Lipizzaners have been called the finest riding horses in the world. They are very intelligent, sociable horses with a robust and graceful form. Six families with sixteen ancestors can be traced back to the early 18th century, and their pedigrees read like those of medieval royalty. The stables at Lipica, Slovenia display charts on each horse stall with complicated figures, dates and names like Maestoso Allegra and Neapolitano.
Lipizzaners foal between January and May, and the colts and fillies suckle for six or seven months. They remain in the herd for about three years and are then separated for training, which takes another four years.
Surprisingly, Lipizzaners are not white when they are born, but rather gray, bay or even chestnut in color. The celebrated “imperial white” does not develop until the horses are between 5 to 10 years old, when their hair loses its pigment. Their skin remains gray, however, so when they are ridden hard and sweat they become mottled.
A fully mature Lipizzaner measures about 15 hands, or just over 5 feet, and weighs between 1,100 and 1,300 pounds. They have long backs, short thick necks, silky manes, and expressive eyes. They live for 25 to 30 years and are particularly resistant to disease.
Lipizzaners are bred at Lipica, in Austria, and in the United States as riding and show horses. They are known for their beauty, elegance and agility. However, Lipizzaners at Szilv svarad near Eger in Hungary and at Jakovo near Osijek in Croatia are raised primarily as carriage horses, and as a result they are bigger and stronger than those found elsewhere.