White ballet - The Spanish Riding School's Lipizzaner stallions perform in Amsterdam

White ballet - The Spanish Riding School's Lipizzaner stallions perform in Amsterdam

Lipizzaners are famous horses from Austria. They are kept at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, famous for its very high standard of dressage. These powerful stallions are born black but turn white as they age. As they get stronger they are able to perform difficult moves.

The stallions descended from Spanish, Arabian and Berber breeds. A powerful and nimble horse was needed centuries ago when Europeans rode into battle. With careful, selective breeding in the 1500s, Archduke Charles II of Austria and his brother the Habsburg Emperor Maximillian II produced similar breeds. The emperor's horses became heavier carriage horses and the Archduke's lighter horses were favoured by riders.

Today there are six classical dynasties of Lipizzaners. Through very careful and selective breeding their bloodlines have been preserved. Two other stallion lines are also official recognised.  There have been many wars in that part of the world, and the horses have had to be evacuated.