"It's a huge amount of work, skill and control," Taylor said during a break in Saturday's "World Famous" Lipizzaner Stallions performance at Lawlor Events Center. The show, presented by White Stallion Productions out of Florida, didn't fill the house but drew an appreciative crowd.
The stallions demonstrated their well-known grace, moving in unison and switching gears while their riders made it look easy by appearing to do almost nothing but smile at the audience.
"They're just along for the ride," master of ceremonies Troy Tinker joked during the show.
The audience was encouraged by Tinker to take pictures, applause and cheer – the equine stars thrive on it, he said.
Subtle cues like weight shifts and leg squeezes are the essence of dressage, Taylor said. It takes years to build the union of horse and human. The show's program describes dressage as "the guidance of a mount...without the perceptible use of hands, reins, legs, etc."
Rodeo is exciting but this is art.
The Lipizzaner breed, an ancient mix of Spanish, Arab and Oriental stock, was named for a royal stud farm in Lipizza, Austria. The horses are usually born black but turn white as they age. In the 1500s, stallions were trained as warhorses used by the elite as weapons in battle. On Saturday, the effectiveness of these ancient tactics were demonstrated as massive stallions leapt into the air or reared on their hind legs.
Tinker explained to the audience why mares are banned from the show - this would cause much excitement among the stars and more action than a big-time boxing match.
The most gifted stallions are selected and schooled for just 45 minutes a day and aren't ready to show until age 10 or 11, said Tinker. At 21 to 23 years, the horses are retired and used for breeding. Lipizzaners live well into their 30s. Some stallions have a hard time accepting their retirement as they miss performing and the attention they receive, Tinker said.
Before Saturday's performance, three female handlers were seen hand-washing one of the show's 15 stallions. No wonder he'll hate retirement.