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Kabiyuk, Kingdom of the Horse

If you have a passion for horses, then a visit to Kabiyuk, the largest horse stud in the Balkans, is a must. With an air of provincial elegance, it is also a great day out for the whole family and some 20,000 tourists visit the stud farm annually.

The stud is situated 17km from Shoumen, which is in north eastern Bulgaria. On sleepy, deserted meadows south of the Danube, you'll find hundreds of galloping horses.

 

History

As long ago as 1864, when the farm started, the intention was to breed elite horses for the Ottoman Empire's army. Quickly, over 1000 stallions were brought to the stables and it was the largest horse breeding farm in that area of Europe.

But it was not all plain sailing for the stud farm. The Turkish emptied the stables of all the horses in 1878 and so the breeding programme had to start all over again. It wasn't until the turn of the 20th Century that the farm was once again a hive of activity. Not only were the latest techniques in genetic engineering applied to the horses but also to a new breed of sheep which you can still see on the farm today.

The Eastern Bulgarian horse breed which started on the farm in the 50's is predominantly used for sports or general riding. These horses are much sought after abroad.

 

Today

Today, Kubiyuk spreads over 300 hectares and is a true equine centre, with no hint of being a miliary equine base. Long alleys are lined with ancient trees with the stone stables built along side. The alleys lead on to huge pastures with excellent grazing (rye grass) for the some 400 horses at the stables.

There is a real sense of history at the stables, not only from the century old trees and massive stabling but also in part due to the fact that the former Bulgarian monarchy had a real soft spot for the place.

 

Breeding

The main breed of horse is the Eastern Bulgarian but there are also Shagya-Arabians, a breed coming from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. With their grace, character and huge eyes they are an instant hit with the visitors. Customers buying horses come from the USA, Europe and even Arab sheikhs are among their number.

Tourism has become very important to the stud farm, with about 20,000 tourists a year visiting, the majority of whom are foreigners. If you visit the farm, on entering, the first building you'll see is the stately summer villa of Alexander Battenburg.

 

Tours


There is a great guided tour. The tour starts with the Balkans Museum of the Horse which demonstrates the progression of horse breeding since Thracian times. There are lots of interesting old artefacts in the museum including an original carriage from the court of King Ferdinand which was actually made in Vienna in the late 1890's.

On leaving the museum you'll find delightful painted horse and carts waiting for you, so jump on and take a tour around the huge pastures to see the horses grazing peacefully. A demonstration by local riders can be seen too. If you're an equestrian buff, you can ride one of the horses (although it is likely you will be lead rather than allowed to ride freely). For the rest of the family there is a 'degustation' where you can sample buffalo milk and cheeses made at local dairies.

There are delightful areas in the woods which present the possibility of a relaxing bbq whilst watching the Grey Iskur buffalo and other selected breeds.

Every visitor always remembers the Arabian stallions, particularly when one of them is allowed into the arena to freely show his paces. The grace and beauty stays with you forever. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you The Horse!

 

Getting to Kabiyuk
Off the highway Sofia - Varna. You'll have to be vigilent as last time we visited there was no sign to the farm. Look out instead for a sign to the village of Makak. Just after this, follow the road to Konyuvets. Once on this road, you are only 10km away.

Times to visit
Spring and autumn are highly favoured, avoiding the real heat of summer.
March 15, which is St Todor's Day (day of the horse in Bulgaria), a fascinating day with much horse racing and fun.

 

"Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride,
Friendship without envy,
Or beauty without vanity?
Here, where grace is served with muscle
And strength by gentleness confined
He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity.
There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent.
There is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.
England's past has been borne on his back.
All our history is in his industry.
We are his heirs, he our inheritance"

The Horse by Ronald Duncan

Website : www.kabiuk.com