Stallions bring tradition to Boone
It's high-stepping, high-class fun, and you don't have to be a horse lover to feel the thrill of the Lipizzaner Stallions.
The horses make their triumphant return to Appalachian State University's Holmes Convocation Center Jan. 20, but it's more than a show, producer Gary Lashinsky said. It's a tradition spanning hundreds of years.
"The people will see a performance similar to that of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna," he said.
For hundreds of years, the horses were bred for battle. The same graceful movements that used to instill fear now thrill audiences.
"They were reserved for the nobility and aristocracy of Europe," he said.
And now these horses are reserved for audiences.
"It's more of a theatrical show versus just watching dressage," Lashinsky said. "If you can't go to Vienna, this is the next best thing."
And careful narration tells of the stallions' rich history, history that was almost wiped out at the end of World War II.
"The horses were in hostile territory," Lashinsky said. "Gen. Patton at the end of the Second World War in 1945 saved a handful of mares and stallions so that the Spanish riding school could continue."
The horses were being slaughtered to feed troops.
"Patton was a horse man himself and came across the Lipizzaner stallions being taken out of Vienna," he said. "He sent a colonel over to hostile territory to make a deal with the Germans to bring the horses out."
It's a story documented in the Disney classic, "Miracle of the White Stallions," and another reason the horses are so prized.
"There's only about 3,000 of them in the whole world," he said. "It's a very limited breed, and nearly all of them were killed off."
For Lashinsky, it wasn't the movie that had him hooked. It was a Spanish Riding School show in Philadelphia in 1964.
"I fell in love with the concept of Lipizzaner and decided at that time we'd put a family show together, featuring and starring the Lipizzaner," he said. "I never thought it would be here 40 years later."
He gets his horses from the Spanish Riding School when they are about 4 years old and ready to be trained.
"It takes five, six years to train," he said.
Add another few years to get them qualified to perform, and you've got a "priceless" investment on horses that start out costing as much as $25,000. Couple that with a $160,000 trailer, and it's no wonder Lashinsky takes his job so seriously.
"It's like you're bringing Secretariat down the road," he said.
The horses set to perform next week are about 12 and 13 years old and represent the newest crop of performers.
"I love them," Lashinsky said. "They're like my kids."
They're kids he shows off to the world.
"Thousands, if not millions of people have seen our show," he said.
The stallions perform Thursday, Jan. 20, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Holmes Center Box Office by calling (828) 262-6603.
For more information, visit http://www.lipizzaner.com.