Meet the Lipizzaner Horses – European Excellence


Lipizzaner horses are warmblood equines with European ancestry. They are multi-talented equines which show agility and skill in international competitions. With a turbulent history which abolished some bloodlines during war time, Lipizzaner horses stand today as one of the purest and most performant breeds.

History and Origins

Lipizzaner Horses can be traced back to 800 A.D. when the native Spanish stock was crossed with Barb horses in the Iberian Peninsula. This resulted in Andalusians and other Spanish breeds which were transported to Austria by Emperor Maximilian II. Austrian Archduke Charles II established a stud at then-Lipizza, which is not on the territory of Slovenia, with horses brought from the Iberian Peninsula.

Lipizzaner Horses were developed for and with the help of Habsburg Monarchy. Their goal was a war horse that could also fashionably carry itself and crossed Spanish, Barb, and Arabian bloodlines originally. Over time, the lost Neapolitan bloodline was introduced to the stock together with other baroque Spanish breeds from Germany and Denmark. Between 1765 and 1810, 6 foundation stallions were used by the Habsburgs to create bloodlines of Lipizzaner Horses: Pluto, Conversano, Maestoso, Favory, Neapoletano, and Siglavy. Other two, Incitato and Tulipan, were born in Eastern European countries.

Numerous efforts have been made by several nations to preserve the Lipizzaner breed during war time. United States Army’s intervention inspired a Disney movie about saving the White Stallions. The Piber Federal Stud took Lipizzer Horses under its supervision in 1920; Since then, the breed has been carefully tested in terms of performance and overall behavior during the selection process.

Today, the Lipizzan International Federation is the official organization of the breed. It comprises of national and private organizations that function under the LIF rule to maintain the high standards of the breed. About 11,000 registered horses exist in 19 countries, most of them being from Europe.

Breed Particularities

Rigorous supervision when breeding resulted in a strong and noble horse that is suitable as a pet and for competitions. They have an eye-catching appearance and an approachable attitude, resulting in a distinguished presence at shows.

Physical Characteristics of Lipizzan Horses

A Lipizzaner foal is born of dark color. Their black, dark grey or brown coat brightens up slowly until, at an age between 6 and 10, becomes white or light grey. Although light shades are dominant, dark colors are possible in a registered Lipizzan Horse.

Lipizzaner Horses have a muscular body and are taller than the average horse. Their ears are small and swift, denoting curiosity and eagerness. Their long and elegant head shows expressive, friendly eyes and big nostrils.

Height: 14.2 – 16.1 hands

Weight:  1,150 pounds

Life expectancy: 25 – 30 years

With no breed-specific diseases encountered over time, Lipizzaner horses are a healthy and sustainable breed.

Temperament of Lipizzan Horses

Lipizzaners are friendly and fun to work with. They have a proud attitude and posture, appearing noble and graceful. Curiosity and interest are qualities that define a Lipizzan’s attitude. Being friendly, gentle, and willing, a Lipizzaner is good with kids. They tend to mature slower than other breeds. However, their enthusiasm persists as they get older.

Having Lipizzaner Horses

A Lipizzaner horse’s price can range between $3,000 and more than $20,000 depending on bloodline and training or dressage. Apart from this, when first acquiring a Lipizzaner, horse enthusiasts will have to spend between $2,000 and more than $55,000 for:

  • A trailer ($1,500 for a used one, up to %50,000 new).
  • Tack (anywhere between $600 and $6,000).
  • Vet Check (a maximum of $500).
  • Grooming supplies ($100 at most).

Yearly expenses of having a Lipizzaner horse mainly revolve around the type of boarding, food, and pasture maintenance and range between $4,500 and $30,000 as follows:

  • Boarding: $2,000 – $10,000.
  • Training: $250 – $10,000.
  • Food: $1,000 – $3,500.
  • Pasture Meintenance: $200 – $4,000.

Other permanent expenses when caring for a Lipizzaner are farrier, insurance, bedding, and medical care. These account for a maximum of $3,000.

Common Uses for Lipizzaner Horses

A Lipizzan horse’s friendly and enthusiastic attitude makes it a perfect choice for general riding and work. However, their strong bodies also perform well during equine competitions like endurance riding or racing. Lipizzaner horses are receptive to dressage and training, showing impressive results in horse shows.

The Spanish Riding School developed traditional training methods for Lipizzan horses still followed today. Unlike the Piber Stud which focuses on driving and under saddle mares, the Spanish Riding School uses performance stallions. Current Lipizzans are classically trained at the riding school located in Vienna but also compete in racing and dressage.

Training starts at the age of 4 and takes about 6 years. The skill sets taught by the Spanish Riding School are:

  • Forward riding comprises of saddling and bridling, basic longe line commands, and arena riding. It focuses on developing a natural forward movement and a sophisticated pose.
  • Campaign school is the longest phase. It focuses on balance and steadiness during the basic gaits or lateral movement and introduces the double bridle.
  • High-school dressage develops a Lipizzan horse’s tact and elegance while gaiting. During this stage, horses are taught advanced movements like the half pass, counter-canter, piaffe, passage, flying charge, and the pirouette.

Lipizzaner Horses use the following signature movements in competitions:

  • The levade: raising up its front legs, the horse uses his hindquarter’s strength to stand at a 30-degree angle.
  • The courbette: hopping after balancing on its hind legs.
  • The capriole: kicking out its hind legs after jumping in place; This movement has developed into croupade and ballotade.

Lipizzaner horses are able performers who do not back away from difficult tasks. Working with a Lipizzan horse is enjoyable due to their fun and enthusiastic character. Combined with elegance and skill, these result in a brilliant and malleable horse that is motivated by company and appreciation. With a long lifespan and a vivacious nature, a Lipizzan horse is a reliable companion that faces tasks with enthusiasm and zest.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3.

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