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South African Lipizzaners School

Photographer: Kim Ludbrook


Lipizzaner horses are a noble horse breed that traces its lineage back to the late 15th century. These horses were originally bred by royalty and valued in military skirmishes for the fast and light qualities. They are bred from Spanish, Arabian and Berber horses and are known for their noble physique, graceful movements, liveliness and good nature.


The breed has been endangered numerous times during times of war, including during World War One and World War Two. During the latter war, Count Jankovich-Besan rescued a few Lipizzaner from his stud in war-torn Hungary and transported them via Austria to the UK. In 1948, the horses joined his family on a journey to South Africa, where they formed the first Lipizzaner stud in Mooi River, Kwa Zulu Natal.


In 1969, a second South African Lipizzaner stud farm was formed in Kyalami, Johannesburg. This now operates as the South African Lipizzaners School and has an indoor arena and stables where present day Lipizzaners live, train and perform.


Lipizzaner have a few defining physical characteristics and breeding standards have not changed in over 400 years. Born black, their hair slowly changes into a white color as they reach adulthood. They stand approx. 157cm tall and can weigh 700kg.


The horses are named after their direct ancestors and stallions are generally given two names. The first is that of their Sire's (father’s) blood line and the other that of their Dam (mother). Mares are given the name according to the family name from which the mare traces its history.


The South African Lipizzaners School has thirty horses and performs weekly shows on a Sunday for the public, together with outdoor shows. The school has student riders who train for eight months before qualifying as Lipizzaner riders. Once qualified, chosen riders progress to 'The Reds', and wear the red team clothing of the graduate riders.


Classic dressage methods of training are adhered to and the school has benefited greatly from visits by a Spanish Riding School Bereiter who helps train horses and riders.


Financially, the school relies on money from ticket sales as well as the sales of memorabilia and important public donations and corporate sponsorship.


The school prides itself on keeping the traditions of the Lipizzaners alive for future generations and the staff at the South African Lipizzaners School hope to keep these magnificent horses safe for generations to come.