Tihomir breeds Lipizzaner horses and competes for the national team


Tihomir Salarić is an employee of Belje and works as a foreman at cattle fattening farm Potok. The interview below, about her father who breeds Lipizzaner horses - a native breed in Croatia, since 2000 was written by his daughter.

How did you get started?

Your older sister always wanted to have horses. Since that was all she ever talked about non-stop, she succeeded in persuading me. I bought a filly for her and so it all began. I was won over in a blink of an eye and I slowly built and filled new barns. Currently I take care of 27 horses.

Why did you choose Lipizzaner horses?

Lipizzans won me over with their appearance, lightness of movement, their intelligence and lots of other virtues. They are extremely hardy and do not ask for a lot of food, they love to work and they learn fast, so they are adequate for various equestrian sports.

What sports are they good for?

They can be used for dressage and the best example of it is the Spanish riding school in Vienna. Some are good for hurdling and because of their stamina they are also used for endurance races. They are used in therapy riding because of their mild temper and patience and they are also good for pulling carriage. Sports and cultural heritage intertwine in this instance. Cultural events in Croatia, such as Vinkovačke jeseni and Brodsko kolo are impossible to imagine without horse carriages and horse riders.

What sports do you participate in?

For fun I ride recreationally, but to get my heart racing I compete with a horse carriage.

Why did you choose horse carriage?

In the beginning, I participated in processions at cultural events in Slavonia. I drove people dressed in folk costumes in a traditional, wooden carriage. After the procession we often had competitions in precision cart driving and speed carting between cones and I was good at it and my colleagues talked me into professional competing in combined driving.

Can you explain combined driving in short?

Horse harness is comprised of three disciplines: dressage, marathon drive and precision drive. The vital element of dressage competition is obedience of the horse, graciousness of its movements and cooperation between the driver and the horse. It lasts for approximately ten minutes, you drive a given route and at exactly specified positions you have to change the tempo and the pace of the horse. In the Marathon drive, horse’s fitness and endurance are put to test and it contains three phases. The first phase is a warmup over a course of 7 km at a given speed of 15 km/h and the allowed time is set to 24 minutes. After that, horses are relaxing by walking for a kilometer before they go to the veterinarian who checks their pulse, breathing and temperature. If the horses are ok, the second phase containing eight obstacles is next. Each of the obstacles is made with six passages marked by letters from a to f, the passages are usually made of wood and one of them goes through water. The driver can choose his course according to his abilities as well as the abilities of his horses, but must respect the alphabetical order of passages. The goal is to overcome the obstacle as fast as possible. The third phase is relaxing the horses again by pacing a kilometer after each obstacle. Precision discipline is driven between 12 gates bordered by cones that have balls on top of them. Each cone or ball that is knocked down costs you three negative points, every three seconds above the given time add one negative point and the winner is the driver with the least negative points. If more drivers finish without negative points there is an additional round in which the winner is the one who finishes fastest with a minimal number of negative points.

How often do you compete?

I compete every year during the season. The season begins in April and ends in October. In Croatia there are two types of competition: the Croatia cup and two international tournaments that each last three days.

Have you competed outside of Croatia?

Yes, I have been in an international tournament in Slovenia several times, where I qualified for the world championship that was held in Slovakia in September 2013. In the world championship I participated as a member of Croatian national team with two other colleagues.

How much training do you need to get good results?

To have good results it would be best to have two hour training in the morning and in the afternoon. But, because of work and a large number of horses, I barely manage to complete one training session a day.

What are your favorite anecdotes from competitions?

At the national competition in Pleternica, during the marathon drive we were supposed to cross a white wooden bridge. However, the horse got scared and wouldn’t cross so after several tries I had to quit. The next morning during practice he crossed that bridge without any problems. This taught me a valuable lesson: “In order to achieve good results, both the drivers and the horses must have a good day and you should always arrive to the competition location a few days early so that the horse can get accustomed to the new surroundings.”

And for the end, can you tell us your plans for sport and breeding?

I plan to base the breeding according to my needs for combined driving. I definitely plan to continue participating in cultural manifestations and continue to compete in combined driving hoping that I will achieve the best results, individually and as a member of Croatian national team.