Lipica – Horses and Heritage
19.1.2018 | Fiona Thompson
Although the Habsburgs are long gone, their legacy lives on in Slovenia, and not least in Lipica, the home of the world-famous Lipizzaner horses. Lipica is the oldest European stud farm for a single breed and these majestic white horses are the same kind as those used at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and the horses used in the shows there today are descended from the same horses that were bred at the stud farm in what is now Slovenia.
Archduke Charles chose Lipca in 1578 to be the home of the stud farm because the karst earth and the climate were the closest in the empire to that of Spain. A couple of years later 24 brood mares and 6 stallions were brought from Spain to start off the stud. In the 1730s a new riding school was built in Vienna and 54 horses from the Lipica stud performed at the opening ceremony.
Although Lipica has always been important, so too has it faced challenges. In the late 18th century the horses had to be removed to Hungary as Napoleon’s armies advanced into Carniola. Then at the beginning of the nineteenth century, an earthquake damaged some of the buildings and several of the best stallions were lost.
In 1915 when Italy joined the First World War, the emperor again ordered the horses to be removed, this time to a location near Vienna. Then at the end of the Second World War, Czechoslovakia, which was newly established, retained all the Lipizzaner horses and it took intense negotiations by the Italians to get the horses back and reopen the stud at Lipica.
In 1947 when the Allied troops withdrew, Lipica became part of a federal Yugoslavia. Lipica received only a small number of the Lipizzaners which had been confiscated by the Germans during the war. Italy received the rest.
A period of uncertainty followed. First Lipica was run by the state, then it passed into the hands of the local councils which were not interested in running the business. There was talk of it closing until the president Josip Broz Tito intervened. In the 1960s proper efforts to make Lipica a tourist attraction and viable business began.
Today thousands of tourists visit Lipica every year. As well as watching dressage riders in training and seeing a full performance, visitors can learn about these magnificent creatures in a brand new interactive museum, go riding or take a carriage ride themselves, play golf at the adjoining Hotel Maestoso or explore the beautiful grounds.