For Ottomar Herrmann, his traveling Lipizzaner stallion show is all about "the art of the horses." But the producer of a competing show calls Mr. Herrmann's group "a circus family" whose claims of historical significance are dubious.
And a press officer at the Austrian Embassy in Washington says the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, home of the famous breed of white horses, won't have anything to do with either one of them.
The only authentic Lipizzan shows are at the riding school in Austria, said Hedwig Sommer, the embassy press officer.
Local residents can decide for themselves this weekend when the Wonderful World of Horses, Starring the World Famous Royal Lipizzaner Stallions appears at the Baltimore Arena tonight and Herrmann's Royal Lipizzan Stallions of Austria put on four shows at Abington Farm, a private equestrian center in Crownsville.
The show at the arena, which has been advertised on television, is expected to draw thousands. Mr. Herrmann's show can expect much smaller crowds, but he says he likes it that way.
"I don't need 10,000 people," said Mr. Herrmann, 67, a man of ruddy complexion and white handlebar mustache. "Five hundred people is enough. No spotlight, no makeup, [only] the art of the horses."
Spectators can watch the performance from bleachers a few feet away from a fenced-in oval at Abington Farm, on Severn Chapel Road. And the public can view the lively horses in their makeshift stables at the farm for free from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Sunday.
This week, a handful of spectators and reporters watched as Mr. Herrmann, his daughter and and a niece put two stallions through their paces in a brief preview.
"Duba, perfect. That's a good boy," Mr. Herrmann said, rewarding one stallion with a sugar cube after the horse leapt in the air and kicked his hind legs straight out, a move called a capriole.
Lipizzaner stallions are "any of a breed of medium-sized strong horse" that usually are white when they are mature, according to Webster's New World Dictionary. They were named after Lipizza, the imperial Austrian stud farm near Trieste where they first were bred 400 years ago as elite fighting horses.
"The instinct of the stallion is to fight," said Gabriella Herrmann Lester, a trainer with her father's show. "And that is something we don't take away from them, because their beauty is their spirit."
Mr. Hermann, who refers to himself as a retired colonel in the Austrian-German Army, said he and his father were among a group of European military officers who helped Gen. George S. Patton smuggle about 350 horses from a stud farm in Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II to keep them away from the Russian Army.
They feared the Russians would harm the horses, he said.
Gary Lashinsky, producer of the Wonderful World of Horses show, said no one named Herrmann was involved in the rescue.
Mr. Hermann and organizers of the Crownsville show play down Mr. Lashinsky's comments.
"He calls it a circus act; we call it being intimate with the crowd," said Craig Ball, president of Abington Farm.
Ms. Lester said it is "unfortunate" that the shows "landed in the same area."
"I just want to be left alone and show these horses," he said.