Bob & I, like many people, had seen the
beautiful Lipizzan Stallions of Austria on various television specials but never
up close and personal. While we were staying in Arcadia, Florida, we saw an
advertisement to see these gorgeous Lipizzans at their Winter training sessions.
While I will admit that the shows you see on TV and on the various circuits are
spectacular, there is a special magic being able to see these magnificent horses
up close and personal. We were given a tour of barn and saw each horse
and hear the story of his personal history. Only the stallions are put on
display, while the mares are allowed to roam free in a meadow at the rear of the
property. Each horse has been branded with a brand indicating that the horse
line goes back to
Royalty. They explained that they now have a method of branding the horses that
doesn't cause pain the way the original methods did.
The man who runs this operation is a legend in himself. He is Col. Ottomar Herrmann. We learned that the Lipizzans have been in the Herrmann family since the reign of Austrian Emperor Ferdinand II who gifted the great white stallions to the Knight Ritter von Schoevel to lead his finest officers into battle. As direct descendants of von Schoevel, Col. Herrmann's family has trained and ridden Lipizzans for six generations, a period spanning nearly three hundred years. During World War II the Lipizzans almost became extinct. However a great man by the name of General George S. Patton and the third Army stepped in to rescue these valiant animals. The Lipizzaner are a living tribute to the courage of the men who save them. Col. Herrmann and his family assisted in the remarkable rescue that was made famous by Disney's compelling movie, "Miracle of the White Stallions." Today, Col. Herrman pays tribute to Gen. Patton, their great patron.
Although the show is presented in a simple arena with wooden bleachers, the background is forgotten the minute these magical animals come onto the scene. The riders are all related to Col. Herrman either through family or marriage. One of the moves that the Lipizzaners present is called Airs Above the Ground, and the Ballotade is the most dramatic. It calls upon the stallion to rise up on his hind legs and strike out repeatedly with his forelegs. Originally this was a war maneuver, it was used to protect elite rides from the onslaught of enemy foot solders. The courage of the stallion was his rider's last and most important defense. From what I understand from friends who have knowledge of horses one of the most difficult things to do is get a horse to jump up and take all four feet off the ground.
There is music played on the loudspeakers around the arena and I was absolutely mesmerized watching these huge animals performing a ballet worthy of the Bolshoi Ballet. It was absolutely choreographed down to the smallest hand movements of the riders.
Most of the year the troupe is out on the road doing their shows, but from January through March they have training sessions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
If you're interested in finding out more about their schedule be sure and check out their website at: www.herrmannslipizzans.com or give them a call at 941-322-1501.