Lipizzaner horses at home

LIPICA, Slovenia -- There are probably people who fly to Vienna with one goal in mind -- to see the famous white Lipizzaner horses perform at the Spanish Riding School.

They might be surprised to learn that the horses originally came from the Slovenian village of Lipica, where they are bred and trained for their celebrity life.

Lipizzaners are recognized by equestrian experts as the finest horses in the world, based on their intelligence, grace, strength and sociability. The Lipizzaners are purebreds whose lineage dates back to medieval times.

The Lipica Stud Farm was founded in 1580 by Austrian Archduke Charles, who wanted to an elite stock of horses for Vienna's Spanish Riding School.

Lipizzaners were bred using a combination of the Andalusian horse from Spain and the Karst breed from Lipica favored by leaders in the Roman Empire. Later, Arabian horses were added to the mix.

In the wake of World War II, nearly all of the horses were moved outside of Slovenia. The stud farm began operations again after the war with 11 horses.

The horse show, performed in a gymnasium-like structure to polkas and waltzes, lasts about 40 minutes. Two to four riders and their Lipizzaners demonstrate the ability to march, kick and turn in formation. A spectacle, this is not.

The tour of the horse farm is more interesting. Here you can pet the Lipizzaners and learn about their rigorous workout schedule. Lipica can boast that it is the only place in the world where visitors have the chance to ride the Lipizzaners.

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