Photographers' Blog

Lipizzaners return home

By Heinz-Peter Bader

It was a beautiful late summer day with blue sky and not a single cloud when I went to the village of Piber some 200 km (124 miles) west of Vienna to see the world famous Lipizzaner horses. Well, actually, the 40 young studs were not famous yet, but some of them would be selected to become famous some day – members of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

SLIDESHOW: DANCING HORSES OF VIENNA

The young Lipizzaners spend their summers in the mountains, and the return back to the stud is traditionally celebrated. They are decorated with flowers, receive blessings in front of the local church and are presented to the people before they arrive at their stable after a 16 km (10 mile) walk.

The biggest challenge for photographers was the speed that they walk at. There was no time for me to “walk” as I needed to look for nice picture backgrounds in advance, run to be ready in time, photograph the flock on their way down the trail, run again to be ready at the next spot and so on. I really enjoyed the eventual arrival at the church for a short rest, in bright sunshine during one of the hottest days in September.

The journey went on after the blessings – walking for the horses, running for me – until we arrived in the city of Koeflach for the presentation to the people. The show was over, but work continued. I went to the stable by car and waited for the Lipizzaners to arrive. It seemed they could hardly wait to return home eventually – they were neighing, running around, jumping and playing with each other.

Summer was over for them and so was my assignment. Maybe I will recognize one of the youngsters, with plain white skin and after an education of six years, during a show at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

The majestic Lipizzaner

By Lisi Niesner

Born as bay, chestnut or black foals, the vast majority of Lipizzaner horses are grey. A gene mutation is responsible for the loss of color pigments in their coats and causes what we see as white coloring in their growing age. The progressive silvering process starts the first year before the horses often completely turn white between six and eight, comparable with the aging of human hair, but with the process incredibly sped up. The color of their coat is based on the Mendelian inheritance and as grey is the dominant gene, in rare cases a small number of Lipizzaner horses stay dark into their adulthood.

Homozygous Lipizzaner are a brighter white, known as milk-white. As white is often a symbol of elegance and dignity, no wonder Archduke Charles II of Inner Austria chose these horses for his court stud founded in 1580. Their famous reputation owes not only to their brilliant white coat but also their mental and physical power. The Lipizzaner are graceful, agile and strong as well as being frugal, sociable and have an exceedingly good memory which makes them particularly suitable for the art of classical horsemanship and dressage riding.

It’s hard to believe that Lipizzaner are among the endangered breeds of domestic animals – worldwide only about 5000 animals exist.