430 years of Lipica Stud Farm

Symbol of Freedom and Beauty in Unspoilt Nature

Lipizzaner Horse - a unique, proud and dignified beauty in motion. Photo: Jakše - Jeršič

June 2010

In 2010 the Lipica Stud Farm is celebrating an exceptional milestone, its 430th anniversary. The world-famous stud farm is one of the most outstanding as well as beautiful cultural and historical monuments in Slovenia.

Every year its attractions are enjoyed by around 100,000 domestic and foreign visitors, who marvel at the centuries-old buildings, the beautifully kept estate, which ranks as the sole preserved and complete farm holding dating from the Middle Ages, the unspoilt natural environment, and especially the wonderful Lipizzaner horses, which are showcased to visitors in a dressage programme.

In its history, Lipica has experienced numerous rises and falls, and its very existence has frequently been threatened, although today we can be proud that the Lipica Stud and its noble horses have survived – often enough in extraordinary ways – the centuries of turmoil.

Today Lipica Stud is entirely state-owned, and is also a kind of official protocol facility of the Republic of Slovenia.

From the first spring months of 2010, Lipica will see a range of jubilee events involving the participation of a great many people in Slovenia, especially animal and of course horse lovers. 

One of the oldest horse breeds in the world

Photo: Jakše - Jeršič

The Lipica stud farm, extending over 311 hectares in the Kras countryside, is the world's oldest continuously operating stud farm. It was established in May 1580. Since then the farm has gone through some tough times. In 1796, 1805 and 1809, when it was threatened by the Napoleon army, it was moved, along with all the horses, to Hungary. During WWI, the Lipizzaners stayed in Laxenburg near Vienna and in the Czech Republic. After WWI, Lipica came under Italian rule, however, the studs were state-owned by both Italy and Austria.

Lipica was renovated by the Italians, while the Austrians moved their herd to Piber near Graz, where they established their own stud farm. In September 1943, Lipica was taken over by the Germans, who took the horses to Germany, from where some were also taken to the US.

After WWII, Yugoslavia demanded the return of all horses, however, after lengthy negotiations, the allies returned only 11 Lipizzaners, while the rest were turned over to Italy and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. The renovation of the farm began with only a few horses. In 1953, a riding and training school was established, and in 1960, the legendary breeding place of Lipizzaners was opened to tourists.

According to the stud, Lipica was one of the first farms in the world to systematically breed horses and keep their genealogy records. This was one of the reasons why the Lipizzaner are such noble horses.  They are considered extremely kind, patient and enduring. They learn quickly and are thus very suitable for dressage. It is well-known that the adult Lipizzaner is characteristically white, but the foals are brown, reddish or grey; they turn white only after six to ten years. 

Lipica was a royal stud farm in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but has always been manned by Slovenians. This means that the Lipizzaner is a Slovenian horse, one of the few Slovenian breeds and a lasting symbol of Slovenian culture.

There are at present only about 6,000 Lipizzaners around the world, of which 1,000 are in Slovenia. The Lipica stud farm has around 400 pure-breeds, while around 600 are privately owned.

In 2008 English Queen Elizabeth II was presented with a stud during her visit to Slovenia , while in 2009, Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi was also presented with a Lipizzaner.

Points of special interest

Avgust Černigoj Gallery in Lipica. Photo: Lipica Stud farm archive

For many years Lipica and its stud farm have been a special feature in this Karst environment. The nucleus of the Lipica Stud was formed around the remnants of the former estate of the Bishop of Trieste. The main structure was the “manor” and its pertaining space, around which developed what was called the “hof”. The historical core of Lipica acquired the appearance of a complete entity in the early decades of the 18th century, the stables were expanded in the 19th century and in the 1970s a new covered riding arena was built plus a small arena and stables. In 1977 a hippodrome was arranged.

The stud farm also has a chapel dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, who is regarded as the protector of animals from disease. In the Lipica Valley there is also a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes carved into the living rock behind a metal gate.

Today visitors to Lipica can visit also the gallery of the painter Avgust Černigoj, then there are the numerous wells and fountains, the museum collections, including a museum of old coaches, and numerous monuments and documents relating the history of this famous stud farm.

We should mention especially that the entire area of Lipica Stud Farm is under special protection. The Lipica cultural landscape is a self-contained natural environment whose development is based on centuries of breeding thoroughbred horses. Centuries ago the entire estate was surrounded by a characteristic Karst dry stone wall, more than 8 kilometres long, and this gives the estate a special symbolic integrity. So the estate is worth touring in its own right, and of course no visitor can miss the extraordinary experience of a classic dressage show to the rhythm of the elegant Lipizzaners.


Text by Jože Prešeren, Sinfo 6-2010 

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