ancient rare breed for the first comes to the United States

ancient rare breed for the first comes to the United States

Submitted by: Linda Bertschinger
Phone: 540 459-8591
Email Address: lindab(at)
Date Added: 10/12/2012

Living History Comes to The United States
A Rare Ancient Breed, the Napoletano

Out of the ashes of Pompeii, the Napoletano has risen. A breed started in 1200 A. D. that had become nearly extinct by the 19th century, has been revived. From the times of Rome, he was used as a war horse. Centuries later he became sought after by the aristocracy because of his lightness in movements allowing him to be ridden in a more royal manner. He also became very desirable for riding in the manege due to his aptitude for high school movements. Today there are only thirty Napoletanos in existence living near Naples, Italy.

Little did I know that the prints I bought eight years ago would lead to the unimaginable events of this past year: a trip to Italy to see a breed of horse I had never heard of, and for the most surprising development, this rare horse, one of thirty, soon followed me home. The only Napoletano in the United States now lives at Classicus Farm in Edinburg,Virginia.

The two prints that I bought while at a dressage show in California by artist Johann Hamilton of the late 1600's depict two most elegant horses, one black horse performing a courbette and the other a bay horse performing a levade. They had very round bodies and a most elegant long neck with a small head. I thought it was just perhaps the artist interpretation, but I was to learn later from Paola that these were indeed real horses that truly had those characteristics.

I met Paola last year, who just moved here from Italy and was looking for a classical dressage trainer where she could continue her classical training. She found me on the internet and we met one afternoon. In our conversation we began talking about horses that were well suited for classical work. She described a horse that I had never heard of but in her description, very small head on an elegant long neck with round bodies; my mind went straight to the horses in my prints that I thought did not really exist. Excited by now, I retrieved the prints to show her. Sure enough she said that these horses were Napoletanos, an Italian breed. Then the fascinating story began to emerge. In fact, she knew the story first hand. She had met the breeder who had spent nearly a lifetime to revive the Napoletano breed. and had been to his stable in Piano di Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast near Naples to see these horses.

Giuseppe Maresca, a Neapolitan coffee entrepreneur, has spent nearly thirty years to bring back this noble horse breed, the Napoetano. It all began when the 26 year old Giuseppe was visiting a coffee grower with his father in Brazil. The Brazilian coffee grower was a collector of rare horses and questioned young Giuseppe of a rare Italian horse breed called the Napoletano. He thought since he was from Naples and the Napoletano horse was from Naples that surely Guiseppe could help him acquire a Napoletano. Though Giuseppe knew nothing of theses horses, his interest was piqued and the challenge was on – to find a Napoletano! He began his research in the 1970 consulting equestrian archives, retrieving historical documents and images, but unfortunately he could not find a horse for the Brazilian coffee grower. Then the quest became his own personal obsession. He consulted books and manuscripts on horsemanship, books of zootechnics and even viewed and measured the horse's skeletons at Pompeii and Herculaneum. After acquiring in- depth knowledge of this lost breed, Giuseppe was able to reconstruct the steps of its existence over three centuries. "It is a horse breed introduced by the Etruscans, enhanced with crossbreeding with Berber races; in "Roman times" Maresca explains "I found the first herds in Capua and Nola. Here, even today, there are traces of an ancient horse stable built by Alfonso of Aragon. Our horses were known all over the world for their elegance, their proud self-carriage and majestic gaits: they were purchased by the Austrians to create a new line of Lipizzaner breeding stallions."

Finally, fifteen years later, Giuseppe found a Napoletano. "When in Serbia, I found the first horse, Napolitano iI vecchio" Maresca tells, "I couldn't believe my eyes, was exactly what I had seen in the books." However, this was just the beginning of a long journey with many trials and tribulations along the way. It took another ten years to produce a purebred foal. Though not a stranger to breeding as Giuseppe used to breed Neopolitan mastiffs, there were many successful breedings and many failed ones. Giuseppe now has three lines of breeding stallions and a total of 30
horses in Piano di Sorrento near Naples.

Maresca has received international awards for his work on reviving a nearly lost breed. In 2003 a ministerial decree was issued in recognition of the existence of the Neopolitan breed. There is a book published telling his story, "La fabuleuse aventure du cheval napolitain", written by Maria Franchini. Recently, Maresca has established the National Academy of Equestrian Art "Frederico Grisone", with the intent to resume the tradition of pure horsemanship, once well established in Naples.

On May 18th, 2013 an event is planned at Classicus Farm to present Nesso, a Napoletano gelding that will be the one and only representative in the United States today. Nesso is fourth generation of Giuseppe's breeding program and he considers him to be a good representative of the breed because of his overall body structure and harmony of movement. As typical of the breed and one of the most stunning characteristics that I admire is their long elegant neck that raises high out of the shoulder. Giuseppe will also attend this event to give a representation of the breed along with his plans to begin a Grand Tour in and around Naples that would take people to historical sites surrounding the history of the Napoletano horse and classical dressage.

And finally, the two horse prints by Johann Hamilton that now hang on my living room wall, can be called by their name, Napoletanos.

By Linda Bertschinger

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