Nestled amid a fairytale setting at the village of Piber in western Styria, Austria, is a very special farm, dedicated to the preservation of one of the most famous breeds of horse in the world. The Piber Federal Stud was founded in 1798, began breeding Lipizzaner horses in 1920, and enjoys the prestige of producing the stallions used by the Spanish Riding School in the elegant city of Vienna.
Approximately 250 horses typically live at this farm, including 70 broodmares. Only stallions from the Spanish Riding School are used as breeding stallions, and two of them are brought to Piber each breeding season, with approximately 40 foals per year being born at the farm. Young horses grow up in a herd and spend their first three summers on alpine pastures.
At the age of four, selected stallions come to Vienna, while the others are sold. After several years of training in Vienna, the stallions chosen for breeding purposes come back to Piber. To avoid inbreeding, Piber works in cooperation with other Lipizzan stud farms in Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania, to periodically exchange breeding stock.
Lipizzaners are Europe’s oldest cultural horse breed, with their origin going back to the year 1580. The mares and foals enjoy specialized attention during their residence here, and the farm is open for tours during most of the year, although visitors are not usually permitted within petting distance of the animals.
The general facilities consist of abundant green space, a restaurant, gift shop, a castle, a chapel and a beautifully shaded area where young children can enjoy playground facilities. During our tour of the farm, we were able to learn a great deal of information from the experienced tour guide, and also appreciated the chance to visit the stable in which some of the retired stallions from the famous Vienna performances enjoy their retirement.
There are plenty of educational exhibits, including an area dedicated to the role of the farrier in the upkeep of these horses, a beautiful museum offering information and artifacts connected with the historical significance of the Lipizzaner breed in the history of Austria. We also noted several children enjoying the interactive exhibits specially designed with the young visitor in mind.
Our curiosity about this farm may have evolved from the fact that we are lucky to count Vienna ’s Lipizzaner Stallions as our near neighbors here in the city. When summer comes, however, the famous stallions take a break from their daily public performances and retreat to the countryside for a change of pace, during which time we are treated to some very special visitors in the form of a selection of mares and foals from the Piber farm, who make daily visits to Vienna ’s Burggarten during their summer stay.
If that sounds delightful, we can vouch for the fact that it truly is!
For more information on the Piber Stud Farm, including directions and opening times, please visit the website of the Spanish Riding School at www.srs.at.