One of Slovenia's most emblematic tourist draws is Lipica, birthplace of the famous white Lipizzaner horse. Located just 2km from the Italian border, the Lipica estates were acquired by the Austrian Archduke Karl (son of Emperor Ferdinand I) in 1580. He established the stud in order to breed horses for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, as well as the Royal Court stables in Graz. That the Lipizzaner has survived at all is remarkable; the breed was evacuated to southern Hungary during Napoleon's occupation in the late eighteenth century, divided by the Italians and Austrians during World War I and seized by the Germans during World War II. Today the horse is bred at half a dozen European stud farms and widely throughout the United States. Here at Lipica there are around four hundred horses divided between show, competition and riding horses.
A tour of the stud farm, which entails little more than a visit to the stables and riding halls, is not in itself that enthralling, though you do get the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures close up. Tours take place throughout the year (daily: Jan– March & Nov– Dec 11am, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm; April– June & Sept– Oct hourly 10am-5pm (except noon), plus extra shows at 9am & 6pm on Sat & Sun; July & Aug hourly 9am–6pm, except noon; 8). To really make your visit worthwhile, try and coordinate it with a presentation of the Classical Riding School (April– Oct Tues, Wed, Fri & Sun at 3pm; 14); while nothing as grand as the shows put on at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, it's still quite something to see, the riders all toffed up in period costume while the horses go about performing their well-crafted exercises.
The school offers a number of riding programmes (all 50min long), from rides out in a guided group ( 16), to group or individual classes with an instructor ( 22/ 35). For real enthusiasts, there are a host of week-long riding courses. Reservations are required for all lessons.(Web: www.lipica.org )