Austria in the 1500s was a major military power in Europe and the Austrian court recognised the need for the ultimate war-horse. During this time, the Andalucian or Iberian horse, renowned for its speed, grace and performance on the battlefield, was considered the best in the world.

In 1562 Maximillian II, of the Hapsburg dynasty, imported Andalucian stallions to Austria and founded the Court Stud at Kladrub. In 1580, his brother, Archduke Charles, bought nine Andalucian stallions and 24 Karst mares to stand at the newly formed stud in Lipizza, creating the Imperial Herd.

From this stud the major bloodlines were established and are still sought by breeders today — Plutto, Conversano, Favory Senior, Maestroso Senior, Neopolitano and Siglavy.

As well as Karst blood, these stallions introduced Neopolitan; Barb and Arab characteristics to the breed, producing a horse suitable for military, civilian and high school use, called the Lipizzaner.

Renowned for its amazing displays of classical equitation, unchanged since the Renaissance period, the Spanish Riding School of Vienna derived its name from the horses, of almost exclusively Spanish blood, that were sent there for training.

The Lipizzaner horses that perform with the school today have earned international acclaim and a worldwide following. Performances include steps and movements of the classical school, pas de deux, displays on the short rein, displays on the long rein, schools above the ground and the school quadrille.

The grey coat of the Lipizzaner has a special religious and symbolic significance. The Moors believed that God chose the pure white coats of the Andalucian, while pure white horses of the Romans were also believed to be of Divine influence and were chosen to pull the chariots of emperors.

This trait is carried through the Lipizzaner to this day, and to see a brown horse is very rare. Lipizzaner foals are born with a brown or bay coat that does not turn grey until the horse is four to six years old.

Breed Facts

1. The Lipizzaner stands at around 15.2hh-16hh

2. Traditionally all horses are marked with family brands that give details of foal number, stallion dynasty, mare family and stud origin.

3. Lipizzaners have a high set neck, low withers, long, powerful back and well rounded quarters.

For more information visit www.lipizzaner.org.uk or www.srs.at