May 2015 - The Lipizzan
Written by CRM
Saturday, 02 May 2015 02:15
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Special breed’s 450-year heritage has current benefits in today’s sporthorse world.

by Susanne Desai

Pluto Fantasia and his rider, Hallie Eisenhouer. Photo: Susanne Desai

The Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria will celebrate 450 years of dedication to classical riding and the Lipizzan horse breed on June 26 of this year. As the oldest of the four schools of classical riding (the others are in Saumur, France; Jerez, Spain; and Lisbon, Portugal), the Spanish Riding School seeks to refine the harmony between the horse and the rider using systematic training that has been passed down through generations and began with renaissance traditions.

There are strict guidelines to breed the horses to maintain their conformation and keep them able to perform up to the rigorous standards of the Spanish Riding School. Not only can they perform the usual Grand Prix movements of today’s dressage horse but they can master those movements such as piaffe and passage which help them learn and perform “haute ecole” (high school) movements such as the courbette or ballotade. Each horse is trained systematically to foster their unique abilities for high school movements.

My Pluto Fantasia is from the Pluto stallion line and the Fantasia mare line and he is an “airs” (as in “airs above the ground”) stallion. When on trail or otherwise excited, he likes to jump up into the air and put on a show instead of bolting or bucking or just rearing. He has natural skills that would take years to train into other breeds. His strength to go up is only as strong as his ability to hold himself up.

At just 15.1 hands high, Pluto Fantasia is a typical size and stout shoulder to maintain great balance when doing high levels of dressage. He takes up the leg of even a tall man with his very round barrel and his forward moving stride.  Always barefoot, he also has strong joints and legs and when ridden systematically he develops the ability to withstand the common sporthorse problems that can come with other breeds. Pluto Fantasia lives in San Diego and he is happy to work many days a week with his rider and trainer Hallie Eisenhouer showing us what true harmony between horse and rider really looks like.

After years of showing and high levels of dressage, it is not uncommon to see healthy Lipizzans into their late 20s, whereas you will sometimes see other breeds injured at age 16 or earlier. The Spanish Riding School just celebrated one of their stallion’s 27th birthday!

There are 72 stallions at the Spanish Riding school and they get to spend the summer resting at the new Heldenberg training center outside of Vienna. This training center recently opened to teach professionals and amateurs with enough ambition the long held secrets that have been passed down through the generations with only a verbal record. The Spanish Riding School has 18 riders, two of which are women. Of their 72 stallions, a few are not the classic white but instead bay colored. Horses are, for the most part, born brown and dark but will change to white out or grey by the age of 10. The rare colored Lipizzan is kept by the Spanish Riding school and breeders around the world to maintain the diverse gene pool and they are considered lucky.

You don’t have to import a horse from Austria or go far to find this rare breed of less than 4,000 horses worldwide. Here in North America there are over 20 breeders of Lipizzans. There are many of us maintaining the heritage and ideals of the breed so that many can experience the harmony that can be achieved from a long standing classical system of training.

Go to to find the list of breeders here in North America that are part of the Lipizzan Association of North America. Visit to learn more about the Spanish Riding School in Vienna or Heldenberg Training Center or the Lipizzan stud farm at Piber.