Lipizzaner stallions dazzle at Roseland Cottage

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Woodstock - posted Mon., Aug. 19, 2013
Amy Pranger and her horse get ready to start the show with the Star Spangled Ban
Amy Pranger and her horse get ready to start the show with 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' Photos by D. Coffey.

Historic Roseland Cottage welcomed Herrmann's Royal Lipizzaner Stallions for shows on Aug. 15, 16 and 17. Twelve stallions and six female riders dazzled a crowd with their graceful performances. The Lipizzaners are famous for performing “Airs Above the Ground,” a series of battle maneuvers dating back to the 16th century.

They are able to perform moves that require them to stand at 45-degree angles, jump several times on their hind legs, and lash out with their rear hooves. The moves were developed to allow military leaders to see above a battlefield's fracas and to deter enemies coming up from behind.

The horses were as excited as the audience before the show began. When 8-year-old Achilles was brought out of his stable, he couldn't keep all four feet on the ground. The horses receive lots of praise as well as sugar cubes and carrots while training, Gabrielle Herrmann told the crowd of onlookers. When she asked them to clap for the horses, they did so willingly. As with every horse after a performance, Achilles was given a treat, then led back to his stable.

Generally the stallions don't start training until they are 3 years old. It can take five to seven years to finish them out. Retirement can come when they reach their mid-20s, although some stallions have performed into their mid-30s, according to Rebecca McCullough. The horses spend 15 to 20 minutes a day on intensive training. The rest is maintenance, she said.

The Roseland show came at the tail end of a tour that brought horses and riders through New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine and South Carolina. When finished, they'll return home to Sarasota, Fla. “The horses are used to it,” said McCullough. “Once the spring comes, they look for the trailers.”

Elise Ruckdeschel started her training with the horses just two weeks ago. The 20-year-old from western New York answered an ad on Facebook and was with the troupe in a matter of days. At first the horses all looked the same to her. The breed is gray and their manes, tails and bodies look similar to the uneducated eye. But within a week, Ruckdeschel knew their different personalities. “They keep me on my toes,” she said.

Amy Pranger, who has been with Herrmann's Royal Lipizzaner Stallions for two years, moved quickly, changing from one costume to another, and from one horse to another. The women wear half chaps, kerrits and black tank tops under their outfits. “I can't imagine it any other way,” she said, and went off to prepare for the next act.

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