The Neatest Little Paper Ever Read ®

Issue 974



by Janet Spencer

Ride along with Tidbits as we learn about the rise and near extinction of a remarkable breed of dancing horses!


• During the Renaissance, military leaders in Europe needed fast, light, maneuverable horses. The Spanish horse was created by breeding Berber and Arabian stallions with Iberian mares. The result was a horse that was sturdy, beautiful, and intelligent.

• In 1562, Maximillian II brought the Spanish horse to Austria where he created a stud farm. In 1580, his brother, Archduke Charles, established another stud farm in the Italian (now Slovenian) town of Lipizza.

• The type of horse which was bred in Lippiza was called the Lipizzan or the Lipizzaner. Kings, noblemen, and military leaders wanted the fire and spirit of the hot-blooded breeds, but didn’t like being dumped from the saddle by a horse that was hard to control. The Lipizzaner stallions fit this requirement perfectly with their calm demeanor.

• The Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria, was established in the 1500s and named after the Spanish horses which begat the Lipizzaner. The school is the oldest institution of its kind in the world, and its purpose has been to perpetuate the arts of classical horsemanship.

• Today, the Spanish Riding School uses only Lipizzaner stallions, training them in the movements of high classical dressage. These graceful maneuvers and jumps were originally designed as equine military training to develop the horse’s strength, agility, balance, concentration, and focus on the rider’s commands. Over time, they have been transformed into a living art form of grace and precision, celebrating the ballet-like accomplishments of these remarkable horses.


• Yet, the development of this rare type of horse has been fraught with close calls that nearly wiped out the breed , mostly due to war. Consider:

• In 1797 during the War of the First Coalition, the horses were evacuated from Lipizza as the fighting closed in. In 1805, the horses were evacuated again when Napoleon invaded Austria. In 1809, the horses were evacuated three more times during the unsettled period that followed, resulting in the loss of many horses and the destruction of the written studbooks that documented bloodlines of horses prior to 1700. In 1915 the horses were evacuated from Lipizza due to World War I. Yet the greatest threat to the breed arrived with World War II.


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