The Spanish Riding School and the second World War

The Spanish Riding School and the second World War

During the second world war the Lipizzaner horses of the ‘Spanish Riding School’ were taken to Hostau in Czechoslovakia where the brood mares and stallions from Piber, Lipizzia and Demir Kapija (Serbia) were united. Here they struggled to survive as there was insufficient food for them and they were viewed as a source of meat for a starving population. Towards war’s end Colonel Alois Podhajsky, director of the School, was concerned that the horses were then in Soviet hands and could be slaughtered for horsemeat. Even captured German soldiers asked that the horses be rescued. This irreplaceable breeding stock was threatened with total loss which would have meant the end of the Spanish Riding School.

General George Patton met with Colonel Podhajsky, both former Olympians, and decided to bring the mares back from Hostau. Patton took a considerable risk in over stepping his authority level to order  Colonel Charles H. Reed, with members of Troops A, C and F of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, to advance behind Soviet lines on April 28, 1945, and retrieve the lifeblood of the Riding School.

Horsemen and women the world over salute Patton for being prepared to face unpleasant consequences. He acted as a horse lover and cavalier and returned the animals to their home at the National Stud Farm at Piber so today horse lovers from around the world can enjoy the magnificent displays at the Winter Riding School in Vienna.


The Lipizzaners and the Spanish Riding School, Wolfgang Reuter,  Pinguin-Verlag, Innsbruck, 1969.

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