‘Dancing’ stallions show off fancy footwork

Published 9:50 am Friday, June 19, 2009

FRANKLIN FURNACE — It’s a unique inheritance that has been handed down through a single family for the past 300 years. Six generations ago, the first Lipizzan stallions were given to a member of the Herrmann family during the reign of Austrian Emperor Ferdinand II.

Now Gabriella Herrmann is the latest to share this gift with others as she brings her world famous Lipizzan stallions to the area. Earlier this week Herrmann talked about the significance of her mission as she watched one of the younger horses go through some of his paces in-hand before a weekend of performances at the Ohio Horse Park at Franklin Furnace.

There the grey-white stallions will show off the balletic-like movements that have kept them in a class by themselves in two performances — 6 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday at the indoor arena at the park.

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“This has always been in my family. I was raised up in this,” Herrmann said.

The majority of the movements the horses go through have their roots in the past when these horses were used in battle. The Levade where the animal rears up on his back legs, balancing all his weight on his hindquarters, once allowed generals to survey their battlefield. The Capriole where the animal strikes back with all his force would once protect the knight or general from harm as foot soldiers attempted to surround him.

Likewise the Courbette, an intricate and broad leap by the horse, cleared the field of enemy soldiers.

The breed, which will turn white at maturity, has a longer lifespan than other horses because they mature at a later age. The Lipizzan can live from 38 or 40 years.

“They are thinkers,” Herrmann said. “They can size up a rider. They can strategize.”

This will be the third time for the Lipizzan to perform at the Horse Park. The stallions are on tour about four months of the year before they return to their home in Florida. After the weekend performances, they will appear at Chillicothe, then onto Michigan and Cape Cod.

“This is a passion,” Herrmann said. “There has always been someone in the family in this. This came from the heart.