Riders of a certain age will doubtless remember the classic children's TV series The White Horses. Its theme music certainly lives long in the memory. The series was first broadcast in the 1960's but was still doing the rounds years later. As a little girl who was taking my first riding lessons, The White Horses was a must see every week. As the years went by, the programme faded from my memory but I never forgot that the stunning white horses were called Lipizzaners. Strangely I had never given much thought to where they were from. I always presumed that they must be bred in Spain or Austria because they were the stars of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. I was to discover years later that I was on the right track.
In 2011 I took my first trip to Slovenia and was looking forward to walking in the mountains and enjoying the great outdoors. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas, at least for my first day in the country. It was tipping down with rain. I was forced to take the usual weather avoidance tactic of the hapless traveller and visit some caves. This was no bad thing as the Skocjan caves turned out to be the most spectacular that I had ever seen. By the time I had completed the tour the weather had abated. I still had a few hours of the day to enjoy and so I got back on the road to see what else was in the area.
The Lipica Stud Farm
I saw one of those brown tourist signs directing people to the Lipica Stud Farm. Something twitched in the recesses of my mind. Surely Lipica couldn't have anything to do with Lipizzaners? I headed for the stud to investigate. It didn't take long to realise that this was the home of my White Horses. I even recognised some of the filming locations after all those years. I took the organised tour of the stud which proved to be fascinating. I was particularly interested to discover that Lipizzaners are born black and slowly turn white. The breed is descended from Spanish horses so there was a Spanish connection. All Lipizanners today are the descendants of just six stallions which were the foundation of the breed. The horses are now bred at several studs in Europe including the Piper Stud in Austria. It is from the Piper Stud that the Spanish Riding School in Vienna source their horses, so there is an Austrian connection too.
How Many Turnout Rugs?
I was astounded to see just how many Lipizzaners there were at the stud. There were 350 horses in total. The pedigree of every animal is carefully recorded and can be followed all the way back to those six stallions on which the breed was founded. The stables were beautiful and surrounded by acres and acres of stunning countryside belonging to the stud and into which the horses were turned out every day. Now that is a lot of horse turnout rugs in winter!If you are an experienced equestrian then you can ride the horses at Lipica. Sadly, I had arrived too late in the day for that. No matter, I was just delighted to visit such a beautiful place and to meet the white horses that had made such an impression on me as a child.