Slovenia gave Britain's queen a prized Lipizzaner stallion during her visit to this Alpine nation Wednesday — but she won't be taking the horse home to meet the rest of the royal menagerie.
The 16-year-old horse, 085 Favory Canissa XXII, is so precious to the identity of this tiny nation of 2 million that Queen Elizabeth II decided to leave him in the care of the Lipica stud farm in western Slovenia. The meticulously trained horses are known for being able to perform highly stylized prancing, jumps and other moves.
"He's a real stallion: Sometimes, he cannot concentrate on training because he thinks about mares all the time," said the horse's chief trainer, Igor Maver.
The symbolic gift becomes another addition to a tradition of feathered, furry or four-legged presents. In the past, the royals have been given sloths, tortoises, pygmy hippopotami — among other creatures.
Most end up in zoos and sanctuaries — so it seems fitting the latest addition will remain back at the stud farm for horses so ingrained in the national culture their image is stamped on coins.
The queen took instant pride in ownership though.
"Let me see the stable," she told the stud farm's director, Matjaz Pust, before marching away toward the stall.
He explained that the stallion's stall had just been renovated, "so he has a royal room now."
The queen beamed.
The 428-year-old stud farm dates to the time of the Austia's ruling Habsburgs, who went to Spain to buy horses for an empire that stretched across much of Europe. They founded the farm in the village of Lipica — or Lipizza in the Italian spelling — in what is now Slovenia.
The tour was a high point of the queen's trip to the former Yugoslav republic, which is squeezed between Italy, Austria and Croatia.
She complimented country's "striking achievements" since gaining independence 17 years ago — praising its seamless shift from communism to democracy. Slovenia, which joined the European Union in 2004, began using the euro last year and just wrapped up a stint as the head of the EU rotating presidency.
The queen, who toured with her husband, Prince Philip, said during a banquet Tuesday that her trip should "demonstrate the importance the United Kingdom attaches to our relations with Slovenia, as a partner in Europe and an ally in NATO."
Later Wednesday, the queen had a lunch with prominent Slovenes at the Castle on a hill overlooking the capital, Ljubljana.
She and Prince Philip then took a walk downtown, waving to several hundred people gathered in a central square to see her.
The queen planned to leave Thursday morning for Slovakia, another small EU member.