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.
Clearly we knew NOTHING….
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.
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.
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.