A unique, proud and dignified beauty in motion
Along the border between Italy and Slovenia, in the vicinity of Sezana and Trieste, lies the Horse Stud Lipica, a green oasis in the middle of the Karst. It was founded in the year 1580 by the Austrian Archduke Karl, who was at that time the regent of Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Istria and Triest. He was told by horse-breeding experts that the Karst region was the most suitable area for a stud farm. As the stud farm grew apace, shortage of hay began to be a problem. This they solved by buying a neighbouring estate, and in the first half of the 18th century the Prestranek estate as well. During the Napoleonic Wars the stud farm was forced to move three times to Hungary, and during World War I it relocated to a site near Vienna. It remained property of the Court of Vienna until 1918.
Lipica experienced in its history good and successful periods as well as hard times. In war-times the herd of Lipica horses had to flee from Lipica, seeking refuge in other countries. But it always returned from the exile, more or less decimated, yet still succeeding to weather the difficulties and to recover. During the WW I, the Lipizzan herd had to move for the fourth time - to Vienna and Bohemia; after the end of this war the herd came under Italian authority. However, a part of the elite horses remained in the present-day Austrian and Czech territory; that was the beginning of Lipizzaner horse breeding in the stud farm of Kladruby.
The stud of Lipica was not spared in the WW II, either; the Germans took the majority of horses and returned only a small number of them after the conquest by the American army under General Paton. A part of the horses were taken as far as to America. The allies returned but eleven horses to Lipica; other horses were delivered to the Spanish Riding Academy in Vienna, and before that, to Italy. Nevertheless, the home stud farm of these noble horses, experienced a revival by bringing the breeding stock from other studs.
The Lipizzan horse is a special breed: of medium growth, a deep and broad horse. Its height is some 160 cm measured by cord, and has got the shape of a lying rectangular. Its lively eyes give an intelligent look. The ears are well positioned, a long and muscular neck is set high, as well as the tail which is thick and nicely supported by the horse. The mane and the tail are of thick, silky mane. The legs are strong, muscular, the joints are well-marked and broad. Moving on the Karst ground makes the hooves very hard indeed, but rather small for the size of the horse, and well shaped. The stride is high and gracious, energetic and unique, proud and dignified, which made the Lipizzan horse excel as a parade horse over other breeds, and for the Riding Academy. All the beauty of the Lipizzan is seen in motion: its grace lies in the harmony of movements. Its imposing bearing and the famous stride made it famous world-wide. This breed is known as extremely solid and late mature horses: they are fully developed with at the age of seven, and can live up to the age of thirty and be still useful for work. A particular feature of them is that they are not born white but bay, black or grey. It is only later, usually between the sixth and tenth year, that they turn white, gradually over grey. There are also dark coloured Lipizzan horses.
An important measure in the selection work is the qualification test of the breeding stock. Ever since the stallions had to prove that their good traits, work capacity, obedience, suppleness and endurance under saddle and in span were passed on their descendants. Only those stallions which were four years in training ("school") and met the requirements of the breed, could become breeding stallions in the Lipica stud. This demanding test over hundreds of years made the Lipizzan horses strengthen their excellent qualities, such as good nature, reliability, the elegance of gaits - a reliable and really imposing stride, and good learning capacity.
Steady, sturdy and speedy
One of the oldest breeds in the world, the horses of the Karst, were known for their steadiness and speed, which was known as early as in Roman times. These Karst horses that were used by the local people to carry goods to the port, or deliver the goods from ships in Trieste and Venice, were over the centuries crossbred with other breeds; these breeds were not expected to have a dominant influence on the indigenous Karst horse, except the Arab horses. However, the stallions of these other breeds gave their names to the six lines of horses that have been preserved up to the present time in the Lipica stud. In the year 1580 the first stallions were imported from Spain, and soon other followed, among them the white Andalusian stallion. However, mares of other breeds were not imported in the beginning, this supports the belief that only the breeding of Karst horses was intended, and they were to be improved with other breeds. Thus, the famous lines were bred: the Kladruby line - named after the stallions from the then Bohemia - Favory and Maestoso; the Naples line - Conversano and Napolitano, the Danish line - Pluto, and the Arab line - Siglavy.
The mares are bred in 16 strains ("family line"), as follows: Sardinia, Spadiglia, Argentina, Africa, Almerina, Presciana, Englanderua, Europa, Stornella, Famosa, Deflorata, Gidrana, Djerbin, Mercurio, Theodorasta and Rebecca. These names refer to their ancestresses.
Names and designation
Lipizzaner horses get their names by a traditional system. The stallion names consist of two names, and mares only have one name. For example, a colt's name Maestoso Bonadea XI comes from its syre (Maestoso) and mare (Bonadea XI). In case of a filly, she would be called Bonadea XII; i.e. the 12th filly in line of ancestress. Each stud farm gives its horses its designation. When the horse is a year old the letter "L" is branded onto its left cheek designating it a Lipica thoroughbred born on the stud farm. A current number from the Register is put on the left side of the seat (under the saddle).
Today, Lipica is a unique cultural heritage, and a tourist and recreational centre. As well as breeding the horses, Lipica also teaches and maintains the tradition of classical riding, following the principles of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, as well as dressage and coach-drawing.
Text: Mag. Milan Božič, Dr Vet Med