Kladruby nad Labem
The Landscape for Breeding and Training of Ceremonial Carriage Horses at Kladruby nad Labem is a site designed exclusively for the breeding and training of Kladruber horses, which were used in ceremonies by the Habsburg imperial court.
It is one of the most significant horse-breeding institutions in Europe and continues to function to this day.
Map of Kladruby nad LabemLoad map
I visited this recently inscribed WHS in Summer 2019. Once a settlement for “timber logging” (in Czech klady rubaji), Kladruby provided ideal conditions for horse breeding, thanks to the cut-down floodplain forest.
At the time of Charles IV, the village of loggers, horse breeders and traders, administered by monasteries, flourished and a rectory and church were founded. The loggers gradually became squires, and their coat of arms from the early 15th century in fact shows a horseshoe. Yet this growth didn't last for long, as both the rectory and the church were destroyed during the Hussite Wars. By 1500, after a period of frequent changes of owners, Kladruby was bough by William of Pernstein and consequently attached to the large Pernstein dominion of Pardubice. The Pernstein family maintained the local tradition of horse breeding and founded a horse sanctuary, as documented in 1522, where horses were bred half-wild. The history of old Spanish and old Italian horse breeds in Kladruby which survived till present times began in 1552, when Jaroslav of Pernstein, following the fashionable trends of his times, brought the first horses of Spanish blood to the sanctuary. The year 1579 is an important milestone as by the degree of Emperor Rudolf II, a royal stud was established in the sanctuary.
Around 250 White Kladrubers, as they are called, are bred at Czechia's only national stud farm in Kladruby nad Labem. Black Kladrubers are bred in a secondary farm nearby in Slatinany. Written records of Kladruby date back to the 12th century, when the village belonged to the Litomysl monastery and later to the Sedlec monastery on the outskirts of Kutna Hora. In the early years, horses were bred in an enclosure rather than in stables. After Henry of Pernstein was forced to sell the estates to pay his debts, these became property of the Habsburg Emperor Maximilian II. In 1579, Emperor Rudolf II elevated the original horse enclosure to an imperial court stud farm.
Kladruby horses were originally bred in many different colours but today only two varieties survived. White Kladrubers were used predominantly for the ceremonial needs of the royal court, while the Black Kladrubers were primarily bred for church dignitaries. The Kladruby Stud Farm actually consists of three facilities. The largest one, in Kladruby nad Labem, where breeding stallions, broodmares with their foals and young horses in training are stabled. The second are the Josefov stables, about half a kilometre away, where mares without foals or which are in their early stages of gestation. The Frantiskov stables are the third facility, where foals are reared in Selmice, which is connected to the main stud farm building by a 3.5 km long avenue of lime trees. The stud farm in Kladruby includes some 1200 hectares of land, including fields, meadows, pastures, an English park and forest (if you would like to have a better overview of this rather flat area, you can pay extra to climb the wooden 'watchtower' after your guided tour of the stables.
During my visit, I opted for the stables tour which roughly takes around 45 minutes. Tours are held on the hour and are sold at the information centre. I joined a tour in Czech but a numbered information leaflet with a translation in English is given prior to the tour so you can follow quite well. Currently, this is the only way to explore the stud farm interior and I found it very interesting and organised quite well.
First we visited horses stabled in box enclosures which are used for stabling young stallions which are still being trained. At the age of three, they are brought here from Frantiskov and for 11 months they receive training here which mainly consists of getting the horses used to saddles and bridles. The first harnessing of a young horse is always paired with an older horse which acts as its teacher. Finally performance tests take place and the horses must prove themselves in harness and riding under saddle. The horses stabled in box enclosures have differing degrees of whiteness in their coats. This is due to the fact that like the Lipazzaner, White Kladrubers gradually become whiter with age. The gestation period for mares is 11 months and 90% of births happen at night. Foals from White Kladrubers are surprisingly born dark brown to black and then gradually turn white as they grow older, turning completely white at the age of 8-10 years.
The tour continues with visits to the competition horses' stables, the stanchion housing where broodmares are stabled and which are looked after by pupils of Kladruby's Seconday School of Horse Breeding and Riding as part of their practical studies, the breeding stallion stables with hand-painted signs bearing the horses' line and an indoor riding hall. White Kladrubers consist of the Generale, Generalissimo, Favory, Sacramoso and Rudolfo lines. The well-known Napoleone line died out. The indoor riding hall surface is made from glass sand and geotextiles.
Being around an hour by car from Prague, a visit to Kladruby is a very worthwhile half day trip and can easily be combined with a visit to Kutna Hora. Having already visited other national stud farms around the world, I was quite impressed with the overall condition of the one in Kladruby and how horse breeding is still very much alive in this area of Czechia. I really enjoyed my visit and I'm glad it has been inscribed as I would have never visited such a place otherwise.
Though I like nature, horses or animal farms have never been a target of my interest. The reason I visited Kladruby nad Labem this weekend was the nomination of “the Landscape for breeding and training of ceremonial carriage horses at Kladruby nad Labem” as WHS this year. The stud farm is considered as one of the oldest in the world (it celebrates 440 years in 2019!) with uniquely preserved function and structure.
The public transport to Kladruby nad Labem is rather infrequent, there is direct bus connection with nearby town Přelouč only during weekdays. So, I travelled from Prague by train to village Řečany nad Labem (quite nice place with interesting Romanesque church), which is on the main train route from Prague in direction East. Fast trains do not stop here and one has to change in Kolín for local trains. From Řečany there is marked blue trail from the railway station to Kladruby along local road - it is ca 3-4 km long and it takes around 3/4 hour of fast walking. As the nominated area is quite large, you enter the core zone soon just after crossing the bridge over river Labe (Elbe).
Soon, it was also clearly evident who is at home in this landscape as indicated by all senses - by smell first of all! All roads and pastures in the area are flanked by white fencing, and one can spot Kladruber breed horses quite frequently. The landscape, though flat, is quite picturesque with vast meadows and solitary trees. The area is divided according to its function related to breeding and training of horses into pastures, water sources, woods, stables for mares and stallion, stable for young horses, area for mares with foals, straight alley roads imitating city boulevards for carriage horse training, etc... The main cluster, comprising mares and stallion stables, director office, castle with church and visitors center is located directly in the village Kladruby nad Labem. All buildings are in the empire style and have unified green-white facade. They form a small square or better said courtyard. Entire area was extensively reconstructed in 2014.
There are 3 main guided tours: (1) Stables, (2) Castle with church, and (3) Carriage House, completed by smaller ones (4) forestry office house and (5) watchtower. The number of visitors was quite high in April, but it was not too crowded. All visors were locals, but it might change soon...
I visited only Castle and Stables. The castle with adjacent church is rather small and not very spectacular, and it is not a focal point of the ensemble, even though it was founded and visited by Emperors of Austrian monarchy. However, it was interesting to learn something about history related to horses for Austrian emperors. The stud farm was founded because of need of horses of old Spanish and Italian horse breeds for the Court of Habsburg in Vienna and Prague. The Stables are the central and major buildings of the ensemble with main axes in directions to Prague and Vienna. The horses of Kladruber breed are simply beautiful and quite robust. They are used, for example, for purposes of Queen of Denmark.
After the tours (each around 1 hour) and lunch, I walk in direction west along ca. 3 km long road (alley) towards another cluster - Františkov, with stables for young horses.The alley is the main axis of the landscape (be aware of a car traffic there), and one can spot number of horse herds all around. The stables of Františkov are built in the same style as the main buildings in Kladruby.
During my day trip I have not seen everything important of Kladruby stud farm. Besides walking, cycling would be suitable to explore the area next time. I must say I was surprised by this cultural landscape. It is in a perfect shape after recent reconstruction. It has exactly the same function for several hundreds of years and it is still vital. Its influence goes beyond Czech lands. It is not the tourist trap but all visitors are cordially welcomed by staff and locals. The horses are the main purpose and reason of the landscape. Even though it is not the world class, I think it deserves the WHS status.
A stud farm, not handsome guys, but instead horses for breeding. I was really looking forward to something else. I think Czechia has the best variety when it comes to sightseeing in such a small area, from churches and nature, old cities, mines, beer, castles. There are tours in Czech on the hour between 10:00 and 16:00. I'm unclear what the other parts on the menu were but I think you can see certain parts of the place unguided with individual entrance tickets. For non-Czech speakers you are given some text in several European languages. They said the English one is the only one updated to the new tour though. I had to get used to "English text" when doing tours in Czechia anyway so this was no surprise. The stud farm is only reached by car and I doubt they get many foreign tourists before this has a WHS title.
The tour goes through a slow pace but I was totally lost trying to use the text. If this was updated to the new tour it didn't match. There was also no indicator where we currently are and the tour guide couldn't speak a single word of English. I tried to find out if we can see the foals and I think the answer was that they are in a separate field with their mothers. So I basically tried to read the entire four page text quickly and tried to match whatever I can with the rooms. The easiest to spot is the large chandelier that was apparently put up in the stables for a royal visit from the UK (who may actually never ended up coming here). This is also the oddest thing you can see. Chandelier in the stables! Everything else are purely professional stables and shows their routine to raising the horses. The studs look great even for a non-professional like me it is easy to see that. You can pet them in a 10 minute "break" session. Overall the tour is 45 minutes which is enough to see everything of importance. That petting break could have been skipped because nobody asked any question and of course if they could answer my questions I would have used the entire ten minutes for catching up whatever she said in the last 10 halls.
It is unfortunate that everything is in Czech. The stud farm has a great history going back hundreds of years but this is all hard to decipher in the plaques. Maybe one is more lucky with a guide that can at least answer some questions. I did learn about how the animals are marked by their lineage which naturally is very important in horse breeding. The stud farm is very popular with Czechs as even the early morning tour was full, with more people queuing for tickets as I left.
2019 Advisory Body overruled
ICOMOS advised Referral to expand buffer zone and address mgt issues; Australia provided amendment to inscribe
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