or Lipizzan as they may some times be called…
…are synonymous with the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which is one of the elite riding schools in the world and a must visit when in Vienna.
At the school located on the grounds of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, the attraction is the performance of the majestic Lipizzaner Stallions. Tours are also available, for those who want a bit more insight into this foremost and oldest riding school in the world. The school dates back over four centuries and was named for the Spanish influence of the breed, in specific the Andalusian, which dates back approximately 2,000 years to Roman times.
History Goes Back To The Habsburg Nobility
The link of this breed with Austria 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 in Lipica (Lipizza in Italian), in what today is Slovania. Since 1920 the Lipizzaner stallions have been bred at the stud farm in Piber, located at the southern end of the state of Styria. Strength was a major consideration in developing the breed and this can be seen today in some of the dressage maneuvers exhibited by the stallions.
Many of these are maneuvers are exhibited as a natural in nature and later developed and adopted for warfare and the fashionable and growing riding schools commissioned by the nobility in that part of Europe. Until the end of WW I in 1918, the breed continued to be bred exclusively for royalty, after which the Habsburg dynasty was dissolved.
Saved By Patton
WWII almost dealt a major blow to the breed. Towards the end of the war, under the protection of General Patton, a major portion of the then existing herd was moved out of Vienna and to safety, ahead of the advance of the Russian army, which was seen as a threat to the herd.
A Must See When In Vienna
When in Vienna, watching the stallions being put through their paces at the Spanish Riding School is truly awe inspiring. The grace and precision will capture you. If you happen to be in or visiting Florida in the winter time, check out the performance schedule of the Original Royal Lipizzan Stallions of Austria in Sarasota, you’ll witness some of the skills of these stallions and riders.
In one of the maneuvers the stallion rears up on its hind legs to gain height and give the military leader (of old) a higher vantage point. In another maneuver, while on its hind legs, the stallion lashes out with his front ones, simulating the striking of an enemy in front of him.
The most impressive one is where the stallion jumps in the air and while still in the air kicks the hind legs to strike an opponent. And then there’s just the simple elegance and beauty of these magnificent Lipizzaner stallions.