It is probably one of the most-asked questions surrounding the visit of the “World Famous” Lipizzaner Stallions on Wednesday, July 22: “How do they get the horses up here?”
“A state-of-the-art tractor-trailer,” says Troy Tinker, the show’s master of ceremonies, over the phone.
A live camera feed allows them to be observed during transport and there is a spot, halfway between Dawson Creek and here, where they will be stabled.
And, yes, he says, he understands that people worry about them.
“We worry about them, too. Audiences don’t want to see an unhappy horse.”
There are 12 to 14 stallions making that trip and they will perform at two, two-hour shows at 3 and 7:30 p.m. at the Takhini Arena.
Then they will push on to Anchorage, Soldotna, Wasilla and Fairbanks, Alaska.
Tinker says he was in Whitehorse before, in 1990, when the Lipizzaner Stallions made one of their visits.
“My favourite part of the show is watching the audience because they are so excited,” he says. “It keeps it fresh for me.”
And the audience’s favourite part?
“Their favourite is typically Airs Above the Ground.”
These are four leaps and manoeuvres that remind the audiences these are not just “the perfect dressage horse”, according to Tinker. They are battle skills that were needed 400 years ago to keep the rider out of reach of the enemy.
“They were the tanks of their day,” says Tinker.
There is the Mezair, in which the horse moves forward by lowering its forefeet to the ground and then rising up on its hindquarters.
The Levade is a feat of balancing that has the horse stand on its hind legs and hold its body aloft at a 45-degree angle.
The Capriole, says Tinker, doesn’t allow the enemy to come from behind as the horse jumps into the air and kicks backwards.
But it is the Courbette that likely made enemy soldiers reconsider any intention of pressing an attack. They would see a half-ton of horse hopping toward them on its hind legs.
“They are stallions and they can scare people,” says Tinker. “That’s the whole idea.”
In peacetime, however, composers of the day would write music for the horses to dance to. The composers were inspired by the majesty of the horses while the military saw it as a way to keep the stallions practised.
This show, which emulates the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria, emphasizes the historical background and foundation of the Lipizzaner breed.
The breed has risen from being used as a horse of war to a horse of nobility and aristocracy.
Tinker says these lessons are another audience favourite. He says the audience will be taken through the training because it is something they enjoy.
Tickets for the 3 and 7:30 p.m. shows at Takhini Arena are available at Arts Underground and the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office.