The Lipizzan, or Lipizzaner (Slovene Lipicanec), is a breed of horse closely associated with the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria where the finest representatives demonstrate the haute ecole or "high school" movements of classical dressage, including the highly controlled, stylized jumps and other movements known as the "airs above the ground." The Lipizzan breed dates back to the 16th century, when it was developed with the support of the Habsburg nobility. The breed takes its name from one of the earliest stud farms established, located near the Kras village of Lipica (spelled "Lipizza" in Italian), in modern-day Slovenia.
Most Lipizzans measure between 14.2 and 15.2 hands, with occasional individuals either over or under. They are compact and muscular, with very powerful hindquarters, allowing them to do the difficult "High School" (Dressage) movements, including the "airs above the ground." They generally have a strong-featured head with a convex profile, set high on a well-muscled, arched neck. They have short cannons, their legs have good bone, and well-sloped shoulders. Their gaits are powerful and elastic, although different in style from the Warmblood breeds seen in many Dressage competitions. Lipizzans are naturally balanced, well-known for excellent trainability and intelligence.
Lipizzans are slow to mature, usually not being put under saddle until the age of four, and not considered fully mature until the age of seven. However, they also are long-lived horses, often performing well into their mid-20s, and living into their thirties. For example, the stallion Siglavy Mantua I was a featured solo performer with the Spanish Riding School at the age of 26 during its 2005 tour of the United States.
Aside from the rare solid-colored horse (usually bay or black), most Lipizzans are gray. Like all gray horses, they have black skin, dark eyes, and as adult horses, a white hair coat. Gray horses, including Lipizzans, are born dark?usually bay or black?and become lighter each year as the graying process takes place. Other than the rare individual who does not carry the gray gene, Lipizzans usually gray quickly. They usually have a completely white hair coat by the average age of seven, though the range varies from six to ten. Contrary to popular belief, Lipizzans are not actually true white horses. A white horse is born white, has pink skin and usually has blue eyes.
Until the 18th century, Lipizzans had other coat colors, including dun and bay. However, gray is a dominant gene, and in a small breed population and also deliberately selected as a desirable feature, it came to be the color of the overwhelming majority of Lipizzan horses. However, today, it is still traditional for the Spanish Riding School to have one bay Lipizzan in residence, showing respect to an old belief that doing so will prevent bad luck.