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The Lipizzan Horse represents over 450 years of select breeding which has given them not only beauty and nobility, but also a rare combination of courage, strength, athleticism, docility, and intelligence.
The breed had its beginning in 1580 when Archduke Charles II of the Austro-Hungarian Empire established a studfarm in Lipizza (Lipica), using the best imported Spanish horses to cross with the native Karst horses. With the Spanish horses came Spanish trainers, and instructors. A riding school located in Vienna, Austria was developed for the Hapsburg royalty. The school was called the Spanish Riding School because of these Spanish origins, and the only breed used at this oldest of classical dressage institutions has been the Lipizzan Horse.
Through the 17th and 18th centuries the Lipizzan stud grew steadily by acquiring more Spanish stock as well as stallions of Spanish breeding from other European studs. In the 19th century, Arabians were added to the gene pool. Eventually six Lipizzan(stallions) established dominant sire lines:
SIGLAVY, an Arab; NEAPOLITANO, of Spanish breeding from Italy; MAESTOSO, from Kladrub, another stud using Lipizzans: FAVORY, from Kladrub; PLUTO, of Spanish origin from Denmark; and CONVERSANO, another Neapolitan.
Later, in Croatia and Hungary, the TULIPAN and INCITATO lines were developed
WARS AND EXPANSION
Throughout the centuries, the expansion of the Lippizzan Horse as a breed had been affected by military conflicts. Whenever warfare threatened the Lipizza stud, the horses were moved away. During these moves, individual horses would occasionally be given or sold to other studs. From these gifts or purchases came other small Lipizzan studs, usually within the boundaries of the Austrian empire.
By 1880 there were 341horses at the Lipizza studfarm alone. Until 1916, the studfarm remained a private possession of the Hapsburg monarchy. After World War I, the large Austro-Hungarian Empire was divided into several new republics, and every new state inherited the possessions of the former monarchy. The breeding stock of the imperial studfarm of Lipizza (1580-1916) itself was divided among three different countries:
Italy which was awarded the Karst region including Lipizza; Czechoslovakia, which retained Kladrub; Austria which moved breeding operations to Piber.
Other new states which continued the breeding of the Lipizzan horse were Hungary, Rumania, and Yugoslavia.
In 1943, the Lipizzan breed was again threatened with extinction when the mares and foals from Austria, Italy, and Yugoslavia were transferred to Hostau in Czechoslovakia by the German High Command. Through the heroic efforts of the Spanish Riding School’s director, Alois Podhajsky in conjunction with U.S. General George Patton the school of stallions was saved and the mares and foals were returned to Austrian soil.
IN TODAY’S WORLD
Today Lipizzan horses are found beyond the borders of what was once the Austro-Hungarian Empire. With between 3,000 to 4,000 purebred Lipizzans in the world, the breed is considered rare. In fact, more Lipizzans at this point live in the U.S. than in any other country. Extreme care is taken by those involved in the production of Lipizzan horses to insure that the purity of the breed is preserved. Much effort has been expended to develop educational programs to foster voluntary adherence to the traditional breed goals and objectives.
In the 21st century, the Lipizzan horse has proven to be a successful competitor at all levels of competition dressage and driving, as well as continuing to be the ultimate mount for classical horsemanship. The breed has also proven to be suitable for other equestrian disciplines including pleasure riding. Owners and breeders are dedicated to the Lipizzan breed because they appreciate its rarity, cultural importance, fascinating history, and its traits of intelligence, classical beauty, and harmonious, athletic way of moving.