Lipizzan horses have been protected by empires and sought by royalty. They’ve performed before presidents and been ridden by a president and a king. The steeds of legends, they are Pegasus without wings, yet still able to fly. These magnificent horses are known for their proud bearing, elegant gait, superior intelligence and enduring strength.
The Lipizzan breed represents more than 400 years of select breeding and is considered Europe’s oldest breed of domesticated horses. Developed during the late Renaissance, these horses represent the culmination of beauty, strength and intelligence. During the late 16th century, the Royal Court of Imperial Austria imported Spanish stallions to improve its domestic stock. In 1580 Archduke Charles II established the stud farm in Lipizza, a small village near Trieste, which is now part of Slovenia. He bred the best of the imported Spanish horses to the native Karst stock in order to preserve the best qualities of the local horses while creating a horse best suited to the times. The Karst horses were white in color, small, slow to mature and extremely tough. Some of these qualities can be seen in the Lipizzans today.
Efforts to save the Lipizzan breed
Lipizzan Performance Uniform
Throughout history, the Lipizzans’ existence has been threatened by numerous wars and lack of suitable food and shelter for long periods of time. In the late 1700s, the horses were moved three times during the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon gained possession of the horses and bred his Arab stallion, Vesir, to the Lipizzans. Seven Arab stallions were used to develop the breed during the period from 1807 to 1856. They were: Siglavy, Tadmor, Gasian, Saydan, Samson, Hadudi and Ben Azet. From 1792 to 1815, the Kladruby horse helped to develop two of the Lipizzan lines – Maestoso and Favory. By 1880 there were 341 Lipizzan horses at the Lipizza stud farm. Of all the sires used in the 18th and 19th centuries, only six founded the original stallion lines of the Lipizzan breed: Siglavy, Neapolitano, Maestoso, Favory, Pluto and Conversano. Later, in Croatia and Hungary, the Tulipan and Incitato lines were developed.
During World War I, the Lipizzans were moved again, and at the end of the war in 1919, they were divided between Italy and Austria. There were only 208 Lipizzans known to be left in existence. Italy received 109 horses for its stud farm and Austria received 98 horses for its stud farm in Piber.
Once again during World War II, the Lipizzans' existence was threatened and the breeding herd was evacuated to Hostau, Czechoslovakia. However, in the closing days of the war, Hostau laid directly in the path of the rapidly approaching Russian army. In order to protect the horses from certain destruction, U.S. General George Patton, an avid horseman, lead the Second Cavalry division behind enemy lines and provided protection for the Lipizzan horses. Patton’s unprecedented action is credited with saving the breed. It was not until 1955 that the performance stallions returned to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
The Tempel Lipizzans
The Tempel Lipizzans began in 1958 when the late Tempel and Esther Smith imported 20 Lipizzans from the Austrian stud farm in Piber and started what became the largest privately owned herd of Lipizzans in the world. The Tempel Lipizzans originally performed at private functions and charitable events. Their prestigious appearances include several Presidential Inaugurals and special exhibitions at the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Taste of Chicago, Ravinia Festival, Arlington Racecourse and Madison Square Garden. In 1982, the late Tempel Smith’s daughters arranged for the first public performances at Tempel Farms as a tribute to their parents’ dream of establishing an American center of classical horsemanship that followed in the tradition of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. In 1997, the President of Austria presented the Smith family with the Officer’s cross, Grand Declaration of Honour for Service to the Republic of Austria, in recognition of their “careful management of a cultural institution with such close ties to Austria.” Tempel Farms is the only place in the United States where these rare white horses are bred, trained and perform on the same property.
Tempel Lipizzan Stables and Outdoor Arena
Tempel Farms is also host to world-renowned clinicians such as Conrad Schumacher and Olympians Michelle Gibson and Bruce Davidson. The farm also hosts an annual dressage competition, Dressage at Tempel Farms. For many years, Tempel Farms served as host to the North American Young Rider Championship and the USDF Young Rider Clinic series. All these programs are run to promote the art of classical dressage as well as the beauty and grace of the Lipizzan breed.