Don't call it a pony show
It must have been a peculiar site. On a sunny afternoon back in the 1960s, a group of passersby looked down a long dirt road and saw Ottomar Herrmann, a retired Austrian colonel, teaching horses to bow, dance, and leap into the air with surprising grace and agility.
When the session was over, the group asked if they could return with friends and with that request, the Herrmann's Royal Lipizzan Stallion Ranch began its transformation into an area attraction for the Bradenton areas equine-minded locals and visitors.
Five decades later, visitors still flock to the ranch to witness astounding acrobatics and ballet-like footwork from this rare line of horses with a royal Austrian ancestry that were rescued from Europe during World War II by Ottomar Hermann and General Patton.
On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from December to May, Gabriella Herrmannthe colonels daughteropens the stallion trainings to the public.
Herrmann showcases 14 of the ranchs 30 stallions on a national tour each year and she believes guests play a valuable role in preparing new stallions for the months they'll spend performing.
This is where they get used to people sitting in the seats, the music, the applause. So the public is a very important part of our training tools, Herrmann says.
During the hour-long show, Herrmann walks the audience through the aristocratic history of the Lipizzan breed, showcasing spectacular leaps and plunges developed as military maneuvers more than 400 years ago.
It's educational, Herrmann says. We explain everything we're doing, including the methods we use.
The show generates a rousing response from visitors.
The audience loves it, Herrmann says. You see all these stallions working together.
Many visitors take precautions to ensure they get the full Lipizzan experience. The savviest visitors skip the ranchs bleacher seating, instead bringing their own lawn chairs for an up-close view.
After the show, visitors who want even more face time can head to the barn to pet the gleaming white stallions. Five-dollar treat bags, designed by the riders as take-home souvenirs, sit waiting for anyone who wants to feed them carrots.
Herrmann still credits the ranchs first visitors with helping to build a following that continues to expand.
That's how it grew, Hermann says. Thousands of people would come out here to see these horses.
And thousands will continue to do through the spring season at the ranch.
Herrmanns Royal Lipizzan Stallion Ranch is open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from December to May. Contact Gabriella Herrmann at 941-322-1501 for group reservations and special bookings. Visit the ranch website for more information on dates and performances.
- June 8 - 3rd Annual Ultimate Kentucky Derby Bash at the Polo Grill
- June 15 - Bradentucky Bombers Women's Roller Derby
- June 21-23 - Onshore Offshore Boat Show
- June 22 - Mixon's Antiques, Arts and Crafts Fairs
- June 29 - 6th Annual Fish Fry and Shrimp Boil
- July 4 - Palmetto Fourth of July Festival