Past and Present Coincide: Can You Tell What Century It Is by Looking at This Photo?

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by Fran Jurga | 24 January 2010 | The Jurga Report at

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Eight young Lipizzaner stallions arrived this week in Vienna, Austria to enter training in the Spanish Riding School.

They call them the "young savages", the "wild ones". And every January for the past few hundred years, they have invaded Vienna, Austria with a kick of the heels and a toss of the mane. This year, they did it in the snow. It looks like Dr. Zhivago will pull up in his sleigh any minute.

One of the great traditions of Vienna is the arrival of a truck carrying a group of young Lipizzaner stallions. Born in the winter of 2006 on the famed stud farm at Piber in South Austria, a selection of the most suitable candidates for training at the famed
Spanish Riding School
boarded a truck and left the idyllic countryside behind. They'll be city boys, perhaps for most of the rest of their lives.

But for now they are rough, uneducated country bumpkins with no idea what's going on!

This year, eight were chosen, and you see them here being paraded in the courtyard before the stables, displaying the variety of shapes and tones of gray and grayish brown typical of young Lipizzaners. Lipizzaners are born very dark in color, and look almost black. They gradually turn gray and, eventually, most will be snow white.

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Odd as it may seem, Lipizzaner foals are born dark brown; they look black, especially standing next to their mothers! I often wonder how the farm tells the foals apart!

At Piber, about 20 foals are born each winter, and the foals grow up together as a group. The young stallions are turned out in a vast high mountain meadow together for the entire spring and summer, and are never apart.

When two of the youngsters colicked during the preparation for the transfer to Vienna this year, they were not left behind; the entire group waited for them to recover. When they were ready, the group was ready, and the trip could begin. Vienna would just have to wait for her new stars.

It's probably just as well. Snow blanketed the city and the highways across Europe. And when the youngsters stepped into the snow-covered courtyard and the cameras started clicking, the images like this one are a reminder that some traditions are worth their weight in priceless horseflesh and that sometimes Mother Nature can paint a canvas in the middle of the city on a January day that is as magnificent as any that hangs in the royal museum next door.

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