New film on rescue mission of Lipizzan horses during WWII

Postojna, 30 December - A documentary premiered earlier this month about the rescue mission to bring the white Lipizzan horses back to the Lipica stud farm after they were taken by the Germans during World War II. It pays homage to the loyalty and dedication of the stablemen who stood by the horses through thick and thin.

Brdo pri Kranju
A Lipizzan horse in action.
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA
File photo

After Italy surrendered in 1943, the German troops took all 179 Lipizzan horses from the Lipica stud farm and relocated them to Hostoun, modern-day Czech Republic, where a breeding centre was set up. Their goal was to own the best specimens from Europe's finest stud farms.

As the war was drawing to an end and Hostoun came under Soviet rule, US troops, led by Colonel George Patton who was an expert equestrian himself, launched a rescue mission, dubbed Cowboy, which involved 1,000 of the centre's horses. The American troops were also helped by a German veterinarian Rudolf Lessing, newspaper Dnevnik said.

In May 1945, the horses were evacuated via a long freight train through the Bohemian Forest to US occupied Bavaria. Over a year and a half later, in December 1947, only 11 Lipizzans were returned to the Lipica stud farm.

Produced by the local Kolut film association, the new Slovenian documentary gives fresh insight into the events that brought the coveted horse breed back home.

Directed by Dušan Milavec, Neverjetna Zgodba Lepotcev Iz Lipice (The Incredible Story of Lipica Studs) premiered mid-December at the Postojna cultural centre.

The next screening is scheduled on 12 January at the Pivka cultural centre, according to the film society's Facebook page.

Moreover, the Lipizzan Horses - Living Legends exhibition will be on display at Pivka's Park of Military History, accompanied by a discussion with the filmmakers and project partners.

The documentary was produced in cooperation with the local community of Hostoun in the Czech Republic, the Lipica stud farm and the Pivka Military History Park, with financial support from the Municipality of Postojna, insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav and the US Embassy in Ljubljana.

This is not the first time the rescue mission inspired the film industry; in 1963 Walt Disney released an adventure war film The Miracle of the White Stallions.

"It was a very fortunate set of circumstances, a miracle if you will, that led to the Lipizzans' rescue. The right people were in the right place, who loved the horses and risked their lives to save them," said the director of the Military History Park Janko Boštjančič.

"Lipica is not just a stud farm, but also a tourist destination, and above all a cultural monument. ... The Lipizzan herd gives it its unique character and unity. All that Lipica has is thanks to and for the Lipizzan breed," noted Janez Rus, head of horse breeding and equestrianism at the stud farm.

© STA, 2022