Meet the World's First Black Lipizzaner Equestrian

Posted by Stacey Venzel
black Lipizzaner rider

Shepherd Zira made history as the first black rider in the only Lipizzaner club outside of Austria.

The South African Lipizzaner Club is the only group of Lipizzaner equestrian performers outside of Vienna, Austria. Last year, the club made a dream come true for now 23-year-old Shepherd Zira when they brought him onto the team.

Zira said he knew at 11 years old that he wanted to ride. His club is affiliated with the acclaimed Lipizzaner Spanish Riding School and his talents were recognized by Ronnie Healy, who is famous in the area for his showjumping titles. The equestrian star decided to start giving Zira lessons in showjumping and dressage.

black equestrian
News24

Growing up in Johannesburg, Zira said he spent his after school hours helping his father around the stable, who has since passed. Mr. Zira also had a passion for horses which he passed on to his son. Zira has been enthralled with horses ever since, but specifically with Lipizzaners.

"Most stallions are cooked in the head, and put a few together in an arena and who knows what can happen. Lipizzaners are much more disciplined than normal stallions. They also have better physiques and stamina. Lipizzaners are very different - they can be easily trained," he said.

lipizzaner

Initially, Zira dreamed of becoming a jockey, but soon grew too tall. He then shifted focus to show jumping and dressage, investing in lessons until his talent started becoming noticed.

Zira thought he was only the first black Lipizzaner rider in South Africa. He became emotional when he was informed he now holds that title worldwide.

"I feel a tear sliding down my cheeks - I am overwhelmed - I didn't know this."

black equestrian
News24

Here is a little bio on Zira, and although it is 20 minutes long, it is awesome to see him with these gorgeous horses!

Are you a Lipizzaner rider? Tell us in the comments below!

READ MORE: How the U.S. Army Helped Save the Lipizzaner Horses During WWII

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Meet the World's First Black Lipizzaner Equestrian