The Stud at Kladruby nad Labem
The Stud at Kladruby nad Labem is one of the oldest studs in the world and home to the oldest original Czech horse breed: the Old Kladruber horse. It covers an area of over 3,000 acres north of the river Elbe about 80 km (50 miles) east of Prague. The tradition of horse breeding in Kladruby nad Labem stretches back to at least the mid 14th century. For over 300 years (1579–1918) it was an imperial court stud providing horses for the royal and imperial court in Prague and Vienna. Nowadays the National Stud keeps around 500 horses. 250 grey Old Kladrubers are bred in the historic site of Kladruby nad Labem and 250 black Old Kladrubers are bred in Slatiňany, a former stud of the princely family of Auersperg, located about 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of Kladruby nad Labem.
The heart of the Kladruby nad Labem site is formed by the main stables, castle and church, which are all open to visitors. The main stables are a perfectly organized classicist complex of buildings consisting of the breeding stallions stable, loose stables for broodmares, stables for young horses in training, the foaling stable, riding hall etc. Next to the stables is the imperial castle, which features a number of rooms where the Habsburg nobility stayed when they visited the stud. From the main courtyard a 3.2-kilometre (2-mile) long avenue of lime trees runs straight across the pastures to the stables at Františkov, where weaned foals are reared from 6 months to 3.5 years of age. The whole Kladruby nad Labem site represents a unique, excellently balanced cultural landscape filled with pastures, age-old avenues, irrigation channels, woods, cut-off meanders of the Elbe and historic buildings of various purposes. For its exceptional authenticity and outstanding value the Stud at Kladruby nad Labem gained the Czech national heritage site status in 2002.
The Old Kladruber horses are still the pivot of the life in the stud. Historically, the grey horses were used for ceremonial service at the royal and imperial court. In fact, they are probably the only horse breed in the world which was bred specifically to pull coaches of the sovereigns. The black horses were mainly used for representative service by high clergy. Nowadays the grey Old Kladrubers still serve at royal courts. The Danish queen, Margrethe II, uses a team of six Old Kladruber greys to draw her State Coach on festive rides in Copenhagen. In Sweden, the Old Kladrubers carry the trumpeters of the Swedish Mounted Royal Guards. In the Czech Republic the horses can often be seen at various celebrations at Prague Castle, and they are also used by the mounted police in Pardubice, Ostrava and Prague. The horses also excel in combined driving competitions and dressage. For their calm nature they are great for recreational driving as well as hippotherapy.
In 2015 an extensive two-year restoration of the Stud was successfully completed, and most of the site regained its splendid early 19th century look. Seventeen main historic buildings were renovated, new expositions created and opened to the public. Apart from the standard guided tours, the National Stud organizes a number of special events throughout the year, where you can see the Old Kladruber horses in action. The most notable among these are: Rudolph Cup, an international combined driving competition in April; Old Kladruber Horse Day, a spectacular horse show in late May; Grand Riding Day, a traditional equestrian show in late June; Kladruby Naruby (i.e. Kladruby Inside Out), a family fun festival in early autumn; and St. Hubertus Ride, a mock hunt marking the end of the equestrian season.