Lipizzaners: the dancing white stallions

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Recently I was able to tick off another goal on my 101 list, namely #88 – Go to a Lipizzaner show. South Africa is privileged to be home to one of only two officially recognised performing Lipizzaner groups in the world. The other group is the original Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which made these incredible white horses so famous in the first place.

You don’t have to be a horse person to appreciate the dancing white stallions; the beauty of this art form has instant and widespread appeal. To see such powerful creatures so finely tuned to their skilled handlers is awe inspiring indeed. I’ve wanted to attend one of the Lipizzaner shows for a couple of years already, so it was exciting when our schedules worked out to go to one this weekend.

Here are a few pics from our day with the horses. Some of the photos aren’t such great quality, as in my excitement I only realised too late that I had the wrong setting on my camera for the lighting conditions at the time 😦 But anyway, you should still be able to make out some of the amazing movements the horses perform.

Presenting a tribute to the horse

Presenting a tribute to the horse

A few interesting facts about Lipizzaners:

  • All Lippizan foals are born black, gradually turning grey/white as they grow older. A handful of the horses stay dark all their lives.
  • The South African Lipizzaners are only trained and ridden by women.
  • The original horses had to be smuggled into South Africa during World War II, and at one point even disguised with tar and dirt, to make them unappealing so that they would not be killed for meat.
  • Only stallions are used for performances, although the breed mares are an important part of the programme too.
Performing the levade: a very precise lift off the ground

Performing the levade: a very precise lift off the ground

As the announcer explained to us, the levade is very different to the horse simply rearing up. If you look closely you can see the extreme control needed in the hind legs… it’s definitely not an easy position for the animals to hold.

Performing the piaffe: a very slow, controlled 'trot on the spot'

Performing the piaffe: a very slow, controlled ‘trot on the spot’

Apparently the horse is not meant to advance by more than a hoof-space during the piaffe. It’s a movement that looks so simple at first, until you realise how much training it must take to teach the animal such control.

A dark Lipizzaner leaping with all fours off the ground

A dark Lipizzaner leaping with all fours off the ground

I can’t recall which movement this dark horse was performing at the time (the pic doesn’t show it very clearly); it could have been the croupade, ballotade or capriole.

A stallion performing the courbette: a 'bunny hop' movement

A stallion performing the courbette: a ‘bunny hop’ movement

This was quite a surprising movement to see: an enormous, powerful horse ‘hopping’ on its hind legs like a bunny!

The final part of the show

The final part of the show

The show ended with an amazing, varied parade of six riders and their mounts. What made the day even more exciting was that after the show we were allowed to walk past the stables and feed carrots to the horses.

Nom nom nom!

Nom nom nom!

A wonderful day all told, and a chance to admire these superb animals that have been dancing with humans for centuries. Watching them, I was reminded of another white horse:

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True … And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.”

~ Revelation 19:11, 14 ~

I highly recommend going to see a Lipizzaner show if you ever have the opportunity 🙂

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  1. Pingback: What do you collect? | Sunshine Scrapbook

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