The Piber Horse Stud where the famous Lipizzaner white horse is breed

Austria’s historic Piber Federal Stud is the home of the oldest cultured horse breed in Europe the Lipizzaner, the noble white horse famously used at the iconic Spanish Riding School in Vienna dates back to 1580.

Since 1920 the Piber stud farm has been responsible for the breeding and birth of the white Lipizzaner stallions that performs at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

The best stallions of each generation bred at Piber are brought for training and later public performance. One of Piber’s major objectives is “to uphold a substantial part of Austria’s cultural heritage and to preserve one of the best and most beautiful horse breeds in its original form.

With its terra cotta roofs and imperial yellow stable buildings, the stud and its gentle hilly surroundings constitute a living heritage site in Köflach, Austria. The grounds look back on 400 years of tradition, and horses have grazed the alpine pastures here for centuries. Piber’s white baroque castle was built in the late 17th century. Originally a Benedictine priory, after a century it was put under military control, and the Piber stud was founded in 1798 to breed workhorses for the army.

The young Lipizzaner’s enjoy their three first summers on alpine pastures at the Gaberl Pass from May to September. These playful colts came into this world as black foals, but between the age of one and three years they are every imaginable shade of grey. Most of them they will gradually lighten in colour until the white coat, for which they are famous, appears between the age of six and nine. Just one out of a hundred Lipizzaner horses will remain dark all its life, and those who do are believed to bring good luck.

The ideal Lipizzaner has a sturdy body and proud carriage, combined with appealing, friendly eyes and small, alert ears. The body presents a picture of strength with a crested neck, powerful shoulders, muscular hindquarters and strong legs with well defined tendons and joints.  At the age of three and a half they are inspected, and many will be sold in Austria and abroad. Only the very best will eventually be selected to be among the 72 stallions that perform and are stabled at the Imperial Palace in Vienna.

The cooperation between the Federal Stud Piber and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna forms a unique cycle. Only the best stallions present the lessons of the High School at the Spanish Riding School and then return to Piber as studs for one or several breeding seasons.

However, the heart of the Lipizzaner breed are the mares. They guarantee the offspring for the Spanish Riding School and thus they receive special attention at the stud. Already in the middle of the 18th century, the imperial court stud produced such exceptional horses that those mare bloodlines are still found in the stud books today. The rearing of a horse takes three years and during all that time, the horses are under the care of one of our skilled staff members. When the mares’ performance test starts, the horses are first slowly getting accustomed to their new surroundings. The horses are introduced to bridles, long line and harness so that they gain confidence in their new tasks. The physical training on the long line and later in the harness is supposed to directly improve their fitness. Only at the age of five, work under the saddle starts.

Each September the young stallions retrace their steps back from the pasture at Stubalm, passing the 15th-century pilgrimage church Maria Lankowitz for a blessing. The day is a highlight of the season, celebrated in the village of Köflach by locals and many visitors. Only the one- and two-year-old horses will return to Stubalm next year; for the older stallions it will be time to start their training.

Piber Castle

The Piber stud and Piber castle are both tourist attractions hosting over 60,000 visitors a year. Visitors can watch training sessions with the horses in the riding arena, visit the stables, and take part in special programs for children. There are also cultural and musical events in the castle courtyard, which has excellent acoustics. Carriage rides are available, and the baroque buildings on the ground are available for concerts, festivals and weddings.

How to get there: Its is best to come by car.  If you are coming by train from Vienna, take a train to Graz (1 ½ hours approx..) and then get a taxi 40 minutes to Piber Stud farm.  A local bus is not recommended and this will take 2 hours 20 minutes.  Note: Timings are only a guideline

Lipizzaner Stud Piber
8580 Köflach, Piber
Tel: 0043 3144 3323

Snaffle Travel is a travel company specialising in equestrian travel, horse riding holidays and group tours to equestrian events around the world. Contact us at or Mobile +61 (0) 427 286 061.