PATIENCE - a Prerequisite (raising a Lipizzan)

by Lorraine Durham

reprinted from: United States Lipizzan Registry Lipizzan Journal, Vol 1 No. 5, 1982

Remember your friends' first impression when you told them you bought a Lipizzan right here in the United States. They were amazed and excited, weren't they? They just couldn't wait to see it. This is usually the FIRST IMPRESSION. Then you invited them out to see your new acquisition, and you noticed a sort of paralysis took over their speech standing there. Once able to speak, they very carefully chose their words and told you how "nice" the animal was.

If you have been in this situation before, Number One, you are not alone, and Number Two you probably laughed to yourself, because you knew your friends just didn't know what to think about your choice of breed.

This SECOND IMPRESSION, the one which is never told to your face, but you have to accidentally over hear, goes something like this, "That Lipizzan is two years old, and you wouldn't believe how much it looks like it was weaned only a few months ago. It's so small!" One might also over heard, "That Lipizzan is three years old, and they haven't even started it under saddle yet. They just let it run in their pasture and ground work it once in a while. Shouldn't they be riding it?"

Don't let it get to you. As many of us who own Lipizzans know, they are very late maturers, not reaching their full growth potential until seven years of age. Because of this fact, the Lipizzan simply cannot be compared to horses of other breeds, especially between foaling and five years. The foremost authority on the Lipizzan breed, i.e. the Spanish Riding School, recommends work under saddle not begin until they are at least four years of age. However, this late maturity can be regarded as an asset when one considers that a Lipizzan's usefulness under saddle can last well into its twenties and that it can live into its thirties.

While it is discouraging to be only lunging your Lipizzan while your friend and her three year old Arabian or Thoroughbred ride off into the sunset, pat yourself on the back if you have stuck to this painstakingly conscientious training method. You have the most important prerequisite in owning a Lipizzan - PATIENCE.

A Lipizan during its different stages of growth can look quite unattractive, even to the most devoted Lipizzan owner. One moment they look like absolute quality and by the time you have bought film to take those pictures to prove to everyone you really DID make the right choice, your horse has grown three inches in the hindquarters, and its forehand hasn't caught up.

You would love to take a head shot of those endearing doe-like eyes with the sweet, calm expression, but the head is now three times too large for the rest of the body. Somehow taking a picture of your Lipizzan's long, flowing tail isn't going to make it. So you wait - again - and sit through your friends' pictures of muscular two year old Quarter Horses winning at halter, photographs of lovely Arabian fillies with dished faces, and watching a two year old win the Preakness on television. PATIENCE

It's the end of summer and fall in coming on. While your friends' horses are still in their sleek summer show coats, your Lipizzan is saying that the Farmers Almanac is right again and it will be a bad winter. He is now boasting a one inch coat of gray fluff complete with guard hairs, and it's only October! (in California)

The Lipizzan originally came from some of the sturdiest stock of Karst horses in Yugoslavia where they had to survive under all weather conditions. These original ancestors of today's Lipizzan made their home along the coast of the Adriatic Sea, high in the rocky Karst mountains. These early Lipizzans faired well in this type of climate, and even today's descendants are noted as being pretty hardy animals. PATIENCE.

It's spring and your Lipizzan is looking marvelous. He's grown, he's a bit grayer, and is feeling quite fit.

You have invited your friends over again to see your pride and joy. As you let your Lipizzan free in the arena to play, he demonstrates lengthenings at the trot, piaffe, and passage. They say their horses can't do that. You politely say, "Oh, really."

Suddenly your Lipizzan leaps into a "pre-green" capriole, and then levades in the corner, and your friends gasp! "What if he does that while you ride him!!" Yes, they think, you've waited too long to train him under saddle, now he'll be a handful.

You smile. Because you know that maybe someday your Lipizzan will do this under saddle, but only when asked on cue after your careful and conscientious training of bringing him to the upper levels of dressage and then the airs above the ground. You are caught in another daydream, like so many; of the daydreams you have had, since you first saw your very own Lipizzan. You know the ability is there; the rest will only take PATIENCE.

The moment has arrived. After introducing your Lipizzan to saddle and bridle, you notice this was not a traumatic change in his life at all. After only a few times on his back your Lipizzan is well-balanced, responsive, willing to please, and has a great amount of common sense for one so green. Even your friends can't believe this was the same horse leaping in the air while at play and running in a pasture until he was four.

Something else has changed. Did you notice when your friends said they couldn't find your Lipizzan in the barn but wondered what you were doing with this magnificent animal on the lead line?

Your Lipizzan has gone from an Ugly Duckling to a Beautiful Swan. Your Lipizzan has matured, he is muscular, graceful, with a distinguished head, large expressive eyes, a coat as white as newly fallen snow, and he catches everyone's attention as he passes by.

Did you notice something else? Your friends are amazed and excited again, and only YOU remember that was their first impression.

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