White stallions are back in leaps and bounds | VailDaily.com

White stallions are back in leaps and bounds

Shauna Farnell
Special to the DailyConversano Oda, the distintive dapple gray stallion of the Lipizzaners, performs a Capriole "-a difficult leap characterized by a dramatic air kick with the back legs.

VAIL “-Picture the perfect horse. It’s the one that Prince Charming rides ” so white it glows, thick, muscular neck, coal-black eyes, beautiful flowing main and tail and pink nostrils that flare.

This horse can bow, leap into the air on command and do ballet. And an entire entourage of the world’s finest will be parked and performing in Lionshead Friday and Saturday.

Gary Lashinsky, producer of The World Famous Lipizzaner Stallions, equates the selection of horses for his show with “casting the Rockettes or ‘Swan Lake.’

“You want the best picture,” he said of the horses, which he purchases and breeds from the Spanish Riding School of Vienna in Austria. “You want everything to look consistent and be beautiful. It gives us a good picture.”

Lashinsky is a business man with a long list of big names on his show-business resume. He has produced tours for The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley and The Doors and has been involved in presentations of “Disney on Parade,” “The Harlem Globetrotters” and “The Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus.” He is also a licensed multi-engined pilot and a former president of Dodge’s Viper Club of America.

Unlike his Viper Coupes or any of his other showy ensembles, each of the Lipizzaners has a distinctive personality and requires six to eight years of intensive dressage training before it reaches a level of public performance.

“I call them my ‘pups,’ he said. “Horses are like people. They all have very different personalities.”

The Lipizzaners live to around 30 years of age, and most tour the world performing equestrian ballet between the ages of 12 and 18.

Although Lashinsky said he “loves them all,” his favorites of the performers are Maestoso Oda, whose color ” unlike most of the stallions who are born jet black and turn an immaculate white by about age 6 ” is a dapple grey. He is the specialist of the Capriole, one of the most difficult maneuvers in the performance, where the horse leaps into the air with his forelegs drawn under him and kicks out dramatically with his hind legs. Lashinsky’s other favorite is Conversano Bella, or, as Lashinsky calls him, “CB.”

“He’s just a big baby,” Lashinsky said. “He knows how to beg and get what he wants.”

Despite the obvious market and showbiz value of the animals for Lashinsky as a business man, his vested interest in the Lipizzaners abounds from a childhood love of horses. He took riding lessons in dressage “-the style of riding aimed at finding the perfect gait in a walk, trot and canter and the perfect harmony between horse and rider.

“I’ve had an interest in horses my whole life,” Lashinsky said. “I wanted to learn what dressage was all about. But, I haven’t ridden a horse for years. I don’t train the horses. We have a lot of trainers from the Spanish Riding School and an Olympic bronze medal winner “-Michael Poulin. We train very slowly and methodically in the classical way.”

There’s just something about a horse

The Lipizzaners only tour every two or three years, and the last time they were in Vail at Dobson Arena was at least three years ago, according to Dobson manager Irv Gladstone.

“It was the same time of year and I think they pretty much sold out,” Gladstone said. “We’re hoping that this is a show for families that everyone can enjoy and that people take advantage of it. We definitely are getting calls from people in that category of horse lovers. A couple people have called and said something like, ‘I’m so excited. I’ve always wanted to see them. I live in Rifle and I don’t want to drive all the way to Denver…'”

Lashinsky said the performance is more of an entertainment display than a dressage demonstration, so even somebody who is not well-versed in the equestrian arts will enjoy it. He also pointed out that the sight and presence of horses is something people have found for ages to be both soothing and intriguing.

“It’s an animal that just gives you a good feeling,” he said. “There was the guy who used to have the palomino ‘Goldie,’ who used to say, ‘The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man or woman.’ We had a blind lady at one of the shows who just wanted to come up and touch a horse. She couldn’t see, but she ran her hand down its face and just burst into tears. I don’t know what it is about horses. They are just so beautiful.”

Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.

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