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23 February 2019   
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 Spanish Breeds

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Spanish Breeds of Horse

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This breed has become world famous because of its connection with the Spanish School of Riding in Vienna. The breed traces back to 1580 when the Archduke Karl 11 purchased a group of farm buildings known as the village Lipizza (Lipicia) in the mountainous region on the Carso plateau, above Trieste (an area governed by the House of Hapsburg since 1370). There he started breeding and raising horses for the Spanish cavalry and for hunting, this was the foundation of the 'Imperial' stud farm. He imported Andalusian horses from Spain and crossbred them with horses of the Kingdom of Naples and the highly regarded stud horses of the Polesine region of Italy. For a long time these horses were known as 'Karst' or 'Spanish Karst' horses, the name Lipizzaner came in the second half of the 1800's.

During the Renaissance the need for cavalry horses and the fashion in the courts for light, strong carriage horse arose, so in 1540 the Archduchess Maria introduced Spanish-Neopolitan horses to Vienna and to her stud farm in Halbthurn, in western Hungary, now Burgenland. In 1572 her nephew Maximilian 11, the emperor, had the Stallburg built in Vienna and there he founded as a school of equitation, the Spanish School of Riding, so called because only horses of Spanish descent were used. He also purchased a stud farm at Kladruby, in upper Austria on the river Elbe where he could breed horses of Spanish descent, using the same bloodlines as the 'Kasts' in Lipizza. These horses were strong, compact and fast, not only ideally suited for mounts, but also for the light luxurious carriages of the time. Considered originally as a war and saddle horse the bloodlines of these Spanish horses could be traced back through the centuries without a break and an intensive crossbreeding programme was conducted at the court stud farm in Kladruby. Through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Imperial stud farms were increased in numbers and enlarged by the purchase of more land. When the archduke Ferdinand of Syria became emperor he disbanded the court at Graz and moved to Vienna, later under Karl V1 reign in 1719 the construction began of a new Imperial stable facility in Vienna with stalls for 600 horses, a carriage house, a tack room and apartment for the stable superintendent.

During Leopold 1 reign the breeding programme for the Lipizzan horses became intensive and in Emperor Karl V1 reign the enlargement of the stud farms continued until in 1728 Lipizza had five hundred brood mares. In 1797 in the Napoleonic wars, the Imperial stud farms were attacked for the first time and again in 1805 and 1809. Each time the horses were evacuated, the last time being the most difficult. Before finding refuge in Hungary the 300 horses and their grooms were forced to live in the open for six weeks in extremely harsh conditions, resulting in a quarter of the due foals being stillborn. It was not until the defeat of Napoleon and the decree of Europe by the Congress of Vienna that the horses were able to return to Lipizza in 1815 and resume breeding. After the Napoleonic Wars the need for the cavalry horse disappeared and there was talk of closing the Imperial stud and Spanish Riding School, however Franz Joseph 1 in 1850 allocated the funds to reconstruct the stud farm and ensure its continuance.

In 1915 during World War 1 the horses were once more moved out of Lipizza to Laxenburg and Kladruby and after the Austrian defeat the coastal territories (including the Carso region) were ceded to Italy, the Czechs illegally confiscated the brood mares and foals from Kladruby and 107 of the Laxenburg horses were turned over to Italy. The small number of 97 brood mares and foals, erroneously called 'Lipizzans', remaining to the Republic of Austria, were taken to Piber to the Federal Stud Farm in the mountains of southern Styria. Lipizza was renamed Lipicia and was governed by the new Communist Yugoslavia. After a while the stud farm was closed until in 1989, by order of Tito, the Slovenian National Stud was founded there. The modern Lipizzaner bloodlines may all be traced back even though they now come from Andalusia, Naples, the Polesine region of Italy, the courts Spanish stud farm at Lippe in Germany, Fredriksborg in Denmark and directly from Arabia (in 1826 the Arabian stallion Siglavy was purchased and put to the court stud farm to create the last bloodline). There are six major bloodlines that have endured to our time: Pluto, Conversano, Favory, Neapolitano, Maestoso and Siglavy. All true Lipizzaner horses are branded to show there bloodline with four brands; P for Piber on the left croup; L for Lipizzaner on the left cheek; the ancestral brand of the stallion line of the sire and the mare line of the dam, behind the left withers; the foal registry name behind the right withers. The foals are given a double name, that of the sire followed by that of the dam and a breed number. Since 1920 the Lipizzaner horses remaining to the Republic of Austria, are bred in Piber. Here they develop their natural paces high on the mountain pastures, similar to the Carso homeland of centuries ago. Developing their surefootedness and living in harmony with nature. The young stallions stay here for at least three summers before they are transferred to the Riding School in Vienna where they undergo a test of suitability for the training of Haute Ecole.

They stand at between 15 and 15.2 h.h. and are predominantly grey, known as the 'white horse', although the Spanish Riding School always perpetuates the tradition of including a dark brown stallion in their shows. Some dark bay, brown and even black horses do occur. They have handsome heads with a broad forehead and large, kind, eyes set wide apart; a fairly long, thick, but elegant neck; a well sloped shoulder with well defined withers; a short, strong, back; a short strong body with well sprung ribs; broad, strong, rounded hindquarters with a fairly low-set tail; medium to short length limbs that are clean cut, elegant and strong; a long silky luxuriant mane and tail. The beautiful Lipizzaner horse possesses great presence, lofty paces and agility. Together with a gentle, willing nature, make it a good all round riding or carriage horse, ideally suited for dressage and the movements of haute ecole (high school).

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