Bringing Classical Dressage and Lipizzans to America

The Story of E.L. Dreitzler
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Credit: Courtesy, Ralph Dreitzler This rare image of E.L. Dreitzler survived the flood that destroyed Raflyn Farms.

Credit: Courtesy, Ralph Dreitzler This rare image of E.L. Dreitzler survived the flood that destroyed Raflyn Farms.

You could say that U.S. breeder E.L. Dreitzler’s dream of expanding the Lipizzan breed ended just as it began—with a single stallion. But, to tell this as a tragedy misses the real story—that of a true horsewoman, who despite incredible obstacles, left an even more incredible legacy.

Dreitzler’s goals to import and breed pure Lipizzan stock at her Raflyn Farms in Snohomish, Washington, reached a milestone in 1960. The beginning of the year marked the arrival of Neopolitano Bellornata, a Lipizzan stallion trained at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria. That fall, by invitation of the Austrian government and the Spanish Riding School, Dreitzler was invited to train for two weeks in the art of classical dressage and high-school riding at the school. She was one of only four women in history to ever receive riding instruction at the Spanish Riding School. 

Credit: Courtesy, Ralph Dreitzler

Credit: Courtesy, Ralph Dreitzler

That fall, Dreitzler purchased the stallion, Maestoso Brezova II, one of the few trained stallions sold by the school. She also purchased four mares, including Tekla, the only mare known to the Spanish Riding School to have completed high-school training. They all arrived in Washington in January of 1961.

With the help of Col. Alois Podhajsky, Raflyn Farms had horses from the six foundation Lipizzan lines (Pluto, Conversano, Maestoso, Favory, Neopolitano and Siglavy) by 1962. 

Dreitzler insisted on the strictest breeding requirements at the farm, requiring that all Lipizzans bred there have verifiable Austrian stock. Her strict standards earned them an authorization to use the branding system of pure Austrian and Spanish Riding School Lipizzans. Raflyn Farms’ brand was a Crown D rather than the Austrian Crown P before it moved to tattooing the lip with the same mark.

Once her breeding program was established, Dreitzler devoted her life to promoting the Lipizzan and dressage through teaching, training and exhibitions across North America. She was one of the opening features at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Exposition with performances on Maestoso Brezova II and Tekla. Raflyn Farms even made it to Hollywood when its stallion, Pluto Calcedona, starred in Buffalo Bill and the Indians with Paul Newman.

Despite a riding accident in 1967 that handicapped Dreitzler, she continued to promote the Lipizzan breed and dressage discipline. She was still able to ride sidesaddle and redirected her focus to teaching more dressage. She also spent time ensuring that her children were classically trained in the discipline. Daughter Evelyn worked with masters like Podhajsky and, along with her brother Ralph, Col. Hans Handler. 

It seemed, by the early ’70s, that Dreitzler’s dream to breed and promote the purebred Lipizzan in the United States was realized and nothing could get in her way. On December 3, 1975, that all changed. Severe flooding of the Snohomish and Pulchuck Rivers destroyed Raflyn Farms and took 113 of its horses (34 Lipizzans). Only three survived. Pluto Calcedona passed away from complications the next year.

Credit: Courtesy, Ralph Dreitzler The farms’ Crown D brand is a variation of the Austrian Crown P.

Credit: Courtesy, Ralph Dreitzler The farms’ Crown D brand is a variation of the Austrian Crown P.

In the end, Maestoso Africa was the only Raflyn Farms Lipizzan to survive the flood. Again, they were left with nothing but one stallion and a dream. It was Dreitzler’s hope to rebuild Raflyn Farms and the Lipizzan stock, but this would not happen in her lifetime. 

Today, however, the dream lives on. Thanks to his mother’s commitment to dressage education, Ralph was able to continue her legacy and rebuild Raflyn Farms, “Home of the Lipizzans,” in 1989. There, Ralph is reminded of his mother and her Lipizzans when he reads a poem that Sally Logan of Snohomish gave her. She wrote it after the 1975 flood and named it “Bitter Sweet Memories.” 

Pure white horses dancing in the sun, a joy to my heart each and every one, though fate has struck her cruelest blow, she cannot erase my heart’s warm glow. 

The glow that comes with the memory, of all the joys that you brought to me, the joy that came from just the sight, of pure white horses in wild free flight. 

The manes and tails that felt like silk, and slipped through my fingers like creamy milk, the beautiful heads with eyes like does, muscles that rippled and coats that glowed. 

These are the things I shall remember, not the horrors of a black December, for now you run in God’s sweet land, awaiting once more my gentle hand. 

No longer will I fret, no longer will I mourn, for God has given you a bright new dawn, and when my time on earth is done, in heaven I’ll stand and watch you run. 

The Heldenberg Training Center Fund

Credit: Lynne Glazer

Credit: Lynne Glazer

During a visit to the Spanish Riding School (SRS) in the fall of 2012 we were fortunate enough to see the new Heldenberg Training Center. We were informed that under the leadership of Training Director Oberbereiter Andreas Hausberger the school would be opening to outside students starting in 2013. This is historic, as it is the first time in many years that this opportunity has been offered by the SRS. 

The idea for the Heldenberg Training Center Fund was born, with the goal of assisting U.S. students to participate in the same training atmosphere, with the same expertise that my mother had the privilege of receiving. It was a perfect match for a memorial: an opportunity to promote classical riding and the SRS and Lipizzans, two things she was passionate about. In January, with Hausberger’s assistance, we received permission to create this scholarship fund and use the SRS name (the first time the school has allowed the name to be used by anyone other than the SRS) along with E.L. Dreitzler’s name. For us, this is the best tribute we could envision as a memorial to my mother.—Ralph Dreitzler

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