KladruberArticle and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below
Several times in history, the fate of the Kladruber horse hung by the proverbial thread. If we consider that this breed stems from the time of the monarchs, a luxury breed for imperial highnesses, the wars it survived, the “real existing socialism”, and the reconstruction phase in its Czechian homeland which used to be Czechoslovakia, it is a miracle that it still exists.
It is claimed that the Lipizzan is the oldest existing breed, but it must be noted that the Kladrub stud was founded a year before the one in Lipiza. Granted, one year is nothing in a history spanning several centuries, but facts are facts. The Kladruber horses reach back to the year 1560, and the King of Bohemia and Roman-German Emperor Rudolf II declared it the Imperial Court’s Stud in 1579. He had inherited the stud from his father, Emperor Maximillian II, who had already bred fine horses of Spanish descent here, after his three-year reign in Spain.
In those days, rulers and the aristocracy displayed their status by riding especially impressive horses, or being chauffeured in carriages drawn by such horses. Iberian horses were the most fitting for these purposes, which is why they were in demand by all European Royalty.
Almost from the beginning, Kladruber horses were bred as carriage horses and riding horses, and they were soon bred in two strains: greys and blacks. The white horses were used for all regular and happy occasions, the black ones for sad occasions, like funerals.
By 1600, the Secretary to King Henry IV of France visited the Imperial barns and riding school in Prague and reported more than two-hundred exceptionally fine horses, most of which were from the Imperial Stud in Kladrub.
The fall of the Danube Monarchy eliminated the purpose of the Imperial Stud in Kladrub, but although there was no need for the showy Kladruber horses anymore, the breeding stock was fortunately not compromised. Those in charge realised that these horses could also be put to good use in farming, and more importantly the breeders felt obliged to uphold the tradition of this old breed. It came as a miracle that the breed remained intact even during the rule of communism.
Breeding the black strain was officially discontinued in 1920, but some purebred horses survived, and a group of dedicated experts managed to reconstruct that strain after 1941, based on two original stallions and six original mares
It is remarkable that today, the old Kladruber horses are in demand again for the same reason they were popular hundreds of years ago. The Danish Royal family, for instance, bought six young stallions in 1994 for official ceremonious events, and later ordered two more. The breed appears secure, the Stud was declared a National Czech Stud. However, the most important thing that happened to the breed is the recognition by the United Nations as “World Cultural Monument”. This is the only horse breed in the world that can boast that status!
INFLUENCING OTHER BREEDS
Also in 1994, two stallions of this breed went to Spain, back to where it all began, to found there a Spanish Kladruber breeding project, one grey and one black. After more than four centuries, the progeny of Andalusian horses made it back to their roots! A Spanish group of delegates had visited at one time the Kladrub Stud in Czechia, and were impressed by the horses.
The breed has also influenced others, like the Hungarian Nonius, for instance, and nine Trakehner foundation mares were from the Kladrub breed. There was a continuous cooperation between Kladrub Stud and the Lipiza Stud, and some interbreeding, so the two breeds not only share a similar foundation, but also have some common blood. One of the Kladruber lines, Favory, was founded by a Lipizzan - however, that Lipizzan himself traced back to a stallion from Kladrub.
The breed’s grey population is considered to be of better average quality than the black herd. This may be due to the bottleneck the blacks have suffered before their strain was reinstated. An attempt to improve the black herd by using grey stallions had to be aborted - the blacks are desired to have no white markings, but white markings are common in grey Kladruber horses - which does not come as a surprise, as white markings in greys are inconspicuous as soon as the greying is complete and the horse is white anyway, which is why there had been no need to discriminate against white in the greys.
Breeding black mares to grey stallions resulted in so many white markings, that the program was discontinued. Improvement of the black herd must come from within, by strict selection.
The Kladruber horses had long been selected for size. In contrast to their cousins, the Lipizzans, which usually stand around 15 hands and sometimes measuring less, Kladruber horses are known for their huge frames. Although more recently, they have been bred to be of more moderate size, between 16 hands and 17 hands
The breed is known for its hardiness, stamina, good disposition, soundness and longevity. After World War II the director of the Kladrub Stud was chauffeured to Prague and back in a carriage drawn by Kladrub stallions, about a hundred miles, which were covered round trip in one day at a steady trot.
Although bred mainly as carriage horses, the unique ability of the Iberian horse as a dressage mount still shines through in the Kladruber horses after all these years. In capable hands, they prove to be highly talented for classical dressage, cooperative, sweet-minded, and motivated. Their gaits are especially ground-covering and free.
This is a horse that cannot deny its Iberian roots, but often comes in a more rectangular frame than the classic Iberian, which is more of a square frame. It is an absolutely majestic horse, that shows its Iberian inheritance in its convex head, proud, arched neck and carriage, and its knee action. It sports a prominent set of withers, long cannon bones and pasterns, hard hooves, and a big, soft eye.
Kladruber horses have been highly successful in modern competitive carriage driving, winning world and national championships. They are great for that sport and have a lot of eye appeal on top of their natural aptitude, as it is easy to put together matching teams. Their future may lie just as much in their capacity as tough riding horses for tall and weighty riders.
They are magnificent gala carriage horses, but tough and down to earth, courageously taking on whatever is asked of them.
All Kladrubers are turned out every day, all year round, irrespective of the weather. The last photo shows two young Kladruber stallions rumbling in the pasture