Whether you’re a horse fanatic or just love to pat your favorite pony occasionally, you won’t fail to be impressed by the beauty of Lipizzaner horses. This horse breed is world-famous, the true ballet dancer of the equine world. Let’s find out all about these amazing horses with our Lipizzan horse facts.
What Is A Lipizzan Horse?
The Lipizzaner, or Lipizzan, is a breed of horse famous for its ballet-dancing style of movement. They are a medium-large breed of horse, normally standing between 14.2 and 15.2 hands high. This breed of horse is always white in color.
This beautiful Baroque-style breed of horse is very muscular in stature. They have a wide chest, strong shoulders, and powerful hindquarters. The tail is set high on a rounded, broad croup.
The head of the Lipizzaner is elegant and long, with a straight or slightly convex profile. It is held proudly on a rounded, thick neck. The limbs are strong and athletic.
The Lipizzan horse is famous for its beautiful white coat. It is a short-haired breed, with little or no feathering on the legs. The mane and tail are long and flowing, often with a wavy effect.
Lipizzan foals are born dark in color, with a coat that can be a deep brown or steel grey. They do not develop the white coat until the age of 6 and above.
Where Do Lipizzaner Horses Come From?
The Lipizzaner breed of horse originates from the 16th century. During this time the Habsburgs ruled both Austria and Spain, and the art of classical riding was revived during the Renaissance period.
Light and fast horses were very useful for the military, and also in the classical riding school. Traditionally, the Spanish horse was considered to be the most suitable, as it was sturdy, intelligent, and elegant.
The Habsburg Emperor Maximillian II and his brother Archduke Charles II both set up stud farms with the aim of improving the Spanish breed. They brought in bloodlines of Barb, Arabian and Neapolitan horses, as well as other Baroque horses of Spanish descent from Germany and Denmark.
Until 1916, the Lipizzaner stud farms were the private possessions of the Hapsburg monarchy. However, after World War I the empire was divided into smaller republics, and each new state inherited the former monarchy’s possessions, including the stud farms. The imperial Lippiza stud farm horses were divided between three different countries.
Today, Lipizzan horses are still centered mainly around what was once the Austrian-Hungarian empire. However, they are now found further afield as well, with a breeding stock in places as far afield as America, South Africa, and Australia.
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What Do Lippizaner Horses Do?
Like most breeds of horses, the Lipizzan can be used for riding and driving. However, they are most famous for their use in classical dressage.
Classical dressage takes the control and movement of horses to the next level. This incredibly specialist equestrian discipline is magical to watch. The horses appear to float and dance above the ground, using the most intricate and highly controlled movements.
Lipizzaner horses are renowned for their use in the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Here, Lipizzan stallions are used in their displays and demonstrations. Their specialty is known as the ‘airs above the ground’, where horses rear and leap upwards into the air.
In classical dressage, movements may be performed ridden or with the trainer stood on the ground. They often carry out performances as a group, with the horses moving together in perfect synchronicity. The perfectly controlled movements of these incredible athletes are a sight to behold!
The principles of classical dressage can be traced back to the Ancient Greek writer Xenophon. Many of his ideas about training horses are still used to this day in modern training methods.
One of the most amazing Lipizzan horse facts is that they can perform these incredible movements:
- The courbette, where the horse balances on its hind legs and jumps.
- The capriole, where the horse leaps into the air and kicks out with his hind legs.
- The levade, where the horse is balanced on its haunches.
12 Remarkable Lipizzan Horse Facts
- In Europe, the breed is called Lipizzaner, whereas in America it is called the Lipizzan.
- There are eight foundation lines for Lipizzaner horses, which can be traced back to the original foundation stallions. These lines are referred to as dynasties.
- The name of this breed comes from one of the earliest stud farms. This was located near Lipica, which was spelled ‘Lipizza’ in Italian.
- The Lipizzan breed almost went extinct three times – during the War of the First Coalition, World War I, and World War II.
- The Disney movie ‘Miracle of the White Stallions’ tells the story of the rescue of the Lipizzans by American troops during World War II.
- Until the 1700s, this elegant breed had many coat colors, including dun, chestnut, piebald, and skewbald. The grey coat was preferred by the royal family, so the color became emphasized in breeding programs.
- The Lipizzan horses used in the Spanish Riding School are all stallions.
- The names of Lipizzaner mares must all end in the letter ‘a’, such as Almerina, Stornella and Ravata.
- Lipizzan stallions are given two names – the foundation line of the sire and the name of the dam. A horse sired by Maestoso Trompeta out of a mare named Austria would be called ‘Maestoso Austria’.
- The original Lipica stud farm is now in modern-day Slovenia. The Lipizzaner horse is the national animal of Slovenia.
- Lipizzan horses have a longer lifespan than the average horse, living to 30 to 35 years of age.
- There are 11,000 Lipizzaner horses registered with the Lipizzaner breed society. However, there are believed to be fewer than 3,000 actual purebred Lipizzaner horses in the world today.
So, as we’ve learned in our Lipizzan horse facts, this is an elegant, athletic and beautiful breed of horse. Lipizzaner horses are also very intelligent and eager to please, making them a pleasure to handle and train. This is why they are used for high-level dressage, such as at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about Lipizzan horse facts. Have you ever met one of these true beauties of the horse world? Or maybe you have been lucky enough to see them perform? Please add a comment below!