Baroque Horse Breeds
The Kladruber is now considered a rare breed although it is one of the oldest of horse breeds, having been around for over 400 years. They have been developed as a heavy type of carriage horse, originally for drawing state and royal carriages. They have a very noble and majestic appearance with their Roman noses, solid, upstanding frame and elevated action.
The Kladruber stands 16.2hh to 17hh and is black or grey in colour. The Kladruber was once taller, often over 18hh. The blacks and greys have descended from different bloodlines and have somewhat different characteristics. The white Kladruber is somewhat finer and has more resemblance to the Thoroughbred. It is usually taller than the black which is more Neapolitan in type, being heavier with a shorter croup.
The head has a very classical appearance and is long with pronounced jaws, large eyes, a convex profile and broad forehead. The ears are of medium length and the nostrils open.
The muscular neck is well proportioned, well-arched and deep. The chest is deep and broad. The back is long and straight, the loins full, the croup short, wide and rounded. The tail is well set on and flowing, the chest wide and deep and the shoulder well muscled. The shoulder can be slightly straight which give the horse a beautifully elevated action for harness work but makes for a less than comfortable ride. The legs are strong with broad, clean joints. The forearm and thigh are long, the cannons slender but solid, the tendons strong and clearly defined. The pasterns are a little long and inclined to be upright and the feet are of medium size and well formed. There is very little feather on the fetlocks. The mane and tail are full and luxurious.
The breed has been very strictly bred and was created in the 16th century at the royal stud of Kladrub in Bohemia in the former Czechoslovakia. In 1562, the Emperor Maximilian II of Austria established the Kladrub Stud to supply parade and coach horses for the Imperial Austrian court in Vienna. Heavy mares from the Alps were initially crossed with Barbs and Turks. Later, Andalusian stallions were imported from Spain and were used along with Neapolitans and Lipizzaners. In 1579, the new Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II, gave the stud farm an Imperial Court Stud Farm statute.
During the Seven Years' War (1756 to 1763) the stud was evacuated to Slovakia and Hungary. In 1757, some of the stock together with the earliest 200 years of stud documents was destroyed by fire. The few remaining breeding stock were brought back to Kladruby. Thirteen years later, Emperor Joseph II rebuilt the stud farm.
In 1918, the stud farm came under the control of the Czechoslovakia government. During World War II, the black Kladrubers especially were ravaged. Many of the animals were sold for meat. Luckily a few horses were saved and the old Kladruber blacks were rescued from extinction by Professor Prantisek Bilek. Regeneration started with around twenty horses in the 1930s at the Research Institute for Horse Breeding at Slatinany. Friesian, Lipizzaner and Old Kladrubers were used to rejuvenate the breed.
Later, infusions of Anglo-Norman, Hanoverian and Oldenburg blood were used to upgrade the Kladruber. Today the main breeding centre is the national stud farm at Kladruby nad Labem in the Czech republic. Kladruby is situated in the lowland of the Elbe, east of Prague. It was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
In 1995, the Kladruber was designated a national cultural monument. This was the first time a domesticated or agricultural animal had been acknowledged as a living work of art. The breed has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity particularly as a combined driving participant with many of the world's leading whips (drivers) choosing Kladrubers as their preferred breed for combined driving competitions. On ceremonial occasions, the breed creates a striking spectacle. In Sweden, Kladrubers are used as mounts for the mounted police.
Although the Kladruber was once found in a range of colours, they are now almost always grey or black. There are four grey bloodlines and four black bloodlines. The two foundation stallions are generally cited as being the grey Pepoli (born in 1764) and the black Sacromoso (born in 1799).
The four grey lines are Generale, Generalissimus, Favory (founded by a Lipizzaner stallion) and Rudolfo (Lusitano stallion). The black blood lines are Sacramoso, Solo, Siglavi Pakra (Lipizzaner stallion) and Romke (Friesian stallion). The greys are bred at Kladruby while the blacks are bred at the little town of Slatinany.
As a combined driving horse, the Kladruber is calm with plenty of stamina and relatively fast. It is sometimes crossed with lighter breeds in the quest for a more suitable riding horse, usually for dressage. The Kladruber has a small gene pool and the type is well 'set'. The convex profile and muscular, well-arched neck are features of the so-called Baroque breeds. The somewhat upright shoulder, pasterns and hooves, long back and short croup allow the horse an eye-catching, high-stepping gait, especially at the trot which is elastic and cadenced. The breed is strong and active and makes an excellent riding and draft horse. It has good longevity and is calm and amenable in character.
Although obviously Baroque in character and appearance, the Kladruber has a nobility and majesty possessed by only a few breeds.