The Lipizzaner Horse or the Lipizzan, as it is known as, is a horse meant for the royalty. This horse breed was bred for the use of the Hapsburg royal family. The Lipizzaner horse is sometimes referred to as the white dancing horse.
Its name is derived from Lipica or Lipizza, a village in Slovenia. This was where a stud farm was established by Archduke Charles II to breed this horse. An interesting fact about this horse is that it is not white when it is born. As it molts, its color changes. The white coat that makes this horse so famous comes after it turns seven years old.
The horse is associated with Austria, where it is used in classical riding for dressage. The horse belongs to the Baroque type. It is known for its powerful features and its relative longevity. The Lipizzan International Federation and its member bodies are responsible for the registration of horses belonging to this breed.
The origins of the Lipizzan breed can be traced back to the 7th century. This is when the Moors brought Barb horses to Spain and crossed them with the native horses. The breeds that resulted are the predecessors to the Lipizzan horses.
The need for these horses came about when the Hapsburg rulers of Austria and Spain were looking for a powerful and elegant horse. It was in 1562 that Emperor Maximilian setup stud farms after bringing in the Andalusian horses. His brother Charles II started a farm at Lipica. It was here that this horse originated.
The Lipizzans were bred to satisfy the need for a horse that could be used for wars and in the riding schools. Barb, Spanish, and Arabian horses were crossed, and the result was the Lipizzan horse. The court stud at Kladrub mainly produced heavy carriage horses. Lipizza contributed to the light carriage and riding horses.
During the 19th centuries, the Piber Federal Stud in Vienna was where the horse was bred. The renowned Spanish riding school has classical dressage events featuring the Lipizzan. The dancing horses are trained in this school located in Austria.
The horses were relocated many times. These relocations proved to be a boon helping to preserve this breed. During World War II, the Nazis moved these horses to Hostau in Czechoslovakia. The horses from the riding school were moved to St. Martins, Austria. It was the United States Army under the legendary General George S Patton that saved these horses.
The horses could return to the study farm in Piber and the Spanish riding school by the early 1950s. A viral epidemic caused a temporary crisis in 1983. Subsequently, the horses flourished with its growth rate increasing to 82% during the 1990s. Today Lipizzans are mainly present in Europe and the Americas.
It is the national animal of Slovenia thanks to the presence of the Lipica stud farm. It is also featured on the Slovenia euro coin. From a mere 250 numbers after the Second World War, there are more than 11,600 horses today.
The Lipizzaner is essentially a grey horse. More number of white horses are found, thanks to the preference for white horses by the royalty. The horse is muscular, strong, and sturdy. This made the horse ideal for military use and as a carriage horse.
It has broad joints and feet that are small but strong. A unique characteristic of this horse is that it takes more time to mature than other breeds. The horse is known for its longevity. It not only lives for a long time but also remains active for long.
Horses aged more than twenty years can actively perform in dressage events. This makes this horse an asset. The horses are built for performance. They have the stamina needed for pulling carriages as well for being used for riding. Dexterity is another characteristic of this horse that makes it so popular.
The horses are known to have a good memory. This makes it easy to train the horse to perform in events. Even though they are powerful, they are also docile, which makes it easy to train and manage these beautiful horses. The horses are world-famous for their harmonious movement abilities.
The Lipizzans are famous for the airs above the ground performance. This is when the horse jumps into the air with its forelegs tucked under. When it reaches the top of the jump, it kicks out using its hind legs. These moves have made the Lipizzans’ performances famous.
These warm-blooded horses are noble and have a regal bearing. They are willing and ready to be trained and ridden without resistance. They are also devoted to their caretaker. This makes the Lipizzan a truly great horse.
The Lipizzans are sturdy horses and need a healthy diet. This is required as they need the stamina to be able to perform. They need a fair amount of grass to be fed. They are also fed hay. Care is also taken to ensure hay’s quality, especially to ensure it is free from molds.
The horses also need a lot of fresh water to remain hydrated. The horses at the Piber stud farm are fed only organic food. This breed of horse is prone to hoof horn abnormalities that can prove to be a serious problem. This is why they are fed 20 mg of biotin as a supplement daily. This helps improve hoof horn quality.
Breeding And Uses
These horses were initially bred with the Spanish and Arabian horses. They were later bred with the Karst horses, Neapolitan horses, and other Spanish horses. There are six horses considered as foundation lines to the Lipizzaner horses of today. They are:
Maestoso: This foundation sire was a grey horse born in 1819 from a Neapolitan sire and a Spanish dam.
Favory: Apart from Maestoso, Favory is the other foundation horse from which today’s Lipizzaners trace their lineage to. Favory was a dun born in 1779.
Conversano: This breeding stock horse was a black Neapolitan born in 1767.
Pluto: This grey horse was of Spanish origin and born in 1765.
Neapolitano: This brown horse was born in 1790 from another Neapolitan sire.
Siglavy: This is an Arabian grey horse born in 1810.
There are two more foundation lines accepted by the Lipizzan International Federation. They are:
Tulipan: A black Spanish sire born in Croatia in 1800.
Incitato: Born in 1802, this horse was bred in Transylvania and transferred to the Hungarian empire.
Apart from these eight stallion lines, eighteen mare lines (out of which only 14 exist today). To identify the breed, a naming convention has been adopted. Every stallion has two names, one is the name of the sire and the other of the dam.
This is mandatory as per the registration norms of the Federation. While naming mares, the convention is to end the name with the letter ‘a’. For example, the name Pluto Austria, indicates that the sire traces its lineage to the Pluto line and the mare to the Austria line.
The Lipizzaner was initially bred for use in war and for shows. They were bred as carriage horses. Today these horses are mainly bred for dressage. The horses are sent to be trained at the Spanish riding school. Usually, a horse is allotted to a particular rider. Both the horse and rider undergo training to prepare for dressage.
It takes nearly six years for a horse to complete training. The horses are sent to the school at the age of four. The School Quadrille is the basic skill set that all horses learn. There are many other skill sets, including high school dressage, that requires finesse.
The horses have also been featured in movies thanks to their elegant body structure and color. The famous Disney movie ‘Miracle of the White Stallion’ told the story of the rescue of this breed during WW II. The horses are also featured in many TV shows like ‘The White Horses.’ They have been featured in books like ‘White Stallion of Lipizza’ and ‘Airs above the ground’.
On average, Lipizzan horses are between 14.2 (58 inches) and 15.2 (62 inches) hands tall in height. Horses bred for carriage use are usually taller. They would be 16.1 hands (65 inches) tall.
These horses weigh between 1000 to 13000 pounds (450 to 585 kgs).
What Breeds Make Up The Lipizzaner Horse?
The Lipizzaner horse has been bred mainly from Spanish horses that were imported to Austria by Emperor Maximilian II. The Lipizzan breed also traces its lineage to the local Krast horses with whom the Spanish horses were mated.
Over the years, many breeds of horses have been used to make up the Lipizzaner horse of today. These include:
- The Barb horses
- Arabian horses
- Iberian horses
- Andalusian horses
- Neapolitan horses
The Lipizzaner horse is famous for its white coat. An interesting fact to note is that the horse is not white; it is actually grey in color. The grey horses may a prominent white coat, which makes them attractive and suitable for dressage.
There is a misconception that this horse is a white one. This is not true! Very rarely, white horses are born. This is due to a lack of pigmentation. Most horses are born bay or black color. Later on, they change color to grey and get the white coat.
Some horses are pure bay color or black color. Even these horses develop a white coat once they mature. Originally, these horses had a range of colors. This included chestnut, dun, piebald, and skewbald.
Since the royal family preferred the white horse, most horses were bred to be grey with a white coat. Interestingly, while all horses in the Spanish riding school are grey, there is always one bay horse. This is a tradition maintained over the years supposedly to bring good luck.
What Do They Look Like?
Strong, powerful, muscular, regal, and beautiful! These are the words that can be used to describe the Lipizzaner horse. Since the horse was bred for military use and later for carriage use, it is strong. The muscular features ensure the horse has the power needed to take part in dressage.
This horse has a long head. The jaw is deep, and it has flared nostrils. It has small ears, but the eyes are large. The expressive eyes are one of the key features of this horse. The neck is arched and sturdy. It has a wide chest and muscular shoulders.
The horse’s withers are low and broad. Being a Baroque horse, it has a broad croup. It is a high tail. The legs are strong with broad joints. The hindquarters are powerful allowing the horse to stand on its hind legs to perform ‘airs above the ground’ routine. The horse’s hooves are well-shaped.
What Is A Lipizzaner Horse Used For?
Lipizzaner Horses were used for military and carriage purposes. Today this horse is mainly used for dressage and riding. The horses have also been featured in movies and TV shows. These horses are trained for classic horsemanship at the Spanish riding school.
Once the horses complete the training, they are able to demonstrate their skills in:
- Quadrille: This is choreographed dressage to music. The horses are used in pairs. Movements like shoulder-in, half-pass, passage, and canter pirouettes are carried out.
- Forward riding: This is the ability to ride forward naturally by following the rider’s instructions using his arms and legs.
- Campaign school: The horse is able to demonstrate all gaits, turns, lateral movements, and double bridle.
- High school: This is an advanced skill set calling for finesse in performance. Here, the horse makes use of its powerful hindquarters to pirouette and counter canter. The popular ‘airs above the ground’ is also a part of this skill set.
Where Do They Live?
Lipizzaner horses are originally from Austria. Lipizza, where the horses were first bred is now in Slovenia. The horse is found more in Austria and some of the Eastern European countries like Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia, and Slovakia.
These horses are also found in Belgium. Denmark, France, Sweden, and the USA. Primarily, the horses are bred in the stud farms in Slovenia and Austria.
How Long Do They Live?
One of the key features of the Lipizzaner horses is their longevity. These horses live for quite a long time. In fact, most horses can live for thirty years. Many horses live up to the age of 40 years. The average life span is from 20 to 30 years.
These horses live longer and they also take more time to mature. They usually mature between the age of seven and ten. It is during this time that they get their famous white coats.
The horses are usually healthy. They have an issue related to pigmentation because of which they lose their original dark color as they grow. Due to this, their light skin can develop melanoma, which can be a problem. The white coat requires proper grooming to ensure it is maintained well.
Regular check-ups for melanoma is recommended, especially in the tail and muzzle areas.
How Fast Are They?
Lipizzaner horses were initially bred to be light and fast horses. The horses, however, are not used for racing. They are used for riding and dressage events. The horses are thus not meant to be very fast.
Most horses have an average speed of around 30 miles per hour. The Lipizzaner can also go at this speed when required.
How Much Do They Cost?
The Lipizzaner horse is expensive mainly because of the way it is bred. This is a horse not meant for general use. It is a horse bred specifically for participating in dressage, riding, and equitation. The specialized purpose of this horse makes it expensive.
The horse can be brought from the stud farms or from private breeders. The stud farms have horses with authentic lineage and tend to be more expensive. The cost of the horse depends on its age, color, lineage, gender, and general health condition.
Younger horses are priced from $10,000 to $25,000. A slightly older horse may cost around $3,000 to $5,000.
The Lipizzaner horses trained at the Spanish Riding School are valued at around a hundred thousand Euros.
Are They Good For Beginners?
The Lipizzaner horses are associated with royalty. They are horses ideal for royals to ride thanks to their muscular appearance and elegance. The horses are mostly used for general riding and dressage. The question is whether it would be suitable for beginners.
The answer to this depends on how the horse is meant to be used. For dressage, jumping, and other such uses this horse needs specialized training. Only a trained rider can handle such a horse.
When it comes to general riding, the horse is suitable for beginners. This again depends on the horse and how it has been brought up. Most Lipizzaners are calm and docile in nature. Beginners can handle them easily. Horses that are a bit older and have been used for riding can be managed more easily. Younger horses may be a bit tough for beginners to manage.
Are Lipizzaner Horses Born Black?
Not all Lipizzaner horses are born black. While most of these horses are born black, there are some born with brown or dark grey colors. Eventually, the hair color turns grey with a white coat. Some horses are rarely born in brown color.
Why Are Lipizzaner Foals Black?
It is not that the foals are black. They are born with a dark color, which can be black or even brown. This is their natural color. As the foal grows, a gene mutation causes the dark color pigments to be lost. As a result, the grey color becomes dominant with the white coat. Since they have grey as the dominant gene, this is the color once the foal grows.
In some rare cases, the pigmentation is not lost. As a result, such horses continue to remain dark colored even after they achieve adulthood (usually bay or brown).
How Many Are There?
There are around 11,602 Lipizzaner horses in the world. This is as per the population statistics from the Federation. Of these, 2,130 are bred at the national stud farms. The rest are privately bred. The most number of horses are found in Hungary and Croatia. There are around 981 Lipizzaner horses in the United States.
What Does Lipizzaner Mean In Spanish?
Lipizzaner is a word of German etymology. It is derived from the name of the village Lipizza, where it was bred initially.
Conclusion / Summary
The Lipizzaner horse is a unique horse. Originally intended for use in war and riding, this horse is now especially used for dressage and riding. The horse is bred in the stud farms in Slovenia, Austria, and other countries. It is also bred privately in a few countries.
The Lipizzaner horse is a powerful one, built strongly, and muscular. It is a horse that can live for up to 20 to 30 years. Born dark-colored, the horse usually turns grey. Its white coat makes it look attractive and regal.
For the dressage events, the horse is extensively trained at the Spanish Riding School. From the age of four, until it turns ten, it is trained comprehensively. The horse is famous for the “airs above the ground” move. It has a powerful hindquarter that enables it to perform this difficult and attractive movement.
The nature of this powerful horse is surprisingly docile. It co-operates with the rider and is willing. One of the most important abilities of this horse is its memory. This makes it easy to train the horse on complex moves. It is athletic and has great endurance.
You can watch this horse in action if you visit the Spanish Riding School. These horses are available for sale world over. While the younger stallions are expensive, the older ones are friendly and less costly. They are good, even for beginners.