Also known simply as the Lipizzan, the Lipizzaner horse breed is strongly associated with “Haute Ecole,” one of the highest forms of dressage and classical riding. They are a staple breed within the Spanish Riding School of Vienna in Austria, one of the top riding schools in the world teaching this form of dressage.
The breed has been endangered multiple times throughout their history, partly due to the multiple wars that were fought in Europe in the last 500 years and partly due to how private and isolated the breeding process was until the early 1900s. There are still relatively few purebred Lipizzaners in existence today, but their numbers are gradually rising.
Read on for more in-depth information about this unique and rare horse breed!
Quick Facts about Lipizzaner Horse
|Species Name:||Equus caballus|
|Temperament:||Gentle, intelligent, calm, friendly, stubborn|
|Color Form:||Mostly grey, occasionally solid black or bay|
|Size:||60-64 inches high, 1,000-1,300 pounds|
|Minimum Enclosure Size:||2 acres|
|Compatibility:||Highly trainable and intelligent|
Lipizzaner Horse Overview
The Lipizzaner Horse originated in Slovenia and is an ancient breed that dates back to the 16th century. The breed was named for the Lipizza Stud of the Hamburg Monarchy that is credited with their creation, stemming from the need for a fast and light horse that could be used in the military. The breed is considered a horse of royalty and is also one of Europe’s oldest breeds, taking over 400 years to develop.
Interestingly, all the stallions for the Lipizzaner breed were foaled in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and all modern Lipizzaner horses can trace their lineage back to these eight stallions. Because Lipizzaners are the only breed developed in Slovenia, the country recognizes the breed as their national animal, although the Slovenian Lipizzaner Breeding Association (SLBA) was not established until 1991. The training methods used on these horses are also ancient, and the methods that are still largely in use by the Spanish Riding School are derived from the ones first described in ancient Greece!
How Much Do Lipizzaner Horses Cost?
Lipizzaners are a rare breed in the United States and a highly sought-after and coveted breed worldwide, making them an expensive animal to purchase. There is also a mystique surrounding the breed due to their long history and their association with the Spanish Riding School, further driving up the price.
Training, temperament, and conformation also have a large impact on their cost, and trained horses with a lineage of show horses are far more expensive than untrained horses. Prices begin at around $8,000 and can easily reach up to $25,000 and occasionally more. You may be able to find older horses for around $3,500, but these are more suited purely for pleasure riding.
Typical Behavior & Temperament
Lipizzaner Horses are known to be highly intelligent and easy to train, one reason that they are so widely used in dressage. They remain easily trainable well into old age — most horse breeds get set in their ways and form cemented habits as they age, but not the Lipizzaner. That said, they are also known to be stubborn at times and require a fair dose of patience during training. They are often described as gentle, sweet, and eager-to-please animals, and this paired with their smaller size makes them easy animals to care for.
Appearance & Varieties
Contrary to popular belief, the Lipizzaner is genetically grey and not white, even though they appear as such. They are typically born brown or dark grey and then lighten to an off-white as they age, although there are occasionally solid brown, bay, or black Lipizzaners too. This coat will usually fully come in when the horse is around 6-10 years old, at which point, they get their gorgeous white-grey coat.
The ancestry of the Lipizzaner is from just eight stallions, and each line is referred to as a “dynasty.” Six lines are considered “classical” Lipizzaners — Pluto, Conversano, Neapolitano, Favory, Maestoso, and Siglavy — with an additional two lines found in Eastern Europe and North America.
How to Take Care of a Lipizzaner Horse
While Lipizzaners are fairly low-maintenance animals, their gorgeous grey-white coat requires regular brushing and grooming to maintain its unique beauty. They will need regular washing with specialized horse shampoo, which will help prevent staining and keep their coat healthy. Their manes and tail need to be cleaned regularly too. A standard equine comb is great for regular brushing of their coat to remove any dirt and debris, and they’ll need regular appointments with a farrier to keep their hooves clean and healthy.
Housing your Lipizzaner is a massive responsibility, and there are many factors to consider before making the commitment. If you do not have space at home, you can board your horse at an established stable or boarding farm, but of course, this will cost extra. If possible, it’s better to have your horse on your property, where you can maintain a close relationship with them. This is not always an option for most people, of course, and the time, space, and property suited for owning a horse is not available to everyone.
You’ll need at least an acre of space for your horse and a well-built indoor stable if it’s cold in your area or at least a three-sided basic stable if you do not experience harsh winters. You’ll also need a space for equipment, like saddles, hay, feed, bedding, and harnesses, and most likely, a trailer for transportation. Of course, this is the basics of what most horses need, and keeping a horse at home is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. For most new horse owners, boarding may be the best option initially.
Do Lipizzaner Horses Get Along With Other Pets?
Other horses are great companions for Lipizzaner Horses, but donkeys, ponies, and miniature horses are also just as suitable. Because Lipizzaners are so friendly and intelligent, they have been known to make friends with all sorts of other animals, including dogs, cats, cows, sheep, and goats.
Because all animals, including horses, have unique personalities, preferences, and histories, it can be difficult to predict how they’ll interact with each other, so introductions should be done slowly and calmly and on an individual basis — introduce your horse to each pet one by one. Be sure to carefully monitor the interactions of your horse and pets for at least a few weeks afterward, just to make sure there is no trouble brewing!
Housing horses with other large pets like cows and sheep is typically fine, but some horses are more territorial than others and may see these animals as a threat. Again, careful introductions and supervision are essential.
What to Feed Your Lipizzaner Horse
For almost all horse breeds kept for pleasure riding, pasture and good-quality hay are perfectly sufficient. Most trail horses do not need additional grain, and the roughage from hay and grass is best suited for their digestive system. Around 1-2% of their body weight in roughage per day is a good rule of thumb. You’ll need to adjust your horse’s food depending on how much activity they do, their age, and the season. Try not to feed them just before or immediately following exercise. A full stomach makes exercise more strenuous for your horse, and they should cool down adequately for an hour or two after exercise before eating.
Keeping Your Lipizzaner Horse Healthy
Lipizzaners are generally healthy, long-lived animals, often reaching ages of 30-35 years. With a healthy diet and regular exercise, they generally suffer from few health issues. That said, their light coat does make them fairly susceptible to melanomas, as their skin is more exposed to sunlight. Be sure to regularly check for any unusual bumps on their skin, particularly on the muzzle and around their tail, where the hair is thin.
The Lipizzaner breed is rare, and as such, there are few registered breeders. Most breeders insist on breeding Lipizzaners the traditional way, by placing stallions and broodmares in a joint stable. Mares and foals are then usually enclosed together for 10-14 days alone, so you can ensure them peace and adequate control and monitor everyone’s health. They are then placed back into shared stables, though the foals will stay with the mother for up to a year.
Are Lipizzaner Horses Suitable for You?
If you can find one, the Lipizzaner’s small size, ease of care, long lifespan, and gentle temperament make them great for general pleasure riding and trail riding. Of course, their high intellect and history make them excellent dressage horses too, and they are highly capable in competitions. They are healthy, long-lived animals that suffer from few health issues, so you’ll have this equine companion for years to come! This is, of course, a massive responsibility, especially when combined with the high cost of stabling and feeding a horse.
If you have the time and space and are looking for a truly unique breed of horse to bring home, the Lipizzaner is a wonderful option!
Featured Image Credit: karengesweinphotography, Shutterstock