The Lipizzaner is a horse whose very survival seems against the odds. These symbolic wonders were evacuated for wars and other turbulent times, split between the remnants of the Hapsburg Empire following World War I, taken by the Germans during World War II, and finally returned by the US Army. The end of World War II, brought with it the end of troubled times for the horses, which are beloved by many throughout the world.
Today at the Spanish Riding School, there are six recognized stallion families and 18 foundation mare families.
I was introduced to the famous horses in the 1963 film The Miracle of the White Stallion, which chronicles the movements of the horses at the end of the war, and how General Patton was involved in the return of the breeding stock to Austria following the end of World War II.
Since first watching that movie, it was my dream to see the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions, and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
It worked out that I did – but not in the way I expected to. The first Lipizzaner show I went to was in Poughkeepsie New York, sometime in the late ’90s. It was well before the age of the digital camera, but I do remember watching the horses perform unbelievable feats of athleticism and grace. I was spellbound. I saw them for a second time nearly 10 years later in Colorado Springs.
Another decade would pass before I had an opportunity to visit Vienna. As I sat down to plan the trip, I knew that if I did nothing else, I would see the Lipizzaners perform at the Spanish Riding School. That was the plan. What I didn’t know before that was that the horses only perform in Vienna in the Winter. I was disappointed, but I found that we could still tour the grounds and stables and watch the horses train. That sounded like an acceptable alternative. When the day of our tour finally arrived, I noticed a small sign near the ticket counter, an apology that for that week only, there would be no training either. What are the odds of that?
For more visions of things that are Against The Odds, head over to the Daily Post.