The Lipizzan (or the Lipizzaner as it may sometimes be called) trace their history back to the early 1560’s when the finest Arab blood was introduced and fused with the local athletic Spanish horses during the Moorish occupation of Spain. Interest in the art of classical riding revived during the Renaissance period when the Spanish horse was considered the most suitable mount because of his exceptional sturdiness, beauty and intelligence.
Maximillian II brought the Spanish horses to Austria about 1562 and founded the court stud at Kladrub. His brother, Archduke Charles established a similar stud with Spanish stock in 1580 at Lipizza near the Adriatic Sea. From the Lipizza stud farm, came the name Lipizzan. Both studs flourished, the Kladrub stud became known for its heavy carriage horses while the Lipizza stud produced riding horses and light carriage horses. However, the two studs were linked closely and on occasion exchanged breeding stock. The Kladrub stud produced Maestoso and Favory, two of the foundation sires of today’s Lipizzan.
To strengthen the original Spanish-Arab strain, several stallions were purchased during the 18th and 19th centuries for use at Lipizza and Kladrub. During the 1700’s these horses, although of Spanish and Italian origin, included sires form Denmark and Holstein, but were of pure Spanish descent. By the 1800’s, there were no longer any original Spanish horses to be had and Arabs were chosen to replenish the Lipizzan line but of the seven Arabian stallions used, only Siglavy founded a separate dynasty. Of all the sires used during the 18th and 19th century, only six of these horses were accepted to found the family lines of the Lipizzan as known today:
- CONVERSANO, black, a Neapolitan (b. 1767). Conversano’s have Arab blood, strong ram-like heads short backs, broad hocks and dignified movements.
- FAVORY, dun, a Bohemian origin (b. 1779), transferred from Kladrub. The Arab influence is noticeable in the Favory’s by their lighter build but the soft curve of their nose still calls to mind their Spanish ancestry.
- MAESTOSO, white (not grey), a crossbred of Neapolitan sire and a Spanish dam (b. 1819), transferred from Kladrub. Maestoso’s are powerful horses with a long back, extremely muscular cruppers and heavy heads.
- NEAPOLITANO, bay (brown), from another Neapolitan sire (b. 1790). Neapolitans retain their original tall, more rangy appearance and they have graceful movements and high action.
- PLUTO, grey, Danish stud (b. 1765). Pluto’s, their ancestors from Spain and Denmark, are sturdy horses with a rectangular build, ram-like heads and a high set neck.
- SIGLAVY, grey, an Arabian (b. 1810). The Siglavy’s typify the Arab Lipizzaner with aristocratic heads, a slender neck, high withers and a relatively short back.
In addition to the stallions, there are 18 mare family lines. Every stallion has two names, the sire’s name and the dam’s name. This explains the name such as Pluto Theodorosta.
Grey is the dominate color of the Lipizzan today. Since white horses were preferred by the royal family, the color was stressed in breeding. As late as two hundred years ago, there were a great number of blacks, browns, chestnuts, duns and even piebalds and skewbalds. Today non-white Lipizzans are a rarity and only now and then is a black or bay found.
The Lipizzan is noted for his sturdy body, brilliant action and proud carriage as well as his intelligent and docile disposition. Born dark, black-brown, brown or mouse-grey, Lipizzans turn white somewhere between the ages of 6 and 10. As mentioned above, only in rare cases does the horse stay the original dark color. Not a tall horse, averaging between 14.3 to 15.3 hands, the Lipizzan presents a very powerful picture. The first thing noticed in the head are the large, appealing eyes. The influence of Arabian blood is found in the head, the small alert ears and the nose. The body, set off by a short powerful neck, presents a picture of strength with well-rounded quarters, heavy shoulders and short, strong legs with well defined tendons and joints. The tail is carried high and, like the mane, is thick and long.
It is impossible not to mention the Spanish Riding School when discussing Lipizzan history. The Hapsburg monarchy decided to replace the old winter riding hall and school which dated back to 1572. The new riding hall and school was built in 1735 in the imperial palace in Vienna under the auspice of Charles VI as part of the major rebuilding of that city after the repulsion of the Turks.
The purpose of the school was (and still is) to perpetuate the art of classical horsemanship. This included the training of the young riders and the horses according to the principals of dressage. The second purpose of the Spanish Riding School is the breeding of the Lipizzan horses. Only the best are kept to continue the line.
Contributed By: Oklahoma State University