Monday, October 27, 2008

Der Lipizzaner

Last weekend, the world-famous Lipizzaner Stallions came to my town, and I decided that I had to see them because, after all, they're a part of my Austrian heritage. This is the same reasoning which dictated that I had to see Gordon Lightfoot perform live, as he's a part of my Canadian heritage. That's just how I am. If I were of Russian descent, I would be sure to see the Moscow Ballet before I died. If I had any Italian blood coursing through my veins, I would make a point of seeing Pagliacci. And, if I were American born, I wouldn't have the foggiest idea what any of the above are, so I'd just stay in and watch Surreal Life re-runs.

For those who don't know, the Lipizzaner are a breed of beautiful, white stallion descended from the fabled Spanish Andalusian line. They're famous for being particularly graceful and agile in their movements. They can trot to the tempos of Strauss and Mozart better than the Von Trapps at a square dance competition.

"But if the horses are Spanish," you may wonder, "what makes them such an integral part of my Austrian heritage?" Well, it seems that, round about 1562, the Archduke Maximilian, who later became Emporer of Austria (ah ha!) started breeding these horses. Later on, another Archduke, Karl1, established a royal stud farm in Lipizza, located in the hills of Karst, near Trieste. Hence, the breed's modern moniker.

The other reason I decided that I should see the Lipizzaner is because I suffer from a deplorable dearth of culture in my life. Until I saw the Lipizzaner perform, I thought that "dressage" was something that you found at a salad bar.

Although horses are not among my primary interests, I could not help but be impressed at the grace and agility of these magnificent creatures. I watched in rapt amazement as one of the handsome stallions performed a flawless Piaffe manoeuver whilst simultaneously dropping a three-pound mound of steaming horse dung in the brilliant glare of the spotlights for all to admire. In fact, I began to wonder whether the horses weren't getting the wrong idea, thinking that the applause was for their impressive discharge rather than the movements being performed. If we could read their equine thoughts, we might hear something like "Hey, the humans really seemed to like that last one! Heck, that's nothing! Wait until they see this next load I've got brewing!"

Which reminds me, the unsung stars of the Lipizzaner performance, in my opinion, are the black-garbed groomsmen who run about in the dark shadows between the spotlights, shovel in hand, scooping up the "souvenirs" left by the performing stars as inconspicuously as possible, whilst also managing to stay out of the paths of the horses and riders. Believe you me, if not for these intrepid souls, the atmosphere in the auditorium would have become pretty "ripe" by the end of the show, if you get my drift!

All kidding aside, though, the show was truly impressive and I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in horses.


  1. We Austrians used to have a thing for Archdukes right up until Ferdinand, after which we decided that they were more trouble than they were worth.

2 comments:

Martin said...

Candy was telling me a story about how at the Shrine Circus there is a man who's job it is to run around behind the elephants and, as they begin to unload a dump or release a torrent of urine, shove a bucket under the creature to collect said deposits. World's worst job, bar none. Imagine what could happen if the aim of the bucket-bearer or the elephant is off by even a little bit!

Jon - The DC Traveler said...

The horses and riders, along with their trainers are truely amazing in their skills.

They always put on great show.