When the local lipizzaner community and the greater Oaklands community lost one of their dearest friends, they knew they had to collaborate to send her off in a memorable fashion.
Lipizzaners are the oldest human bred horse in the world and were first bred over 450 years ago. Wanting a horse that was loyal, courageous and strong, Slovenian Archduke Maximilian started a breeding programme, which resulted in the beautiful white horses that are recognised and loved around the world today.
In South Africa no one loved these horses more than Janet Bebington, who passed away at the beginning of July. Janet was one of the directors of the South African Lipizzaners and dedicated a huge part of her life to celebrating and preserving the culture and legacy of these majestic stallions. As a patron, mentor, judge and lipizzaner advocate, Janet made a lasting impact on the lipizzaner community.
With a history that can be traced back to 1944, when the first lipizzaners were rescued and brought to South Africa from war-torn Europe, South African Lipizzaners is the only organisation in the country that is dedicated to looking after these revered animals. Today they are responsible for arranging the lipizzaners’ regular performances, and coordinating their regular appearances on film and TV.
Lipizzaners are a unique blend of Arabian, Spanish and Berber horses, which has give them the gentle nature, noble physique, grace, intelligence and stamina that they have been renowned for. Inspired by the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, in the 1950s Polish cavalry officer Major George Iwanowski started training lipizzaners stallions in South Africa – teaching them to perform. South African Lipizzaners has kept up this tradition, coordinating weekly performances.
An ardent animal lover, Janet lived in Harrismith and became a very important part of the greater Oaklands community, so when her husband Mark needed a venue to give her a fitting send off, Oaklands Country Manor was a natural choice.
The team from South African Lipizzaners drove eight of their horses from Johannesburg to Harrismith to attend and perform at her memorial as a tribute to her enthusiastic and selfless contribution. The lippizaners were stationed at Oaklands world-class polo facilities, where they were well-looked after before their performance.
Despite strong wind and raging wildfires in the area, the lipizzaners were able to give her a glorious and fitting send off. In true Oaklands Country Manor-style, guests were treated to delicious food, breathtaking views and warm hospitality. The memorial was a true and fitting celebration of Janet’s vibrant life.
Janet will be remembered fondly for her contribution to the South African Lipizzaner legacy, which will continue to bring joy to South Africans for decades to come, and the role she played in the greater Oaklands community.