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    Elite guests check in at Pinellas Park farm

    By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 5, 2001


    Thirteen elegant horses -- mostly the legendary white Lipizzaner stallions -- found a temporary home this week at Sea Spray Farm in Pinellas Park.

    The horses, which are the stars of the "World Famous" Lipizzaner Stallion Show, needed special accommodations, and Sea Spray, a private show barn, fit the bill.

    "They called every barn in a 50-mile radius, but we were the only one that was right for them," said Sea Spray manager Roxanne Cochran. "We even shipped out five of our horses to make room for them."

    "Our horses needed the best and most secure facility," said Gary Lashinsky, producer of the Oviedo-based international touring company.

    Sea Spray Farm, on 62nd Avenue in Pinellas Park, has two barns with a total of 50 stalls for show hunters, dressage and Western horses. Cochran said that although the Lipizzaners took up half of one barn, they came with their own grooms and required no special care by the Sea Spray staff.

    On Sunday, the 13 horses (10 Lipizzaners, two Andalusians and a bay Arabian stallion) stepped down from their van for a five-day stay in their new home. Because the van was so large, it had to park across the street from the farm as handlers led their equine charges one by one to their new stalls.

    On Tuesday, the horses were loaded again for a ride to the Manatee Convention and Civic Center, where they were to perform before an audience of thousands. The horses were to return to Sea Spray Farm later that night and ship out again today for their final performance. The horses are scheduled to leave Thursday for their next scheduled performance, in Tallahassee.

    The Lipizzan Stallion Show tours for 11 months each year throughout the United States as well as internationally. The baroque-style horses have appeared in Canada, Europe and Australia and are scheduled to appear in Japan and possibly China in the next year.

    Lashinsky began the touring horse show more than 30 years ago after seeing the Spanish Riding School in one of its rare international performances in Philadelphia. The school was featured in the Walt Disney movie The Miracle of the White Stallions, which told the story of the horses' World War II rescue by Gen. George S. Patton.

    The Lipizzaner breed originated in the 1500s as a war horse for European nobility and aristocracy. Its lineage goes back to 2,000-year-old Carthaginian horses, as well as Arabs, Barbs and the legendary Andalusian horses of ancient Spain.

    The breed takes its name from the original royal stud farm in Lipizza, Austria. The powerfully built horses are normally born black but turn white by the time they are 8 years old. Classical training usually begins when they reach the age of 5.

    A fully trained Lipizzan is capable of performing the most rigorous Olympic-level dressage movements, including the floating passage and piaff (suspended trots), as well as the famed leaping "airs above the ground."

    "I just fell in love with the breed. I visited the school in Austria and began importing horses to this country," Lashinsky said. He produced the company's first Lipizzaner tour in 1970. The show combines the classic Spanish Riding School quadrille movements with musical dressage exhibitions and solo performances.

    In addition to the 13 touring horses, the company keeps a dozen or so mares, breeding stallions, colts and fillies at its home barn in Oviedo.

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