Plaque to Troop A, 42nd Cavalry Squadron,
2nd CAV Grp. (MECZ) in Hostouň – Thunder of horse hooves, whining, and the smell of hay
seem to be our constant companion and guide. Well, perhaps it may just be an illusion in our mind while carefully turning the archaic pages of history back and experiencing the feeling of discovery and adventure that those old pages seem to generate. For most of us, the history revelation is fascinating, more so if considering that only small historie fragments are finally coming to light and that even those have been kept secret for so long for just political reasons.
The historic background of the Hostoun stable is positively WW1. Way back then, Count Karl von Trauttsmansdorff-Weinsberg owned some 460 hectares (a little over 1100 acres) of farmland around the settlements of Hostoun, Svržno, Hostětice, and Tasnovice. Right after the outbreak of the war, it became imperative to relocate the thoroughbred breeding away from the endangered Halič to a safer location away from the eastern frontline. However, none of the locations in Austria and Hungary, which were subsequently considered, seemed to fit and comply with the rigorous standards set by the Austro-Hungarian Department of Agriculture in Vienna. The search was therefore shifted to Bohemia, and finally the farms and the adjoining farmland in and around Hostoun were selected. In 1915, the Count signed the rental agreement and the transported horses got a new permanent home and good base for continuous breeding. The Hostoun facility, which used to be run by the Department of Agriculture in Vienna was renamed Remonta (from remont = young horse in training). Since 1917, the facility has been transformed into a standard military breeding horse ranch raising Arabian, English, and Hanoverian half-bloods. Since 1918, most of the farmland has been turned into grassy pastures. At that time, the total number of stabled horses approached almost five hundred. Prior to German Army occupation in the spring of 1938, the horses were moved to a friendly horse ranch in Horni Mošetice near Trenčín. However, in Octoberof the same yearall of them were back in Hostoun, which had changed handsinthe meantimeand became owned and run by the Germans who turned it again into a remont center. Later in 1942, the circle of destiny turned the facility again into a horse breeding farm. The German Army supplied the ranch with captured horses from the newly occupied territories and, in this way, noble horses from all of occupied Europe (including Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, and even the Don and Caucasus regions of Soviet Russia) found in Hostoun a new, happy home.
The Lippizzaner horses, which were transferred to Hostoun from Macedonia, Croatia, Italy, and Austria, have always been the crown jewel of the stud farm. The individual characteristics of the named strains were equalized by interbreeding and the finál product, the Hostoun Lipizzaner studs have been trained for the famous horse ride show in Vienna Hofburg. Mr. Hubert Rudovsky, the German Commander of the stud farm, was commissioned to do exactly that, but, in spite of all his effort, the finál reward escaped him. In Apríl 1945 the finál battles of the western front took pláce on the former Czechoslovak territory and his new mission became to protéct the precious horses from the horrors of the frontline. That prompted two daring German military veterinarians, Dr. Rudolf Lessing and Dr. Wolfgang Kroll to cross the German border and contact the advancing U.S. Army. While talking to the Army Headquarters, they succeeded in persuading the Americans to take action aimed at the rescue of the thoroughbreds. Fortunately, at the same time, the U.S. Cavalry stationed on the spot had been planning their own mission aimed at exactly the same thing combined, in addition, with action to liberate American, British, and French POWs from German captivity. In the end , Colonel Charles H. Reed, the 2ndCavalry Group Commander and a devoted cavalryman, decided tojoin both missions into one designed to free the POWs and to save the horses at the same time. He put Captain Stewart in charge to accompany the German veterinarians back to Hostoun and to negotiate with the German Command the military evacuation of the horse ranch and immediate vicinity. All stables and areas in the direction of the expected evacuation should be cleared to facilitate the transfer of all horses westward. In the same spirit, a “Gentlemen’s Agreement” was negotiated to stop all fighting in this “demilitarized zone”. As the German Army military situation at the end of the war was hopeless, the German Command agreed with the terms of the agreement easily.
On 28 April 1945, Troop “C” of the 42nd Cavalry Squadron advanced in the direction of Bela nad Radbuzou and Troop “A” of the same Squadron, reinforced with additional platoons, took Hostoun and surrounding ranches in the nearby villages without a hitch. Hence, you may say, the first half of the mission was accomplished. Some 30 American soldiers under Lt Colonel Bili Quinlivans remained in Hostoun. Soon these soldiers turned cowboys and took over the horse-caring chores. Actually, the whole operation had been codenamed “Cowboy”. The whole story would make a seript for a great western movie and after the war a movie about the horses was actually made, although not a western.
With the war not over yet, a pian was conceived to evacuate the horses to safety behind the western border. As the Finál Capitulation was signed nine days later, • on 7 May 1945, no legal obstacles existed to proceeding with the transfer. On May 15th, the horses were moved across the rugged Šumava Mountain forest to Schwarzenberg In Germany and, from here via Sankt Martin near Neustadt, to Genová, Italy. Some Lipizzaner were later returned to Hofburg, while others were shipped to their originál home in Lipizza, Slovenia. The remaining horses were moved overseas to the United States. In 1946, the Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes, published a photo of these horses stationed at an Army Training Center in Virginia. Thank God that, at the time, these horses and the men linked to them were enjoying their second year of peace and freedom.
In contrast to the postwar happy days of rest enjoyed by the Hostoun horses and their masters, the postwar development of the Hostoun stables was marked with uncertainty, and the former fame started to erode and slowly fade away. The new Czech Army switched to motorized transport and showed no interest in breeding more horses. The famous ranch and the surrounding stables were turned into statě operated farms pushing plain farming products. The remaining horses were temporarily stabled in Svržno. However, since 1952, they have been stationed in the Albertovec horse stud farm. For a long time, the former fame of the great horse breeding tradition seemed to be over.
In the aftermath of the so-called Czech Velvet Revolution of 1989, there is some evidence of renewed interest in horse breeding, and the originál function of horse stud farming is slowly coming back into fashion.
We are glad and proud to report the rebirth of horse breeding in our region, too. In 1993, Mr. Miroslav Koza of Domažlice privatized the remains of the originál horse breeding farm with the surrounding farmland and the remaining horses from the Svržno – based Bela nad Radbuzou State Farm. Thanks to him and his family, you are again able to see about one hundred horses of the original breed running free around the stable.
So, as I mentioned in the beginning – perhaps the thunder of the horse hooves, whining, and the smell of hay was not just an illusion, but a part of present reality, a message from Svržno brought to us by the new fresh wind.
One small note to end this story.
Right behind the German border, near the border crossing of Rozvadov, you can find the small German township of Vilseck; built in a typical German style. The reasonfor mentioning ithere is the American military training facility located just outside the city limits. One of the units stationed there is the 2nd Cavalry Squadron, “Cougar”, of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. The cavalrymen of this unit are the current direct-in-line replacements of the 2nd Cavalry Group soldiers, who served and fought here – in Hostoun and Bela territory in April and May of 1945 and took care of the Hostoun horses. In a curious twist of history, they are literally not too far apart, are they?
The following people participated in the emplacement of this information display and the commemorative tablet attached to the former stud farm building: Ing. Miroslav Rauch, Mayor of Hostoun – The Military Car Club Plzeň, represented by Rudolf Bayer, President, Richard Praus, and Jan Salzman.
This information display has been officially unveiled on the 1st of May, 2009 under the patronage of The City of Hostoun, Military Car Club Plzeň, and the U.S. Army 2nd Cavalry Association.