Morning came on our second day in Slovenia, and we donned our riding clothes and walked down a tree-lined pathway to the Stud Farm at Lipica. After admiring some of the mares and foals, we strolled around the many stalls to say hello to a few of the stallions, and find Ana, who was going to be teaching our dressage lesson.
With the exception of the occasional Lipizzaner, most are grey with black skin (meaning they look white), yet are born dark or bay. They become white as they mature, thanks to unique genes.
Each horse has his name, date of birth, dam and sire name on the door of his stall. His name is usually created from the name assigned to the lineage of his father (sire), combined with the name of his mother (dam). These horses are powerful animals, with rippling muscles and incredibly strong necks developed through hours of training in classical dressage. They are often ridden well into their twenties.
We found Ana hosing down a horse she had been exercising. She had a no-nonsense demeanor, and clearly didn’t expect much of our riding skills, which was fair enough. I am sure she teaches her fair share of tourists.
We were assigned our horses—in my case, an 11 year old mare called Wera—and invited to groom and tack them up, which didn’t go swimmingly. Apparently the horses don’t expect much from the tourists either. Ana soon stepped in.
We led our horses over to the main riding hall and were told to mount. Without a mounting block in sight, I asked Ana where I would find one and was told there was none to be had. Given my shortness, and Wera’s tallness, this was going to be a problem. Ana instructed me, in no uncertain terms, to lower the stirrup leather on one side until it was low enough for me to make it aboard. I complied.
Once mounted we spent the next 90 minutes doing a variety of intense exercises in the arena, and being given precise input on what we needed to improve (everything). These school masters of horses, didn’t suffer fools gladly. If we didn’t give exactly the right aids and directions, they basically pretended they hadn’t heard us. That’s horses for you.
We had a great time and it was the realization of a dream to come and visit these awe-inspiring beasts. After our ride, we untacked our horses and returned them to their stalls, before exploring more of the property and visiting the farm’s top breeding stallions.
Sadly for us, we missed the afternoon’s riding display, due to an important dinner date in the Alps, but frankly, it just gives me an excuse to return.