The National Stud at Kladruby nad Labem lies in the lowlands of the Elbe linking the towns of Prelouc and Chlumec nad Cidlinou. It is the oldest large stud in the world and is in fact one of the largest. It is first mentioned in the time of the last knight Maximillian II around 1552.

It was elevatet to a court stud in 1579 by the Czech kung and Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II with the financial support of the house of Fugger. The Old Kladrub horse is included among the so-called barogue breeds and is considered a genetic rarity.

The breed is divided into four grey and four black lines. The greys belong to the Generale, Generalissimus, Favory and Rudolfo lines; the blacks to Sacramoso, Solo, Siglavi Pakra and Romke lines. The most important are the ancient Generale and Sacramoso lines.

The Old Kladrub gala carriage horse is a unique breed, which came into being exclusively for the ceremonial purposes of the ruling court. It was {and is} the state carriage horse of emperors and kings, a sturdy, but extremely elegant horse for pulling splendid carriages at official occasions. The Old Kladrub horse has Spanish-Neapolitan origins. Its typical Roman nosed head gives it away at first glance. Old Kladrubs are grey or black, other coulors occur very rarely. The Old Kladrub is a horse with alarge, rectangular frame and at the same time markedly noble head. The measure of its quality is unique for its calibre. Its movement is majestically elevated and is characterized by its high “Spanish” leg action.

The present National Stud has been in state hands since 1918 and was recently included among a few strategic state organizations in the nature of the “family silver”, which may never be privatized. In 1995 the stud and the breed of horses in it were declared a national cultural monument. For the first time on this planet a domesticated or agricultural animal has been acknowledged as a living work of art, comparable with other works of art of its age.

In the last ten years a detailed genetic analysis has been made of the breed. Very positive facts were established using methods of population genetics and immunogenetics: the inbreeding coefficient is 6.72 % and the average heterogeneity is 36.65 %. At present the Old Kladrub horse is not threatened by any damage through related breeding. It stands under the protection of the FAO as an important reserve of original breeds.

In order to obtain individuals with the required qualities, we use important data sources, such as the pedigrees of forebears, characteristics of the exterior of the animal and of its parents, information on its own performance and that of its offspring.

Information on growth and fertility are also significant. The young horse completes training in its fourth year { the breed develops late and is long-lived }, and lasts about 11 months, concluding with two-day performance tests under the saddle and in harness. Demands on stallions and mares are identical.

The Old Kladrub horse is a carriage specialist, the breed is most suited to, and therefore much liked for driving with its physical attributes and qualities of character. In 1994 the Old Kladrub gala carriage horse returned once more to court service.

The Danish royal court acquired from Kladruby a team of six young Old Kladrub greys, which have in the meantime proved themselves well and have, for example, driven Queen Margrethe II at her jubilee celebration. At the Equitana world horse fair in 1995 the president of the FEI, Dona Infanta Pilar de Borbon, was driven by a large state team from Kladruby. A six-in-hand team of Old Kladrub greys also served at the state visit by the Spanish royal couple to the Czech Republic. In 1996 Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburg, made an official visit to the stud and also the Jordanian crown prince Hassan bin Talal bin Abdullah followed by visits of prince Henrik and Joachin, the husband and son of the Danish queen. The number of Old Kladrub horses increased up to eight in the Danish Royal Court. As well distinguished prestige horses the breed also produces excellent animals for competition carriage driving.

Kladruber team, 1912 in Vienna

World-ranking drivers such as Johann Wolfmayer, Eckart Meyer, Ludger Heeke, Georg Knell, Felix Auracher, Michael Quinkler and Daniel Wurgler are all linked to the Old Kladrub horse. The Kladruby stud is also represented by local drivers Petr Vozab, Jiri Skodny, Martin Kostrouch.

After 400 years the horses of “ pura raza espanila de tipo germacio” { as the Old Kladrub horse is classified in Spain } placed a hoof in the country of their forebears - in 1994 we exhibited and sold the first Old Kladrub stallions in Andalusia.

The present number of Old Kladrub horses in the Czech Republic is around 700, of which about 500 of the most valuable animals of the gene reserve are owned by the mother stud in Kladruby nad Labem. The herd of greys is bred at Kladruby itself, while the black are bred at the doughter establishment at Slatinany, which has been breeding them since 1945 and today is part of the National Stud.

The little town of Slatinany lies not far from Chrudim, on the edge of picturesque Iron Hills. The owners of this estate, a branch of the Auesperg family, founded a stud here at theand of the 19th century close to the Slatinany chateau on the edge of its park.

The old Kladrub blacks were saved from extinction, which they faced at the beginning of the 20th century, by Professor Prantisek Bilek, the founder of Czech cattle-breeding and equine research. The regeneration of this breed began under his direction at the start of the 1930s with about 20 horses. The greater part of this process was carried out after 1945 at the Slatinany stud and was successfully completed at the end of the 1970s. Lipizzaner and Friesian stallions were used as well as Old Kladrubs in the regeneration of the breed. The present breeding herd of blacks consists of 65 mares and 10 breeding stallions, with about 40 foals being reared a year. The young stock are raised at the foal yard in the Slavicka game park up to the age of three and a half and young horses are started by the training centres in Slatinany and Hermanuv Mestec, where one of town's historical attractions is a gala tack room with a collection of bridles, saddles and harness, protected by the memorials office.

The stud manages the central records of horses in the Czech Republic and is the only research centre for breeding and performance of horses in the country. We feel it our duty to continue to preserve the unique genius loci of the stud, both as a centre of equestrian culture, and as a meeting place for lovers of horses, diplomats, politicians, scientists, artists, top level entrepreneurs, in fact all cultured people.

Published by The National Stud at Kladruby nad Labem in collaboration with Alba studio Ltd. In Prague in June 2000.
Text: Norbert Zalis
English translation: Rachel de Candole