Those big, white, beautiful stallions called Lipizzaners are coming to the Delta Center on Saturday, Aug. 13, for two shows at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the Delta Center box office, at all Smith'sTix outlets and by calling 325-SEAT or 467-TIXX.
Just how famous are the Lipizzaner stallions? Let us count the ways!They were equine stars of Walt Disney's "The Miracle of the White Stallions," which depicted Gen. Patton's rescue of the breed from the ravages of World War II.
Mystery writer Mary Stewart immortalized them in print in her Austrian-based novel, "Airs Above the Ground."
History buffs know the Oriental ancestors of this aristocratic horse date back to Genghis Khan. Many believe the forerunner of the Lipizzan was bred in ancient Carthage two millenia ago. A sturdy Pyrenees horse, the Vilano, was bred to the Carthaginian stock resulting in the famed Spanish horse, the Andalusian.
At the end of 700 years of Moorish rule of Spain, the horses began to be exported, and the stud farm in Frederiksborg, Denmark, produced the Italian "Neapolitan" blood line that became famous in Europe.
Archduke Maximillan, who would become Emperor of Austria, began breeding Spanish horses in about 1562. A royal stud farm was established 18 years later in Lipizza, in the rugged hills of Karst, near Trieste. The 400-year modern history of the Lipizzaner thus began.
As the old Austrian empire fell, the horses eventually ended up at Piber in Steirmark. The Royal Lip-izzaners that will be performing their "airs above the ground" at the Delta Center Saturday are not associated with the Spanish Riding School of Piber, but a number of the horses in the show were born at the Piber Stud Farm.
Years ago producer Gary Lashinsky went out on a limb to put together a U.S. tour of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions. He thought he might have an 18-month to 2-year tour. Instead, Lashinsky is celebrating the 25th anniversary of "The Wonderful World of Horses" tour. Lashinsky purchases his Lipizzaners from the Spanish Riding School in Austria and trains them at a farm in Florida. Even after a quarter of a century, the producer is excited about these magnificent steeds. "They are the Mercedes Benz or Rolls-Royces of horses," he said in a telephone interview from his home in Winter Park, Fla. "It takes six, eight and up to 10 years to train a Lipizzaner up to the Grand Prix level. Then we take the more athletic ones to train for the `Airs Above Ground.' "
In "Airs Above Ground" the Lipizzaners perform a series of maneuvers where the horse leaps above the ground doing one of the following:
- Capriole - the horse finds his tempo, leaps into the air drawing his forelegs under his chest and, at the height of elevation, kicks out violently with the hind legs. Anciently, this technique was used in battle and was terrifying to foot soldiers.
- Courbette - The horse balances on the hind legs and then jumps, keeping the hind legs together and the forelegs off the ground.
- Croupade - the jump is similar to the Capriole, but in this maneuver the horse tucks both his fore and hind legs under his body at the height of elevation.
In an elegant equine ballet, the horses will also pirouette and stand in one place performing a cadence trot called the piaffe. With the added touch of music from the masters (Mozart, Chopin and Schubert) and riders clad in Napoleonic uniforms, this production showcases the advanced art of dressage or guiding the mount without perceptible use of hands, legs or reins. In addition to the Lipizzaners, a magnificent Andalusian horse and an Arabian are put through their paces.
And what about problems arising from filling a ring with feisty stallions? Says producer Lash-insky, "This breed dating back 2,500 years has a surprising gentleness. Even with six, eight or 10 stallions working together under the control of their riders, they perform effortlessly with a unique gentleness."