I struggled with what to say about the Herrmann's Royal Lippizan training session we attended yesterday. Do I give you the history of these powerful horses, describe the conformation needed to perform these "airs above the ground", the origins of these moves, the history of this particular family and their shows (I think there are 3 competing professional shows involving these spectacularly beautiful and talented equines).
To do so would make a very long blog and probably bore most of you to tears. I'll just show you some impressions of the day and let you read more on your own.
|hahaha, you can see where my interest lies...|
this picture cuts off the person but shows the entire horse!
Myakka City is the winter home of Herrman's Royal Lippizan Horses and they are in residence from November through April/May. They allow the public to watch their Thursday, Friday and Saturday training sessions as they bring new "boys" (as Gabriella calls them) into the act and keep the older guys sharp. Traditionally only unaltered males - stallions - are used, although this group is trying to bring a few mares into the show. Perhaps that's because their riders and trainers (family members) are exclusively female...a result of genetics Gabriella laughingly tells us.
If you're expecting a sharp, tight, perfect performance, this isn't the place for you. It is clearly a training session. Mistakes are made, horses act up, marks aren't always hit, Caprioles aren't always done beautifully. Its the reason I like to go there. I enjoy watching these horses be horses, it pleases me to see their personalities take over, to see just how hard they try to do what is asked of them, to see that they are rewarded for those efforts. I enjoy listening to Gabriella (the family's head honcho) speak quietly to them, even when she isn't riding or working them herself. She can't help herself, she whispers encouragement and disapproval as they pass her. She chastises them when they don't remain calm and mannerly (they're stallions, after all!), and rewards them with affection and sugar cubes when they do.
I find it amazing that the ring can contain 5 or 6 stallions in very close proximity and that they can keep their minds on their business despite their natural and normal inclination to fight. I enjoy watching the differences in each horse, in the way they handle the work. One was totally relaxed and calmly going about the prescribed pattern, one had his ears back and his nose wrinkled in annoyance. It amazes me how gently they accept the tiny sugar cubes offered, never grabbing or biting as stallions are wont to do. Testimony to the gentle handling they receive.
|Gabriella riding behind the younger horse, hitched in tandom|
Lippizans are born dark and gain their white color at about 6 years old so you can see that the front horse is still changing color, thus younger than the ridden horse.
|all females riding all stallions|
|a Capriole attempt|
|from the net - a properly completed Capriole|
|a beautiful Levade|
|from the net - a spectacular Levade done at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna|
|the next generation of Herrman girls learning to ride|
|AND, at last, a boy in the family.|
He's learning to ride Giovanni, a rescue pony (not a Lippizan)
And, lastly, I enjoyed watching their kids be kids. These "next generation" kids in the Herrmann family are having a ball in the empty ring, pretending they're the horses they'll grow up to ride.