Know your Lipizzaner moves
These horses aren't just leaping and jumping because they feel like it, they have specially choreographed moves that have hundreds of years of history in them. Each of these movements was originally developed to be used as battle tactics in warfare. Above are four positions Lipizzaners will make in the show.
Dancing white stallions
The "World-Famous" Lipizzaner stallions
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
Where: Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St. SW, Gainesville
How much: Adults $22.50, seniors age 60 and older and children age 12 and younger $20.50
More info: 770-534-8420
Each lift, leap and dance done by the Lipizzaner stallions this Tuesday and Wednesday comes with a bit of history attached.
The white horses, bred from a lineage that goes back 400 years, were once the exclusive rides of kings and noblemen. Their majestic leaps were used as tactics on the battlefield.
Today, that tradition stays alive through the Lipizzaners and their trainers, who dedicate years to training a horse in one specialty move. Troy Tinker, master of ceremonies at Tuesday's "World-Famous" Lipizzaner Stallions show at the Georgia Mountains Center, said a horse doesn't start training until he's at least 4, and even then, the stallion has to have shown that he has, well, the moves.
"Everything you see them do in show they do naturally. Not every horse does every maneuver," said Tinker, who has been with the production 19 years. "You have to watch them at play for the first four years, and that's how you know their talent for the maneuvers. Once you know what their talents are, then their training starts, at least at age 4."
The training can last at least five years, and sometimes longer.
The horses train on their particular move for 45 minutes each day, he said, in the style of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, where the art of Lipizzaner performance began.
The performances, slated for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, will feature 14 horses and 10 riders and will include solo performances, horses performing as mirror images of each other and large group numbers as well.
Tinker added that part of the show explains different aspects of the Lipizzaner training and heritage, including showing a practice session and explaining the significance of the brands on each horse, which represent their lineage.
"I talk about them, introduce them, take the audience through a training session ... and also just give a history of the horses in general," he said. "You don't really have to be a horse fan to enjoy it."
The Lipizzaners, he said, are smart animals. They enjoy the attention of the crowd and each has its own personality.
And, of course, being a stallion means the animals have some spunk to them anyway.
"They all have personality; they're all individuals," Tinker said. "That's one thing I learned in my first summer in the show. As you get to know them they're so much more than that; they're as individual as the people you know."
Tinker said one horse in particular, which recently retired, stands out in his memory in his years of working with the stallions.
"Maluso - he's no longer in the show, but I was worried about him in retirement because he just loved attention and he would ‘talk' across the room if he thought you were going to come and give him a treat," he said. "I got in the habit of giving him a treat at first because I wanted to and them because he was demanding."
One day, Tinker said, Maluso was tied up outside near other horses who were training. The horses' trainer was trying to tell Tinker something, but Maluso wouldn't let her get a word in.
"I said, ‘Maluso, I don't have anything, shut up,'" Tinker said. "He started shoveling gravel on my dress shoe, and his message to me was, ‘If you don't have anything, you're dead to me. Just go.'"
Now in retirement, Maluso doesn't get as much attention as he once did in the show ring. But, he still has a purpose.
"He's the University of Central Florida's mascot, and they call him Pegasus," Tinker said. "He'll get lots of attention and adoration from the fans, so that's good. I think he's going to take to it like a duck to water."