The first Lippizaner horses were generally the property of nobility and high ranking military. The stallions were trained as war horses, and their high leaps and caprioles would frighten the foot soldiers whom they fought against. This tradition continues with the Royal Lippizaner Stallions, a traveling group of these horses that put on an amazing show.
These horses almost became extinct during World War II. In April, 1945 Vienna, where the horses were kept, was under attack by Allied bombers. Not only were the horses in danger by the bombs, but food was scarce and starving refugees attempted to steal the horses for food. The head of the riding school where the horses were kept, Colonel Alois Podhajsky arranged to have the stallions transferred by train to St. Martins where they would be safer. An officer sent word to General Patton's headquarters about the horses. Amazingly, General Patton and Podhajsky knew one another well, having competed together in equestrian events at the Olympics. After seeing these amazing horses, Patton promised to make the stallions wards of the U.S. Army until they could be safely returned to their home at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Walt Disney made a movie documenting this event. It is called Miracle of the White Stallions
The mares and foals had been separated from the stallions and were being held at the German Remount Depot in Hostau, Czechoslovakia along with Allied prisoners of war who cared for the horses. Colonel Reed asked Patton for permission to attack Hostau and rescue the prisoners and the horses and was given it. On April 28, members of Troops A, C and F of the 42nd Squadron attacked the German lines and accepted the surrender of the Germans at Hostau. There the Americans found a population of some 150 Lipizzans, including a few stallions, mares and their colts of two and three years of age. The Czech and Russian governments disputed the ownership of the horses, and to prevent either from taking possession the herd was moved to safety in Germany. After the war all the horses were returned to Vienna.