The story of the Lipizzan horse in Slovenia


Almost every little girl dreams of the prince (or princess) on a white horse. Her dreams can partly come true in Slovenia. As the proud home of the beautiful white horses known as Lipizzaners, Slovenia brings a touch of magic and wonder to life.

The Lipizzan or Lipizzaner is a special bread of horses from Lipica in Slovenia

The story of the Lipizzan or Lipizzaner horse is similar to the story of the ugly duckling. Lipizzan horses in Slovenia are born black and as they get older their fur turns white. We bet you haven’t seen a horse like that before. Unless you own a Lippizan horse of course.

Lipizzan horses or “Lipicanci” as they are called in Slovenia live in the Lipica Stud Farm, which is the oldest and largest continuously operating stud farm in the world, which was established in 1580.

The origin of Lipizzan horses in Slovenia

The Lippizan horses as a breed date back to the 16th century, when it was “developed” with the support of the Habsburg monarchy, which ruled in Europe at the time. The Habsburg monarchy needed an agile horse for military use as well as for the growing riding schools, which were being opened across Europe for the nobility. Therefore, in 1562, the Habsburg Emperor Maximillian II brought the Spanish Andalusian horse to Austria and founded the court stud at Kladrub. In 1580, his brother, Archduke Charles II, ruler of Inner Austria, established a similar stud at Lipizza (now Lipica), located in modern-day Slovenia, from which the breed obtained its name.

The Lippizan horses are developed from the Arab, Barb, Spanish and Neapolitan breeds of horses. Today Lipizzan horses are associated with Slovenia, although they are also well-known in Austria due to the Spanish riding school, which is located in Vienna. The ancestors of the Lipizzan can be traced to around 800 AD. The earliest predecessors of the Lipizzan originated in the seventh century when Barb horses were brought into Spain.

Lipizzaner horse

During World War I and World War II the Lipizzan horses became endangered by the sweeping welfare in Europe. However, the Lipizzan horses managed to survive with the help of American troops during the second world war. The Lippizan horses were made famous as the time due to the Disney movie Miracle of the White Stallions.

The white horses, who are born black

Lippizan horses are born with a pigmented coat. Most Lipizzan horses are born black or dark gray. Their color turns white as they mature. The whitening process of the Lipizzan horses takes from 6 to 10 years before being complete. Until the 18th century, Lipizzans had other coat colors, including dun, bay, chestnut, black, piebald, and skewbald.

Lipizzaner are not born white

Lipizzan horses are not the tallest horse breed in the world. Most Lipizzans measure between 147 and 157 cm. They are a Baroque horse, with a wide, deep chest, broad croup, and muscular shoulder.  Lipizzan horses tend to mature slowly. However, they live and are active longer than many other breeds, with horses performing the difficult exercises of the Spanish Riding School well into their 20s and living into their 30s.

Today, eight Lippizan stallions are recognized as the foundation bloodstock of the Lipizzaner breed, all foaled the late 18th and early 19th centuries. All modern Lipizzan horses can be traced back to their bloodlines of these eight stallions. Classical lines of stallions and classical families of mares developed in the Lipica Stud Farm at the end of the 19th century.

The majority of Lipizzan horses are registered through the member organizations of the Lipizzan International Federation, which covers almost 11,000 Lipizzan in 19 countries and at 9 state studs in Europe. Most Lipizzan horses reside in Europe, with smaller numbers in the Americas, Africa, and Australia.

Home of the Lipizzan horses – Lipica Stud Farm

Horse lovers must not miss a visit to the Lipica Stud Farm. Lipica is the home of Lipizzan horses and the largest stud farm with Lipizzan horses in the world. There are more than 300 Lipizzan horses living in Lipica Stud farm at this moment. Lipica is also called the cradle of white Lippizan horses, which is located in the Slovenian Karst region.

The oldest European stud farm, Lipica, that has been breeding the same horses without interruption is a cultural and historical monument, which impresses visitors with its horses and its surprising landscape.

The history of Lipica Stud farm is closely intertwined with the Habsburgs and the time when the Lipizzan horse was considered an ideal and was at the time a crucial strategic advantage. The Lipica stud farm story begins in the 16th century when the abandoned summer residence became the court stud farm.

Lipica Stud farm alongside Lipizzan horses is closely associated with the Spanish riding school in Vienna, where they demonstrate the “high school” movements of classical dressage, including the highly controlled, stylized jumps and other movements known as the “airs above the ground.”

At the Lipica Stud Farm, you will also find a golf course. Lipica golf course in one of the biggest golf courses in Slovenia, which is open all year. Go golfing in Lipica with us!

The Riding School of the Lipica Stud Farm

The Lipica Stud Farm teaches dressage following the principles of classical dressage, which developed in the past centuries based on dressage of horses for battle purposes. For the rider in the battlefield a horse with a good command of pirouettes, change of gallop, sidepasses and other elements is sometimes of vital importance. The fighting skill on especially trained horses has developed to the greatest extent in Spain. Hence the name “Spanish Riding School”.

Spanish Riding School for Lipizzan horses

The world-famous Spanish Riding School uses highly trained Lipizzan stallions in public performances that demonstrate classical dressage movements and training. In 1572, the first Spanish riding hall was built, during the Austrian Empire, and is the oldest of its kind in the world.

Lipizzaner horses

The Spanish Riding School, though located in Vienna, Austria, takes its name from the original Spanish heritage of its horses. In 1729, Charles VI commissioned the building of the Winter Riding School in Vienna,and in 1735, the building was completed that remains the home of the Spanish Riding School today.

You can experience the Spanish Riding school performance in Lipica.