It is the story of an emperor, his horse Florian, and Florian's caretaker Anton and his dog Boscoe. Florian is a magnificent Lipizzan stallion born on the Hapsburg stud farms of Lipizza, who was sent to the Spanish Riding School in Austria. The story takes place in Austria in the years 1901 and 1921, and gives us a glimpse of what the times were like for the Lipizzaners back then. If you can find or borrow the book, I highly recommend reading it. The following are excerpts I think you will enjoy. Laura Wiener-Smo!ka
The quadrille was over, the horsemen had made their exit. The wooden door remained wide open. Next seven mounted stallions entered and filed in front of the Court Box. Seven bicornes were removed from seven heads, swung to a horizontal position, and replaced. Florian stood in the center. To his right stood three older stallions, thoroughly trained, and to his left three equally tested ones. He resembled a fiery youth among men. In a row of white steeds he stood out -as the only pure white one. His snowy skin, unmarred by a single speck, called up memories of cloudless sunny days, of Nature's gracious gifts. His liquid dark eyes, from whose depths his very soul shone forth, sparkled with inner fire and energy and health. Ennsbauer sat in the saddle like a carved image. With his brown frock- coat, his chiseled, reddish brown features and his fixed mien, he seemed to have been poured in metal.
The Emperor had just remarked, "Ennsbauer uses no stirrups or spurs," when the sextet began to play. The horses walked alongside the grayish-white wainscoting. Their tails were braided with gold, with gold also their waving manes. Pair by pair they were led through the steps of the high School; approached from the far side toward the middle, and went into their syncopated, cadenced stride.
The Emperor had no eyes for any but Florian. Him he watched, deeply engrossed. His connoisseur's eye tested the animal, tested the rider, and could find no flaw that might belie the unstinted praise he had heard showered on them. His right hand played with his mustache, slowly, not with the impatient flick that spelled disappointment over something.
Ennsbauer felt the Emperor's glance like a physical touch. He stiffened. He could hope for no advancement. Nor did he need to fear a fall. Now, in the saddle, under him this unexcelled stallion whose breathing he could feel between his legs and whose readiness and willingness to obey he could sense like some organic outpouring. now doubt and pessimism vanished. The calm, collected resolute animal gave him calmness, collectedness, resolution.
At last he rode for the applause of the Emperor, of Franz Joseph himself, and by Imperial accolade for enduring fame. Now it was his turn. ...Away from the wall he guided Florian. into the center of the ring. An invisible sign. and Florian, as if waiting for it, fell into the Spanish step. Gracefully and solemnly, he lifted his legs as though one with the rhythm of the music. He gave the impression of carrying his rider collectedly and slowly by his own free will and for his own enjoyment, jealous of space, he placed one hoof directly in front of the other.
The old Archduke Rainer could not contain himself: "Never have I seen a horse piaffe like that!" Ennsbauer wanted to lead Florian out of the Spanish step, to grant him a moment's respite before the next tour. But Florian insisted on prolonging it, and Ennsbauer submitted. Florian strode as those horses strode who, centuries ago, triumphantly and conscious of the triumphant occasion, bore Caesars and conquerors into vanquished cities or in homecoming processions. The rigid curved neck, such as ancient sculptors modeled; the heavy short body that seemed to rock on the springs of his legs; the interplay of muscle and joint; together constituted a stately performance, one that amazed the more as it gradually compelled the recognition of its rising out of the will to perfect performance. Every single movement of Florian's revealed nobility, grace, significance and distinction all in one; and in each one of his poses he was the ideal model for a sculptor, the composite of all the equestrian statues of history.
The music continued and Florian, chin pressed against chest. deliberately bowed his head to the left. to the right. "Do you remember." Elizabeth whispered to her husband, "what our boy once said about Florian? He sings only one does not hear it." Ennsbauer also was thinking of the words of little Leopold von Neustift as he led Florian from the Spanish step directly into the volte. The delight with which Florian took the change, the effortless ease with which he glided into the short, sharply cadenced gallop, encouraged Ennsbauer to try the most precise and exacting form of the volte, the redoppe, and to follow that with the pirouette.
Although he intended to stamp a circle into the tanbark of the floor, Florian pivoted with his hindlegs fixed to the same place, giving the breath-taking impression of a horse in full gallop that could not bolt loose from the spot, nailed to the ground by a sorcerer or by inner compulsion.
And when, right afterward. with but a short gallop around, Florian rose into the pesade, his two forelegs high in the air and hindlegs bent low, and accomplished this difficult feat of balance twice, three times, as if it were child's play, he needed no more spurring on. Ennsbauer simply had to let him be, as he began to courbette, stiffly erect. His forelegs did not beat the air, now, but hung limply side by side, folded at the knee. Thus he carried his rider, hopped forward five times without stretching his hindlegs. In the eyes of the spectators Florian's execution of the courbette did not impress by its bravura, or by the conquest of body heaviness by careful dressure and rehearsal, but rather as an exuberant means of getting rid of a superabundance of controlled gigantic energy.
Another short canter around the ring was shortened by Florian's own impatience when he voluntarily fell into the Spanish step. He enjoyed the music, rocked with its rhythm. These men and women and their rank were nothing to him. Still, the presence of onlookers fired him from the very outset. He wanted to please, he had a sharp longing for applause, for admiration; his ambition, goaded on by the music, threw him into a state of intoxication; youth and fettle raced through his veins like a stream overflowing on a steep grade. Nothing was difficult any longer. With his rider and with all these human beings around him, he celebrated a feast. He did not feel the ground under his feet. the light burden on his back. Gliding, dancing with the melody, he could have flown had the gay strains asked for it.
On Florian's back as he hopped on his hindlegs once, twice. Ennsbauer sat stunned, amazed. Following two successive croupades, a tremendous feat, Florian went into the Spanish step still again. Tense and at the same time visibly exuberant, proud and amused, his joyously shining eyes made light of his exertions. From the ballotade he thrust himself into the capriole, rose high in the air from the standing position, forelegs and hindlegs horizontal. He soared above the ground,. his head high in jubilation. Conquering!
Frenetic applause burst out allover the hall. like many fans opening and shutting, like the rustle of stiff paper being torn. Surrounded by the six other stallions Florian stepped before the Court Box, and while the riders swung their hats in unison, he bowed his proud head just once, conscious, it seemed, of the fact that the ovation was for him and giving gracious thanks in return.
Anton held the ribbon in the ordained manner. One hand high up near the bridle, the other hand letting the dangling ribbon play freely enough to preserve its decorative line. He was ever on the alert, for Florian kept raising and lowering his beautiful head in a proud gesture that made the crest of ostrich plumes nod impressively. The horses walked slowly in measured strides. For Florian this was still another festal pageant, the most gorgeous and the most solemn he had yet lived through. The silvery fanfares of the heralds, at the van and rear of the procession,alternately blowing the general march, sounded like tones turned into sunbeams. The pealing of the church bells sent a solemn clangor rushing high through the air. The vivas burst forth wherever Florian appeared and enveloped him in warm invisible waves. Florian gazed everywhere, enchanted. His shimmering, dark eyes took on an expression of complete rapture, as he walked on, the Kohlmarkt, the Graben, the Stephansplatz, floating together into an indistinct picture of unearthly splendor.
He gave himself up altogether to the triumph he took to be his own and Capitano's. He walked with chained fire, with spirits difficult to quell; walked in the cadenced gait of the Spanish School. He would have loved to rise on his hindlegs, to show what magnificent feats he could do; would have loved to prance and share his happiness, his joy of living, with the onlookers. But there was the rein to which he had to submerge his sparkling mood. Thus did his blood respond.
Florian began to dance.