The stunning Lipizzan! We are celebrating them as our September Breed of the Month on YourDressage!
Dressage riders who choose Lipizzans as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the United States Lipizzan Federation is a participating organization.
Here, a Region 3 Lipizzan breeder shares the story of the Lipizzan she purchased from a herd dispersal, and how their partnership changed the trajectory of her life.
By Katie Langdale
There are certain memories from my childhood that stand out. From my earliest moments in life, I remember being totally obsessed with horses. By the time I came along, my parents had started to build a farm in South Carolina with some acreage, raised cows, and procured a couple of pasture puff horses that were mostly feral. I rode every chance I could. My mind was constantly daydreaming of a certain racing Arabian black stallion (thanks Walter Farley) and numerous dancing grey Lipizzaners in formation from Miracle of the White Stallions!
I grew up riding ranch-type horses, then in junior high moved to “the dark side” and started riding primarily English. My friend and I ate, slept, and breathed horses. We transformed western trail horses into winning English hunters and eventers. They were well-rounded, as our cross training consisted of midnight jousting bareback, swimming them in the rock quarry, and long jaunts to town to grab a salad from the McDonalds drive-thru via horseback! Once I graduated high school, my horse journey took a turn towards the racetrack. Everything that I thought I knew about riding was quickly tossed out the window on the first day. That included the bloody socks I peeled off my chafed legs from riding without leggings. Somehow Alec forgot to mention that part in the Black Stallion series.
I stayed involved with all aspects of Thoroughbred racing on the east coast for nearly 20 years. I moved back to South Carolina to concentrate on raising my daughters and helping my parents run the farm. I had decided to retire from breaking and training Thoroughbreds, and concentrate on learning dressage (even though I was a dressage instructor’s worst nightmare!). I had the posture of an ogre and the mouth of a sailor!
One day a Facebook friend called me and told me of an entire Lipizzan herd dispersal in Florida. Apparently, a touring show had gone bankrupt after many years in business, and they were in the final hours, so to speak, of having to place the horses. Most of the well-trained, middle-aged performance horses had already been sold. What was left were predominantly broodmares, several schoolmasters, and some unbacked youngsters. I thought, “What are the chances I am ever going to get an opportunity to purchase a Lipizzan again?” After many twists and turns, various conversations, and a trip to Florida, I came home with a schoolmaster Andalusian stallion that had a resume long enough to make Valegro blush, and a yearling Lipizzan colt. I did my homework, and kept up with where all the horses went, and who had bought them.
I was sort of like the red headed step child of a tight knit Lipizzan group with whom I never belonged, but desperately wanted to! The owner called me several weeks later and said she had one last young stallion that needed to be placed, and asked if I was interested. “Umm, yes” was my reply! I had seen this horse when I picked up the other horses, but hadn’t paid much attention as he wasn’t in the “bargain” section. He stepped off the van, and I thought, “What the heck did I just buy?” The barn name this horse came with was Chicken Little! He was definitely a chicken, but was far from little! He looked like a Tennessee Walker – no disrespect to the breed, just not what I thought I was getting. This tall, lanky boy was shaped like a hot dog, had a giraffe headset, and enough sclera showing he could make a deer be blinded from the light! He was scared of EVERYTHING!
Unfortunately, he was also quite aggressive. Because of the situation he had been in, it was imperative I take my time with him, and geld him. His registered name is Siglavy Presciana II, but I decided to call him Percy as a nickname. My then-young children loved the Percy Jackson series of books. Plus, he reminded me of a guy that would wear an argyle sweater and be a total jerk.
After we gelded him, it took almost a year for him to settle down and be able to be anywhere near other horses. Then we were on to the backing process. Lordy. What generally took me a couple of weeks on the track with Thoroughbreds to accomplish was taking months (and years) with Percy. He was so nervous, and would literally shut down. There was no amount of coaxing, praising, forcing, or anything else that was going to change his mind. He would just stand there and shake. I sought help from several different professionals too. Each day, we would work on the smallest little thing and end on a good note. Our relationship blossomed over time, and instead of trying to tell him what we were going to do for the day, I would show him, then ask him to do it. We learned together. He became my partner instead of just the horse I told what to do. Full disclosure, he hated me until I won him over with treats. He has since learned cookies and wither scratches are life, and if I say “good boy” aloud, he knows he is almost done with whatever exercise we are working on. Our adventures together are many, and his latest accolade is being used in a commercial for a major brand!
No matter the scenario, Percy brings a smile to my face and a JOY that I never knew existed. Remember when I said I kept up with where all the other Lipizzans from the dispersal went? Eventually, I ended up with two of the broodmares, and four boys from Florida. My “boys” and I have done prestigious horse shows like Devon, film work, theatre performances, commercials, photo shoots, breed demos, and all of them trail ride. I decided to breed the mares and focus on preserving the Lipizzan breed by becoming a breeding farm several years ago. Rosewood Farm has grown tremendously! I now own, and stand, an imported Lipizzan stallion from Topolcianky, our broodmare band has increased to five (two of which were adopted through the Lipizzan Rescue Foundation), and we have had two fantastic crops of purebred and part bred Lipizzan foals!
I hope anyone that has ever dreamed of owning a Lipizzan will do some research on the breed. They are the most noble, loyal breed, who absolutely pick their partners! Lipizzans are so comfortable to ride, too. You get the fancy movement of the warmbloods, minus all the jarring motion. Plus, you don’t need a step ladder to get on them. I honestly had no idea they were attainable. I had illusions that they were all reserved for the Spanish Riding School and only the upper echelon of society. These horses literally changed the trajectory of my life, and I will always be an advocate for them. They taught me, and demanded that I ride better. Lifelong friends and connections were formed because of them. I owe so much to them and hope you have a chance to meet a Lipizzan one day too!