Friday, January 9, 2015

Piber Stud, Austria

The young stallion Pluto Capra 78 showing us his moves!
I am not ashamed to say I felt a little misty eyed when our week's stay at he Lipica Stud drew to an end and it was time to say goodbye. I know that Lipica will always have a special place in my heart with many fond memories of this magical place, and I know I will return some day.

We hit the road and were treated to a day driving through the beautiful Slovenian and Austrian countryside. In June everything was green and picture perfect and we took the time to explore some of the local attractions. Before we left Slovenia we enjoyed a visit to the Bee Museum in Radovljica. Bee culture is a part of the history here with wonderful folk art illustrating and preserving history and traditions painted on old beehives, making them true works of art.
The sky in Austria turned dark and dramatic and we traveled through many tunnels as we made our way to Austria with magnificent panoramas wherever we turned.
Mares and foals grazing at the Piber Stud

We spent a day at the Piber Stud, charmed by the fairy tale setting and richness of history. The Piber Stud produces all the stallions that go on to perform at the Spanish Riding School and we were treated to several young stallions playing at liberty and enjoyed time with the mares and foals. The Stud gives tours to thousands of visitors a year and also has many school groups who come and learn the history of the Lipizzan horse. The oldest resident was Neapolitano Nima I, a stallion foaled in 1979, a popular favorite at the Spanish Riding School for many years and now retired and living out his days in comfort at the place where he was born, a true testament to the program and the hardy and sound nature of this breed.

On the following day we drove up the side of a mountain for 45 minutes and arrived at the stud where the young stallions live for the first four years of their lives. After turn out in the morning the boys gallop up the side of a mountain and enjoy grazing in the fine Alpine meadows. While there is always a little "horsing around" to be expected, these young horses live peacefully together and are given the time and freedom to develop physically and socially.
Young stallions grazing in the Alpine Mountain meadows

One of my favorite stories from my Lipizzan trip was the story of the bell stallion. The stallions always have overseers with them, and they are closely monitored daily. While the herd of 50 or so young stallions runs free in the big pastures of the Alps from the time they are yearlings until the age of four, one stallion is assigned the job to wear the bell. While the bell is used for the caretakers to locate the herd in the fog, it is also a big responsibility for the stallion himself. The stallion must be a leader, and for the rest of the stallions to come to and follow with respect, especially the younger ones. Not all stallions are able to handle these responsibilities and other stallions have lost the privilege due to lack of leadership skills or being too aggressive. I saw this in action when I spent a morning with the herd, where the stallion would periodically check on the rest of the herd, it seemed to me he was well chosen for the task. So much that we can learn from these horses and the people who have preserved the breed for 500 years!
Here is a complete gallery of images from our visit from the Piber Stud

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