Zorn Arena to host leaping stallions

Great big war-trained stallions gallop and kick high in the air around an arena full of spectators. Later, they gracefully prance, march and weave across the floor, performing an equestrian ballet to classical music.

That’s not something that happens often on a basketball court.

But that’s exactly what’s going to happen in Zorn Arena Friday night.

Sponsored by University Activities Commission and White Stallion Productions, Inc., the Lipizzaner Stallions are set to perform in Eau Claire during the group’s 37th anniversary tour.

Twelve stallions and 10 riders from all over the world will teach the audience about this rare breed. Originally used as a horse of war, then of nobility, the Lipizzan has now been elevated to a form of equestrian art, said Troy Tinker of White Stallion Productions Inc. and master of ceremonies.

“We introduce (the audience) to all the different things associated with horsemanship: classical music, dressage, European military history and American military history,” he said.

The performance includes both demonstrations and choreographed routines.

But Tinker said this show isn’t just for the horse lovers.

“You don’t have to know anything about horses to enjoy the show,” he said. “Horse lovers can appreciate it on one level, but people that don’t know anything about horses tell me how much they’ve learned.”

Freshman Jenna Jordan said she loves horses and even has some of her own. She’s seen the show in the past and said she will definitely be there Friday.

“I thought it was very cool,” Jordan said. “I think it’s just a good time.”

A segment called “Airs Above the Ground” will demonstrate the leaps and maneuvers once used by riders to protect and defend themselves on the battlefield, Tinker said.

The show also includes a demonstration of dressage, a classical riding style, so the audience can recognize and better appreciate it when they see it in the routines.

To close the show, they will perform a traditional Grand Quadrille, featuring six to eight stallions and riders performing an equine ballet with maneuvers from the highest level of dressage.

Other show breeds, such as the Spanish Andalusian and the Arabian, will also be featured, .

The 1963 Disney movie “The Miracle of the White Stallions” boosted the interest of the Lipizzan breed, said Paula Stuettgen, student development and programs coordinator.

The movie tells the true story about how Gen. George Patton saved the horses from extinction during World War II.

Stuettgen said she’s expecting a high turnout.

“It’s quite a unique show,” she said, adding that the horses have performed in Eau Claire in the past. “It does introduce people to a cultural phenomenon that you don’t always see.”

Because Zorn Arena is so small, she said the show will be an extra unique experience.

“You’re right there close to the horse,” she said. “You do get more close than normal . It is kind of fun that way.”

Jim Brockpahler, an adviser for UAC, said in the past the turnout has been great.

“It sells well. We definitely get a good crowd,” he said. “Anyone and everyone is encouraged to attend. I think it will be a very neat show.”

Tinker agreed.

He said he’s been part of the show for 16 years and after every show people tell him how much they learned.

“I think at its core, it really is the perfect partnership between horse and human,” Tinker said, “and I think that’s a very beautiful thing that they’ll see.”