high on a well-muscled, arched neck. They have short cannons, their legs have good bone, and well-sloped shoulders. Their gaits are powerful and elastic, although different in style from the Warmblood breeds seen in many dressage competitions. Lipizzans are naturally balanced, well-known for excellent trainability and intelligence.Fact|date=September 2008

Lipizzans are slow to mature, usually not being put under saddle until the age of four, and not considered fully mature until the age of seven. However, they also are long-lived horses, often performing well into their mid-20s, and living into their thirties. For example, the stallion Siglavy Mantua I was a featured solo performer with the Spanish Riding School at the age of 26 during its 2005 tour of the United States.Fact|date=September 2008


Aside from the rare solid-colored horse (usually bay or black), most Lipizzans are gray. Like all gray horses, they have black skin, dark eyes, and as adult horses, a white hair coat. Gray horses, including 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. Contrary to popular belief, Lipizzans are not actually true white horses. A white horse is born white, has pink skin and usually has blue eyes.cite web|url=|title=Introduction to Coat Color Genetics|work=Veterinary Genetics Laboratory|publisher=University of California - Davis|accessdate=2008-09-19]

Until the 18th century, Lipizzans had other coat colors, including dun, bay, chestnut, black, piebald and skewbald. However, gray is a dominant gene. Gray was the color preferred by the royal family, and so the color was emphasized in breeding practices. Thus, in a small breed population when the color was deliberately selected as a desirable feature, it came to be the color of the overwhelming majority of Lipizzan horses. [cite web|url=|title=Lipizzaner|publisher=Oklahoma State University|work=Breeds of Livestock|accessdate=2008-09-19] However, today, it is a long-standing tradition for the Spanish Riding School to have one bay or black Lipizzan in residence, [cite book|title=Horse Breeds of the World|author=Swinney, Nicola Jane and Bob Langris|url=|publisher=Globe Pequot|date=2006|isbn=1592289908|page=p. 52] showing respect to an old belief that doing so will prevent bad luck.Fact|date=September 2008


The traditional training methods for Lipizzans were developed at the Spanish Riding School and are based on the principles of classical dressage, a method of training refined during the Baroque period, developed partly for military purposes, partly for exhibitions at European royal households, with techniques specifically adapted to the temperament and conformation of horses of the time, the predecessors of breeds, like the Lipizzan, that are now referred to as "Baroque horses." The methods used by the Riding School originated with the methods taught by François Robichon de la Gueriniere. It is a common myth that the movements were developed to aid in battle; in fact, they were used to strengthen the war horse's body and mind and make him a supreme athlete.Fact|date=September 2008

The fundamentals taught to the Lipizzan stallions at the Spanish Riding School were passed down via an oral tradition until they were written down in 1898 by His Excellency Field Marshall Franz Holbein and Senior Rider Franz Meixner. Some say that though the principles have been written down, the fundamental methods for training horses in classical dressage can only be passed down through a one-on-one interaction between instructor and student, as these techniques require substantial amounts of explanation, demonstration, and sensing by the pupils themselves.Fact|date=September 2008

Young stallions come to the Spanish Riding School for training when they are four years old. Full training takes an average of six years for each horse, and a horse is considered trained when they have mastered the "School Quadrille". There are three fundamental skill sets taught to the stallions, which are:cite web|url=|title=The Training Programme|accessdate=2008-09-17|author=|publisher=Spanish Riding School|work=Spanish Riding School Website]

* Forward riding, also called "Straight riding" or the "Remontenschule" - The first year of training, where a young horse is taught to be saddled and bridled, started on the longe, and then ridden in an arena on straight lines, to teach correct responses to the rider's aids while mounted. The main goals during this time are to develop free forward movement, riding in as natural a position as possible.
* Campaign school, "Campagneschule" or "Campagne", which teaches collection and balance through all gaits, turns and maneuvers. The horse learns to shorten and lengthen his gait and perform lateral movements, and is introduced to the double bridle. This is the longest training phase of the three.
* High-school dressage, the "Haute école" or "Hohe Schule", which includes riding the horse in a more upright position with increased angling of the hindquarters, as well as increased regularity, skill and finesse in all natural gaits as well as dressage maneuvers which may include the "Airs above the ground." ("see below"). In this period, the horse learns the most difficult movements such as the half-pass, counter-canter, flying change, pirouette, passage, and piaffe. This level emphasizes performance in a methodical manner and a high degree of perfection.Fact|date=September 2008

The Austrian Federal Stud farm at Piber traditionally does not break mares to saddle. Although some other Lipizzan establishments train geldings to the "haute ecole,"Fact|date=September 2008 the Spanish Riding School exclusively uses stallions in its performances.

The "Airs"

The "airs above the ground" are the difficult "high school" dressage movements made famous by the Lipizzans. They include:
* The levade: a position wherein the horse raises up both front legs, standing at a 35 degree angle, entirely on its hind legs in a controlled form that requires a great deal of hindquarter strength. A less difficult but related movement is the pesade, where the horse stands at a 45 degree angle
* The courbette: a movement where the horse balances on its hind legs before jumping, keeping the forelegs off the ground and hind legs together as it essentially "hops."
* The capriole: a jump in place where the stallion leaps into the air, tucking his forelegs under himself, and kicking out with his hind legs at the height of elevation.
* The croupade and ballotade: predecessors to the capriole. In the croupade, both fore and hind legs are tucked under the body at the height of elevation. IN the ballotade, the horse does not kick out, but the shoes of the hind feet are visible if viewed from the rear
* The mezair: A series of successive levades in which the horse lowers its forefeet to the ground before rising again on hindquarters, achieving forward motion. This movement is no longer used at the Spanish Riding School, though is performed by other Lipizzan exhibition groups.

Usually a Lipizzan horse will not learn more than one "air" during its performing career. [cite web|author=Kysilko, Janna|url=|title=What Is Dressage?|work=Janna Kysilko Dressage|accessdate=2008-05-17|publisher=Janna Kysilko]

Lipizzans in popular culture

The 1940 film "Florian" starred two Lipizzan stallions, and was based on a 1934 novel written by Felix Salten. The wife of the producer owned the only Lipizzans in the US at the time that the movie was made. [cite web|url=|title=Florian|accessdate=2008-09-17|publisher=Lipizzan Association of North America|work=LANA Website] The World War II rescue of the Lipizzan stallions is depicted in the 1963 Walt Disney movie "Miracle of the White Stallions". The movie was the only live-action, relatively realistic film set against a World War II backdrop that Disney has ever produced. [cite book|author=Brode, Douglas|title=From Walt to Woodstock: How Disney Created the Counterculture|url=,M1|year=2004|publisher=University of Texas Press|isbn=0292702736|page=p. 169] In the film "Crimson Tide", a discussion between the two protagonists over whether Lipizzans are black or white and whether they came from Spain or Portugal is used to represent the film's suppressed racial conflict and the dividing of the world between the two main powers during the Cold War. [cite journal|url=|title=World Out of Order: Tony Scott’s Vertigo|author=Huber, Christoph and Mark Peranson|accessdate=2008-09-18|journal=Cinema Scope]

"The White Horses" was a 1965 children's television series co-produced by RTS of Yugoslavia and BR-TV of Germany, re-broadcast in the United Kingdom. It followed the adventures of a teenage girl who visits a farm where Lipizzan horses are raised. [cite web|url=|title=The White Horses|work=Television Heaven Website|accessdate=2008-09-17|author=Marcus, Laurence|date=2007|publisher=Television Heaven] In one episode of the Nickelodeon cartoon show The Angry Beavers, one of the main characters (actually a beaver) dreams of being a Lipizzan stallion at the Spanish Riding School. [cite web|url=|title=The Angry Beavers: Episode Guide|accessdate=2008-09-18||publisher=CNET Networks, Inc]

In the story The Star of Kazan, by Eva Ibbotson, the Lipizzan horses and the Spanish Riding School are key elements of both the plot and the setting. [cite web|url=|title=The Treasury of Read-Alouds|accessdate=2008-09-18|work=The Read-Aloud Handbook|author=Trelease, Jim|publisher=Reading Tree Productions] Lipizzans and the Spanish Riding School play a crucial role in Mary Stewart's 1965 novel "Airs Above the Ground". [cite web|url=|title=Airs Above the Ground|accessdate=2008-09-18|publisher=Mary Stewart]


External links

* [ Lipizzaner Society of Great Britain]
* [ Lipizzaner National Stud Book Association of Great Britain]
* [ Lipica stud farm official website]
* [ Lipizzaner horse]
* [ Lipizzan International Federation-LIF]
* [ Spanish Riding School and Federal Stud Farm Piber]
* [ Lipizzan Association of North America]
* [ Lipizzaner.Com]
* [ South African Lipizzaners]
* [ Paddock Đakovo in Croatia]
* [ Piber Stud]
* [ Pictures from The Myth of the Horse - Magic of the Lipizzaner]

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