Piber Under British Rule 1945-1955
Did you know...that after the end of World War II, the Austrian federal stud at Piber was in the British zone of Austria, while the Spanish Riding School was in St Martins and Wels, in the American sector? Piber was under British jurisdiction until the re-establishment of the free Austria in 1955.
The mares and breeding stallions and foals had a tough ten years at Piber, with shortages and hardship all through Styria province.
Even the great Colonel Podhajsky, director of the SRS, lived on cabbage soup in the post-war years, according to Charles Harris in his autobiographical memoir, "Workbooks from the Spanish Riding School 1948-1951".
Piber has been the center of breeding for the SRS only since the 1920s, although Lipizzans had been bred there before that. At the end of World War I, Austria was awarded a group of 91 horses from Lipica, which had been part of Italy before that war, and they were sent to Piber.
A trip to see the Spanish Riding School perform is incomplete without reading the history of this breed and the school. You must remember how much more fortunate the Austrian Lipizzans fared than their relations in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and especially Hungary, where they were reportedly slaughtered for meat by the advancing (and hungry) Russians.
At the end of 1947, there were a total of only 23 horses at the Lipica ("Lipizza") stud, the actual home of the breed, in what is now Slovenia. How many flags have flown over Lipica, I wonder? And how many times has that stud been evacuated and rescued? The great stories are there, I am sure.
The narration of the performances on the USA tour includes lots of history but there is so much more! My new favorite book is "The Imperial Horse: The Saga of the Lipizzaners" by Isenhart and Buhrer--thanks so much to the blog reader who noted that I had omitted it from the blog's reading list. This book is truly a treasure. See October's archives for my original book list.
Call Robin Bledsoe, Bookseller at 617 576 3634 for books on the history of Spanish Riding School, or order them for your local independent bookseller.
Beautiful Piber riding hall image courtesy of Spanish Riding School.