There are many horse enthusiasts that are familiar with dressage. The swift, easy movements of the horse almost as if it were a dance. What many may be less familiar with is classical dressage, and more importantly the horse that is famous for being trained in it. This is the Lipizzan or Lipizzaner horse, bred most notably in Austria, is closely associated with the Spanish Riding School which trains their beautiful grey stallions to dance through the air. It is one of the oldest breeds of horse in Europe. It originated in Lipica in 1580, which at the time was part of the Austrian Empire.
A common myth is that of the color of the horses. Instead of white, they are actually grey. They usually start out as a foal of a bay or black color. As they age they begin to grey with their coats gradually turning lighter and lighter as they get older. However, earlier horses of the 18th century have been noted to be dun, bay, black as well as a few other colors. The stallions of the Spanish Riding School are all grey except for one who is bay. The grey colored was most favored by royalty.
The horse has gone through a rather rough history nearly being extinct during the War of Coalition of 1797, World War I and even World War II. But thankfully through determined efforts through each hardship, the breed has persevered. They were moved several times from farm to farm in an effort to save them from extinction. The first move was in 1805 during an invasion by Napoleon. They were kept away from the stud farm for two years not returning until April of 1807. They were evacuated several more times until World War I when they were moved again, this time to Luxemburg and Kladrub. Then in World War II under the command of General George S. Patton efforts to rescue the horses from the war-torn country and return them home were made. This was known as “Operation Cowboy”. There were 350 horses that were moved by train from Hostau (the modern day Czech Republic) to U.S. occupied Bavaria in May of 1945. There they were returned to the rest of the horses.
It seems nothing could destroy these horses and they truly were the miracle breed.