Interested in living in a historic European city during the winter then retreating to the outdoor green pastures of the countryside every summer? Sounds like a perfect balance of exciting city life and tranquil sounds of nature to me and given the choice I’d say YES please! However, this offer is valid only for the Spanish Riding School Lipizzaner horses.
If you are a “horsey person” like me you will appreciate the importance and beauty of this breed of horse however for those who aren’t familiar with the Lipizzaner let me try to explain in a nutshell:
- Lipizzaner is one of Europe’s oldest breeds – it dates back to the 16th century. That’s going back 400+ years folks!
- The breed name was named after one of the earliest stud farms, Lipica, which is now located in modern Slovenia.
- During “Habsburg rule” lightweight horses that could serve as military horses as well as look pretty were desired and the Spanish Andalusian horse was brought in from Spain to cross-breed with many other breads = the Lipizzaner was born.
- The Habsburg family preferred grey coloured horses so breeding practices were adjusted according to the horses’ colourings.
- Several events have threatened the extinction of this breed such as wars, the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and viral disease.
- All Lipizzaner are born dark and most will gradually turns grey between the ages of 6 -10 years.
- Only Stallions are shown at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
- It is tradition to always have one Bay (dark brown) coloured Stallion at the Riding School (some say for good luck).
- Stallions arrive at the Spanish Riding School at age 4 for training, which could take 6 years to complete.
- Each horse is trained to do various jumps and gaits in the performances.
- Every horse gets to take a break from performing and spend July & August at the summer quarters and training centre in Heldenberg, Lower Austria. After a well deserved rest they come back to Vienna to resume the fall/winter schedule.
- Piber Stud, located in Styria, Austria is now the primary breeding ground for the Lipizzaner.
- A Stallion will never breed with the same Mare more than once.
- Once a Stallion has fulfilled his show career he enjoys his retirement and the rest of his life back at Piber Stud.
Living in Vienna has its perks and being this close in proximity to these beautiful creatures is one of my greats joys of living in Europe. I never grow tired of visiting the stables in the heart of the city. I even time my visits so that I can see them leave the stables to head for their morning exercises across the street in the Winter Riding School.
Every so often I treat myself by going to a gala performances to watch the horses execute perfect dressage in sync with classical music. Sadly, no photography or videography are allowed during all performances, morning exercises or stable tours so you will have take my word and come to Vienna to see it for yourself.
On a recent trip to Italy my husband and I took a quick detour to visit the Piber Stud. I wanted to see the foals since I knew that typically they are born in early spring. In total there were 39 foals this year, all of which are healthy and precious.
It’s definitely a nice life for these horses and thankfully there are enough horse lovers out there who appreciate the breed. I’m sure that the Lipizzaner will live on for many more years.
I shall leave you with my photo journal from my day at the Piber Stud.