The Lipica riding school
The Lipica Stud Farm Riding School provides schooling for horses and riders. The work in all programmes/levels at the Riding School is based on consistent professional and ethical principles.
The beginnings of dressage date back to ancient Greece, where its development began for warfare purposes. Following the decline of ancient Greece, the art of dressage was lost for some time. It began to flourish again in the 16th century, during the Renaissance, with the establishment of mainly Italian riding academies. Emphasis was placed on the harmony between horse and rider, and on schooling based on the natural movement of horses. Dressage as we know it today was brought about by the founding of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna in the 18th century. It is called Spanish because it originally used only Spanish horses. It subsequently switched to Lipizzan horses. The school’s job was to preserve the art of the haute école and to select the best studs.
Schooling is an important part of the life of Lipizzan horses, as it teaches the stallions precise movements, various paces, turns and jumps. Schooling begins at the age of three, and takes from four to five years for stallions. By the age of five, a series of complex evaluations are performed to determine whether the stallion is exceptional or average. Only the best horses are chosen for the haute école, with above-average intelligence and a superbly shaped body, because this is the only way that they will be able to master and perform the higher-level elements of the airs above the ground.
In the first phase, stallions acquire proper carriage, and even and balanced paces. Later, the stallions are ridden, and they have to accept and learn to carry the rider’s weight in a natural posture, improve their balance, and get to know the rider’s aids. The horse becomes light, relaxed, and agile. Work takes place in trot and canter. After about one year of schooling, a selection is performed.
The second year of schooling is focused on exploring and developing the physical and mental characteristics of the horse, and on increasing its endurance, relaxation, suppleness and flexibility. The stallions learn exercises such as turns, circles, figures of eight, turn on the haunches, rein-back, proper transition into canter, and lateral movements. Afterwards, the horses are reassessed for obedience, perceptiveness, development and appearance, and then another selection is made. In the third year of schooling, as the stallions reach about six years of age, the haute école schooling begins. Attention is paid to special paces, turns, and different jumps. Pirouettes, lead changes, piaffes and passages, are polished to perfection.
In the last year of schooling, as the haute école figures are perfected, schooling in the art of riding on the ground is completed, and schooling in the airs above the ground begins. The levade, courbette, capriole and the pesade, are the hardest elements, and are actually what the Lipizzan horse excels at. This is where the strength, elegance, endurance and intelligence of Lipizzan horses are the most evident.
The work of the Riding School of the Lipica Stud Farm is managed by the main trainer, with assistants, and performed by horse-riding instructors and riders. The main trainer organises and leads the training of individual groups of horses. He participates in the formation and implementation of the programme of regular and additional training of riders and beginner riders, provides mentorship, and supervises work in the Tourist Riding School and the Lipica Equestrian Club.
The Riding School of the Lipica Stud Farm also carries out working ability testing of the Lipizzan horses, as part of the selection process within the Lipizzan horse breeding programme. In 1984, competitors from Lipica competed for the first time at the Los Angeles Olympics, achieving an enviable 10th place as a team. The Lipica team won the gold medal at the Balkan Games in 1987.