Reading Passage 1
A. The Lipizzan (otherwise known as the Lipizzaner) is one of the oldest breeds of horse. The Spanish Riding School in Vienna uses it exclusively to perform movements of dressage; best described as a shining example of equine grace. The breed, developed by the Hapsberg dynasty that controlled Spain and Austria during the Renaissance, is not only regal in ancestry but also in its characteristics. The blood line of the Lipizzaner hails back to the crossing of Arab stallions with Iberian mares resulting in a breed of horse noted for its beauty, grace, intelligence and physical robustness. Whilst its body is strong, its stature is of average size, the breed rarely growing above 15.2 hands in height. It typically possesses powerful hindquarters and these in particular facilitate its success at completing the challenging routines the breed is used for in the Spanish Riding School.
B. Lipizzaners are thought by many who are familiar with the Spanish school to be white in colour, since this is the type used in performances. To some extent this is true, yet genetically the breed is actually a shade of grey. Foals are born brown or grey and it is not until the animal has reached an age of between 6 and 10 before its coat lightens to the shade for which it is famous. Due to selective breeding the gene which determines the white coat of adulthood is now dominant; however, only as far back as 200 years ago a variety of colours including piebald (possessing a coat of black and white patches) and skewbald (a coat of brown and white patches) were not uncommon.
C. Specifically, the type of dressage performed at the Spanish Riding School, which is set to classical music, is referred to as the ‘Airs Above Ground’. As the name suggests, horses literally leap into the air; the high level dressage manoeuvres involved including the capriole, courbette, croupade and levade. Mastering the art form requires many years of training of horse and rider in order to develop an essential union between the two. In the capriole, which has the literal translation of ‘leap of the goat’ the horse is required to propel itself into the air, kick out with its hind legs then land on all fours at the same time. Perhaps the most demanding of all of the airs is the levade which entails the horse rearing up on its haunches to a 35° angle then maintaining its balance for a number of seconds before returning its front feet to the floor and returning to a walking pace.
D. The stated aim of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna is to preserve the art of classical horsemanship and to continue the principles taught by historical dressage masters. The school is the longest surviving establishment of its kind and the art itself has an awe-inspiring history given that the first acclaimed European master Xenophon (427-355 BC), despite practising his art over 2000 years ago, is still acclaimed today. The setting for the performances is no less impressive; heralded as the most beautiful equine hall in the world, the premises were originally designed by architect Joseph Emanuel Fischer in 1727 to provide the sons and daughters of aristocrats with riding school facilities.
E. Today there are fewer than 3000 pure bred Lipizzaners in the world. Owners are encouraged to uphold the strict traditional goals and objectives involved in their breeding in order to maintain the purity of the blood line. Until 1916, the Lipizzaner line was under the absolute control of the Hapsberg dynasty; however, events of war throughout history brought about the consequent expansion of the breed. Given the precious nature of the livestock, during the First World War the Hapsberg horses were moved to safer locations. In the course of their relocation, some horses were sold or given away which inevitably led to the emergence of Lipizzaner breeding farms beyond Hapsberg influence. During World War II, the Lipizzaner stock was dispersed again when it was seized by the German High Command and horses from Austria, Italy, and Yugoslavia were transferred to Hostau in Czechoslovakia. The endeavours of Alois Podhajsky, the director of the Spanish Riding School at that time, and the American army, which facilitated the return of the animals to Austrian soil, made the continuation of the breed in its purest form a possibility.
F. Over more recent years, the Lipizzaner has demonstrated its superior abilities in several levels of equine competition including dressage and driving; a form of competitive dressage involving the horse pulling a carriage. The kindly, responsive nature of the breed coupled with its intelligence also makes it an ideal mount for pleasure riding.