The Lipizzaner stallions are strongly associated with the Spanish
Riding School, famous around the world for their public displays that
include classical dressage and training performances centered around
the Lipizzaner stallions. Such performances feature the "Airs Above the
Ground", which are dressage movements that require immense strength,
agility and stamina in order to execute with grace and panache. These
stallions retain a classical eminence within the Spanish Riding School
The Lipizzaner stallions are an intriguing breed, being predominately a gray colored horse, though occasionally a rare solid color horse is born, usually either bay or black colored. The horses are born dark, either bay or black, and progressively become lighter each year until the coat has entirely changed its color, which can take anywhere between six and ten years. Until the 18th century, Lipizzans could be found in a variety of coat colors, but there is evidence that the royal family favored stallions of a gray coat, and so this color of coat was selected for by those breeding the horses. The Spanish Riding School has always maintained at least one bay colored Lipizzaner in their stables, and despite the extreme rarity of this color of stallion today, they still uphold this tradition today.
Lipizzaner stallions are a surprisingly rare breed with only about 3,000 registered world wide. This is largely due to the strict measures that breeders take in order to ensure that the Lipizzaner line remains pure. There have even been a number of educational programs that were developed with the aim of teaching traditional breeding practices and objectives as well as promoting the breed. Because of the worldwide fame of the Lipizzaner stallions through their performances with the Spanish Riding School, they have brought their nation of origin, Slovenia, great pride, and the stallions are even featured on the nation's currency.
The Lipizzaner breed was almost lost entirely during the events of World War II, as a large portion of the registered breed was captured by Nazi Germany and transferred to Hostau, Czechoslovakia, where they faced the danger of becoming rations for the advancing Soviet army. The liberation of the Lipizzaners occurred in two parts- General Patton neared St Martins, where the Lipizzaners that were not captured had been evacuated to, in the Spring of 1945 and being a riding man himself, took the horses under his protection. Later in the Spring, the Third Army's United States Second Cavalry discovered the horses at Hostau, and were able to liberate them along with a host of prisoners of war when they captured the facility. The horses were finally returned to the Spanish Riding School in 1955. The School has honored the United States for rescuing its stallions with tours throughout the country, the most recent of which occured in 2005, the 60th anniversary of Pattons' rescue.
Because these horses overflow with strength, beauty, and finesse, the Lipizzans of today still compete successfully dressage and driving events.