Expat, Horses, Johannesburg

Horsing Around with the South African Lipizzaners

The South African Lipizzaners, Rearing horse at the Lippizaner show in Kylami, Johannesburg South Africa.


Lipizzaner Horses

Lippizaners are beautiful and usually (but not always) white-coated stallions first bred in the 1500’s for military purposes.  The horses are highly trainable and are the modern day rockstars of the dressage world.  They were originally found in Slovenia and in modern times are closely associated with the Spanish Riding School in Austria.  But did you know there are Lipizzaners in South Africa?

The South African Lipizzaners

Johannesburg, South Africa is the ONLY place outside of Europe where you can see the rare Lipizzaner horses. How they got there is quite a special story.

Count Jankovich-Besan evacuated some of his horses from Hungary during the World War II.  He had painted them with oil and paraffin so that they would not be used for food and made a dangerous journey to England. They journeyed on to South Africa in the late 40’s.

Meanwhile another Eastern European immigrant, Major Iwanowski left Poland at the end of World War II and founded Centaur stables in 1950.


What to Expect from The South African Lipizzaners Show

Knowing very little about horses though, we went along expecting to see people riding rearing horses (as per the logo on the tickets).  We were anticipating War Horse on steroids with flaming hoops and circus tricks.

The South African Lipizzaners tickets in Johannesburg

Clearly we knew NOTHING….

The South African Lipizzaners trotting in formation, Johannesburg.

The show is set to music and there is a lot of fancy equine footwork.  The most advanced horses also displayed rearing and backwards kicks (but without riders).

There is clearly a lot of skill and dedication involved in rearing and training these horses, but it’s absolutely not a circus show.  It’s more of a horse ballet.  There is a formality to the performance that, no doubt, harks back to its military origins.

The South African Lipizzaners galloping horse, not completely white.

Much like Marmite*, you will probably love the show or….not love it.  One of our children really enjoyed it, the other was unequivocally bored.

The South African Lipizzaners white horse kicking or bucking

If you love horses and understand dressage, you will undoubtedly want to experience this special Lippizaner show.  The Lipizzaners are rather beautiful and photogenic creatures.  If, on the other hand, you’re not quite so invested all things horsey, and/or you’re allergic to horses, this show might not be for you.

There are shows most Sundays and they are well attended.  Enjoy seeing the only lipizzaners outside of Europe in far away South Africa.

If you’re in heaven when you are around horses, click HERE to learn more about the South African Lipizzaner horse show and to find out when and where you can see them performing.

*Marmite is a food spread, a yeast by-product first sold in Britain in 1902.  Incredibly salty, it has a powerful and distinctive taste.  Marmite’s most recent marketing campaign “Love it or hate it” reflects that it is not for everybody.

6 thoughts on “Horsing Around with the South African Lipizzaners”

  1. Have always dreamt of going to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna to see their magnificent performance. Watched the video 100s of times growing up. Now we’re on our way to Slovenia to the original birthplace of the Lippizaners.


    1. Swing by Johannesburg one Sunday my horse-loving-friend (a tall order, as I’m fully aware we currently live oceans apart) and I’ll take you. The Jo’burg Lippizaners are direct descendants of a number of Lippizaner horses that were rescued from war-torn Europe in 1944. Enjoy Slovenia. xx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.