Piber Federal Breeding Farm
Austria and, indeed, the world celebrated the beauty and the talent of the Lipizzan horse at the Lipizzan Gala in Piber, Austria, September 25, 26, 27, and 28, 1998. Advertised even on the internet, this elaborate festival celebrated the anniversaries of three of Austrias most renown and visited sites: the 500 year anniversary of the Vienna Boys Choir, the 425 year anniversary of the Spanish Riding School, and the 200 year anniversary of the Piber Federal Breeding Farm. Among the Austrian national dignitaries present were Wilhelm Molterer, Minister of Land and Forestry (the government department responsible for Piber and the SRS) and, of course, Dr. Jaromir Oulehla, the head of both the breeding farm and the riding school. Representatives from other registries and countries were present including England, Sweden, South Africa, and Japan. LANA directors John Gliege, Sandy Heaberlin, Melody and Tom Hull were present to represent the United States and the North American continent at what was undoubtedly the Lipizzan event of the decade. Also in attendance for Friday and Saturday were LANA members Barbara Gjerset and Ingun Littorin.
The location of the gala was the Piber studfarm in the picturesque lower mountain meadows of Styria three kilometers from the town of Koflach. The Vienna Boys Choir and the Spanish Riding School came to the Piber studfarm for the four days of festival, and all three participated in a five hour ceremony held from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Erected for the occasion in the pasture across the road from Piber Castle was the worlds largest tent seating between 7,500 to 8,000 people. Needless to say, it was filled for each performance. The canvas complex incorporated arena, bleacher and box seating, passage ways, various lounges, and staging areas. Blue and yellow striped canvas, flags a-top the tent, banners, vendors, flood lights at night, bands, roasting chestnuts, Austrians in traditional outfits, and excellent weather conditions created the perfect atmosphere for Austrias celebration of its cultural treasures.
Part 1 of the program was devoted to the Piber studfarm, and it began in Austrian style with fifteen minutes of music provided onsite by Gestutskapelle Piber(breeding farm band). The events narrator, Christian Plettenberg, explained the pride Austrians took in the three cultural treasures. As a prelude, six riders on Lipizzan stallions marched in dignity around the arena:
Chief Head Rider Kottas on Favory Plutona
Head Rider Krzisch on Siglavy Mantua I
Rider Eder on Pluto Mantua II
Rider Harrer on Neapolitano Nima II
Rider Radnetter on Conversano Nima
Rider Hausberger on Maestoso Bellamira.
They gave a short display of upper level exercises and then exited.
To feature the mares, a brief history of the Piber studfarm was retold, and eight Lipizzan mares in red bridles and saddle cloths were presented to the officials in the VIP box opposite the entry, or at "C":
20 Bonavista, 1982, Bradamanta family
69 Briosa, 1989, Capriola family
54 Tropea, 1987, Europa family
90 Bellamira, 1991, Capriola family
79 Gaetana, 1990, Gedrane family
41 Savona, 1986, Capriola family
28 Virtuosa, 1982, Europa family
53 Graina, 1987, Mercurio family.
The mares, each led by a handler in traditional uniforms of red and blue, then executed some basic figures at the walk and trot. At the very end of their pattern, Plettenberg announced that each mare was pregnant, and this news was met with applause and cheers from the enthusiastic audience.
There was a touching moment in the ceremonies. The oldest Lipizzan stallion in the world, Pibers Siglavy Beja was honored. As the thirty-five year old veteran was led in, the entire audience came to its feet and applauded. SB, while naturally lacking in musculature, trotted in easily and smartly--head and neck up, eyes and ears alert-- and stood at attention. Beja, then with his handler, trotted some diagonals and seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself and the attention given him. The proud old man looked remarkably well for his age, but maybe thats not too remarkable for a Lipizzan.
The audience also enjoyed the driving teams mares in single, tandem, four, and six horse hitches, which after entering, coming to a halt, and saluting, executed maneuvers that demonstrated their drivers expertise in a show arena. With the tandem, four, and six horse hitches, the grooms, who were riding in the wagons, would leap to the ground when the combinations halted, run to the heads of each mare on the left, and hold them until the drivers signaled a depart. Jumping to the side, the grooms poised themselves until the wagon swung past. The men would quickly grab a handle and swing into their seats. The lead mares were by this time into a fast trot and the wheel mares were digging in for more speed. Timing and quickness are evidently important aspects of a grooms resume. The white mares of the single and tandem hitches made striking presentations with their lofty action. The dark dappled mares in the four and six horse hitches were elegantly tacked in traditional harness with long woven leather "fly repellents" at the bridle and small gold bells along the breast strap and tugs. Below are listed the carriages, the mare/s for each, their birth date, and sires:
-- Generale, 1990, by Siglavy Beja
-- Mascula, 1989, by Maestoso Perla-- Rustica, 1992, by Siglavy Beja
-- Bonavoja, 1987, by Maestoso Perletta -- Bellavista, 1994, by Conversano Barbarina
-- Kitty, 1994, by Siglavy Beja -- Kerka, 1994, by Favory Plutona
-- Blanca, 1993, by Neapolitano Nima -- Verona, 1992, by Maestoso Perla -- Nautica, 1992, by Maestoso Saffa
-- Gidrane, 1993, by Neapolitano Nima -- Trompeta, 1993, by Maestoso Saffa -- Santuzza, 1993, by Siglavy Beja
The most exciting part of the Piber section for everyone had to be the mares and foals. Twelve mares with accompanying progeny were allowed to run free in the arena. With three to five handles indicating "gates" and sometimes direction, the audience uuued and aahed the herding games played before the them. Half-way through, everybody stopped and treats were handed out with the foals having learned quickly that people are a good source for snacks. Then the circling and figure-eighting began again with the herd thundering out to the large make-up area beyond. The mares, the gender of their 98 foals, and the sire of the foals were listed as follows:
83 Garba, colt by Pluto Dubovina
61 Steffana, colt by Maestoso Strella
46 Faviola, colt by Maestoso Strella
61 Contessa, colt by Conversano Mantua
78 Undine, filly by Conversano Mantua
76 Ancona, filly by Conversano Mantua
36 Gravisa, filly by Maestoso Stella
35 Allegra, filly by Conversano Mantua
88 Riga, colt by Pluto Dubovina
89 Aga, filly by Conversano Mantua
97 Malaga, filly by Favory Alea
80 Blanketta, filly by Favory Alea.
In general, all the mares in this Piber section exhibited classic breed type, substance, balance, and refinement, and they all stood around fifteen hands, plus or minus an inch.
While a five hour program might at first seem daunting, the schedule incorporated at this point a ninety minute break for attendees to eat at the many vendors, drive into town for a supper, or, if fortunate enough, partake of the meals served buffet style in the lounges as part of the price of a VIP ticket. Passing through the lounge for honored guests and into the VIP lounge, LANA directors appreciated the exclusivity. Canapes and appetizers had been served for an hour before the program, and now selections of fish, roast beef, lamb, vegetables, salads were offered followed by desserts. Waiters and waitresses were close by to take orders for wine, drinks, and coffee while the woodwind trio played light classics. Talking with Dr. Oulehla was most enjoyable as was admiring the Austrians costumes and watching the representatives from other countries. Organizers had taken some time in preparing this special lounge area because the participants were actually sitting in an old Austian hay barn--a barn that had been immaculately cleaned, painted, carpeted, festooned with flowers and drapes, and turned into a very quiet, relaxing, private, and picturesque enclosure for international representatives. Except for the occasional bottle neck at the arena gates, the schedule worked well with all 7,500 plus people having enough time for a leisurely stroll, a casual dinner, and re-entry to their seats.
Part two of the program began with the Vienna Boys Choir. During the intermission a moveable stage was erected in the corner, between what would be "A" and "M" in a dressage arena, and a grand piano placed in the middle of it. Since the Lipizzan Gala was a national event for Austria, TV cameras were in abundance, and those too had been moved to the front of the stage. After heralding this internationally renown choir of ten to thirteen year old males, the moderator turned the spotlight over to them and their director. Their performance included pieces by Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, and Strauss, all composer of Austria, of course. These songs set the stage for part three, the ninety minute performance by the Spanish Riding School. Since the LANA directors were seated in the officials box in the third row just behind the Austrian dignitaries, viewing the mares earlier was easy, and during this musical segment, SRS riders could be seen in the wings just behind the stage appreciating the choir and supporting another art form from the Renaissance.
It took only three minutes for the stage crew to pick up the Yamaha grand, move it out of sight, and dismantle the stage, and for the camera men with their equipment to return to their positions along the side. While Christian Plettenberg prepared the audience for the riders and white stallions, the footing was raked smooth. Appropriately the "Prince Eugene March" by Leonhardt set the atmosphere, and the bay, Favory Alea II, with Ester Oberbereiter Kottas marched majestically into the light for the introduction, followed by Siglavy Rinduncia with Oberbereiter Krzisch, Siglavy Allegra with Oberbereiter Riegler, Siglavy Montedora with Bereiter Hoyos, Favory Alea III with Bereiter Eder, Neapolitano Nima II with Bereiter Harrer, Siglavy Famosa with Bereiter Radnetter, Conversano Dagmar with Bereiter Hausberger, and Siglavy Superba with Bereiter Bauer. After the introduction, "All Steps and Movements" begins the traditional program of the SRS on tour, and four of the above stallions, Favory Alea II, Siglavy Rindunica, Siglavy Montedora, and Neapolitano Nima II and their respective riders re-entered to execute Grand Prix movements. Piaffes, passages, pirouettes executed at each end of the arena intermingled with half-passes and flying lead changes. Registrar Tom Hull had purchased a digital camera a week before the trip and when horses were not on the rail at "C," Tom took the opportunity to photograph. The pictures contained herein are just the tip of his photographic iceberg.
The "Pas De Deux" with Eder and Kottas on Favory Alea III and Favory Plutona respectively next performed to Mozarts Symphony #40. While FA3 was unsure of the camera and crew at "H," Eders class and talent won the difficult moments, and the pair of horses more often rewarded the public with beautiful mirror images in the "dance of two."
The "Airs in Hand" is always an exciting first look at levades, courbettes, and caprioles. The courbetter at one point bounded five times across the diagonal. The stallions involved were Maestoso Platana, Neapolitano Nima I, Pluto Servola, Siglavy Tucsok, Conversano Amata I, Siglavy Materia.
"On the Long Rein," a solo performance by one horse being driven from directly behind the hind quarters by his trainer is something of an art in itself. The smallest of aids must be combined with trust--more trust perhaps than what a rider needs, given the close proximity of trainer to hooves. Timing of human steps with equine and human body position and placement in sequence to the horses are now key factors. Plettenberg asked that no flashes be used during the section since the house lights would be dimmed and only the spot would illuminate the horse and trainer. The audience complied, and Bereiter Hausberger and Conversano Isabella performed quietly in their single point of starlight. Director Melody Hull, who has longlined some basic elements enjoyed watching Hausberger whose hand positions are similar but not quite exactly like former-Oberbereiter Tchauchers, who did the longlineing in previous years. While the art is the same, differences in technique are interesting.
The "School Above the Ground" has a new star along with one twenty-five year old veteran. Pluto Mantua II, ridden by Eder, still has his youthful dappling, but he is a multiple caprioler. Spring, kick, land, bounce; spring, kick, land, bounce, bounce; spring, kick, land, bounce--excited the audience each time, and the audience seemed to keep one eye on PM2s position in the arena while watching others. Eder has to be given credit for his very secure seat. The two levaders, Siglavy Materia with Radnetter and Favory Romana with Bauer, demonstrated the movement that is synonymous with classical dressage. Siglavy Europa I, the twenty-five year old veteran courbetter, who performed at Washington, D.C. in 1990, has still got it. Rising straight into the air and bounding forward on his hind legs several times with Krzisch, SE1 can wow an audience with his strength and power.
Siglavy Mantua I and Oberbereiter Krzisch had the honor of being the solo performers. To demonstrate the pinnacle of correct training, the rider for this segment drops the snaffle rein, puts the curb rein in the left, and holds the whip upright in the right because the whip wont be used. The horse then performs all the steps and movements from the slightest aids. For this segment only, a new element is added to passages, pirouettes, and laterals--the piaffe pirouette. Siglavy Mantua I s long, thick mane, tail, and forelock accentuated the flowing lines of his movements.
The culmination of the night, though, was, of course, the school quadrille. Eight white stallions in sparkling gold with the riders in muted brown perform ballet:
Conversano Toscana I with Erster Oberbereiter Kottas
Conversano Nima with Oberbereiter Krzisch
Siglavy Allegra with Oberbereiter Riegler
Siglavy Galanta with Bereiter Hoyos
Conversano Sola with Bereiter Eder
Siglavy Famosa with Bereiter Radnetter
Conversano Dagmar with Bereiter Hausberger
Siglavy Superba with Bereiter Bauer.
Trot figures and laterals are followed by intricate canter patterns which lead to the closing passage. The riders halt the stallions across the front of officials box; Dr. Oulehla, in black suit with bowler hat, enters from behind, and standing in front of the horses, leads the riders salute. In passage, the horses exit the arena with the audience clapping in rhythm to the music. If an encore is needed, as is the case most often, the horses re-enter in passage and maintain the movement around the arena while the riders hold the reins in their left hand; their right holds their hats straight down along their thighs. This elegant picture captures part of Austrias history, culture, and art.
LANA directors were at "C" for the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances. At Fridays performance, LANA directors presented to the Piber studfarm as a "birthday present" copies of the newly printed LANA Studbook, Vol. I, Revised Edition and LANA Studbook, Vol. II for its pedigree library. Dr. Oulehla and his secretary accepted the gifts on behalf of the studfarm. Directors plan to also send the pictorial history, still in progress, when it is published. The first part of Sundays performance was, however, viewed from "behind stage." Positioning themselves at the covered warm-up arena behind the entrance to "A," Tom, Melody, and Sandy got to witness the logistics of such an event: moving ten mares and foals, the warming-up of the stallions, the stationing of one group to allow room and access for another, the tacking and untacking of hitches, the protection given to Siglavy Beja, the tens of workers and handlers moving and calming horses, the admiration of gala attendees lining the paths. Hands-on schmoozing with mares and foals was an added pleasure for Mel.
John, Sandy, Mel, and Tom also attended the Lipizzan Gala Dinner on Saturday evening, which was held in the open courtyard of the Piber Castle. The castle now contains offices, living quarters, guest quarters, a Lipizzan museum, and restaurant. The early Renaissance architecture of vaulting and arches surrounded the 120 plus dignataries. Among those enjoying the formal occasion and gourmet meal were various Austrian officials, including Minister Molterer and Dr. Oulehla with their families, the SRS riders with their friends and families, and representatives of Lipizzan associations and registries. The evenings entertainment was provided by the Vienna Boys Choir and Brassissimo, a brass quintet. Johns two daughters, Kristine, 20, and Stephanie, 22, joined directors at the LANA table, and the camera crews and journalists present did not miss the chance to film two good looking American young women "dressed to the 9s" being served wine by an equally cute Austrian waiter. Americans once again provide good support for a Lipizzan event.
During the mornings and early afternoons, John Gliege, who stays in Austria several times a year, showed first time Austrian tourists, Tom, Mel, and Sandy, around the Piber complex and the village of Koflach, the citizens of which have taken the Lipizzans to their hearts. Last summer, Koflach celebrated the return of the mares and young horses to the Piber meadows from the high mountain pastures 28 kilometers (c 18 miles) away. The fair, with Dr. Oulehla in attendance, has become an annual event with the horses being brought into town so they may be petted and appreciated.
As the many postcards attest, Piber is very picturesque, but not set in wilderness, for the roads that travel back to it from Koflach also run to small housing developments beyond. An alpine-style restaurant and gift shop are at the corner opposite the hill-top castle and church site, and a fire station is situated a quarter-mile down from this intersection. The barns and riding hall are located along the hillside at castle level. While the first time tourists were themselves not failing to make the most of this photograph opportunity, John set off toward the Piber offices in the castle to start the process of solving a U.S. import pedigree mystery discovered by Sandy Heaberlin earlier. The work of a registry is never done, and verification is an ongoing process even at the very best of times.
Sidelights from Vienna
A trip to Piber necessitates a stay in Vienna, and what better time to see the Winter Riding Hall, the Stallburg, the new Lipizzan Museum located there, and the Hofburg. Directors can report that the water and smoke damage to the Winter Riding Hall caused by the fire in the Hofburg several years ago is all but a bad memory now. Refurbishing and a new paint job have eradicated any evidence of the fire. In fact, the ceiling and upper wall moldings have a slightly different color scheme than before. Very light grays have been used on the moldings against the classic white on the ceiling itself and walls. The affect gives more of a three dimensional appearance to the upper regions of the famous building. Since most of the stallions were going to be on tour after the Gala performances, the courtyard of the Stallburg, one of the oldest buildings in Vienna, was also undergoing improvements.
In the Stallburg, the corner room at St. Michaelplatz and Hapsburgstrasse is the location for the gift shop and new Lipizzan Museum. The gift shop has many Lipizzan items not available elsewhere. A doorway in the shop is the entrance to the museum. Part of the museum is at street level, and another part housing paintings, texts, and tack is in the subterranean vaults under the Stallburg. Other exhibits are upstairs in the story right above the stalls. A wall adjoining a section of stalls has been redone in sound-proof glass so that visitors may look down upon the horses without disturbing them. America is represented in the museum exhibits with pictures of Maria Jeritza, the first to import Lipizzans to the states, and General Patton who helped save the breed during WWII.
Touring these famous environs on the Monday before the Gala was not easy since the horses and equipment were being readied for transport to Piber. John Gliege prevailed upon good friend Desmond OBrian, chief saddle maker to the school, to open a few doors for LANA visitors. Desmond gladly gave a tour to special areas in the barn, and then through the Michaelplatz and around the offices to the royal box in the famous Winter Riding Hall where time was spent photographing the 18th century masterpiece. Desmond even showed us his workshop which is located in the corner of the Stallburg opposite the museum.
For sculpture aficionados, a "must see" is the Prince Eugene statue in front of the new Hofburg adjacent the old palace. Erected in 1865 to commemorate the Prince and his army saving Vienna from advancing Turks in the 1600s, the prince sits astride a Lipizzan stallion in levade. Even though LANA tourists had seen many pictures of the well-known bronze, they were not ready for the immense size of the horse and rider. While Vienna is filled with many equestrian pieces in which the horses are generic or Arab in type, Prince Eugenes stallion is obviously a Lipizzan: a more Spanish, or Roman, nose in profile, a heavier, crested neck, a thick mane braided in an arc down the neck, a rounded, more muscular rump, a tail held in balance, but not "flagged."
As lunch near the Hofburg was concluding, Desmond made a call on his cellphone and announced that in ten minutes the stallions would start loading in the vans at the Josephplatz to begin their tour. Bills were paid and cameras grabbed as directors took the opportunity to see the SRS Lipizzans in a more informal mode. The Josephplatz was crowded with on-lookers, but the stallions with their many uniformed attendants took all in stride as just another business trip for the admiring public.
For making the trip to Vienna and Piber so memorable and easy, we would like to thank the following people:
Desmond OBrian, saddler to the Spanish Riding School
Dagmar Schwalm, cousin to John and translator
Franz, her husband and chauffeur
Thomas, his nephew and chief baggage handler
Rosemaries Guest House in Koflach
Stephanie and Kristine Gliege, interpreters, train conductors, and troubleshooters
and John Gliege, tour organizer and host, par excellence, for Piber/Vienna98.