Sartai Division

“The Sartai Stud Farm is located in the village of Didžiadvaris, on the shores of Lake Sartai, on the territory of a former manor. The manor house and its grounds, built by the Radvilas at the end of the 15th century, were acquired by the Counts of Pliater in 1636. With the active participation of the brothers Cezary and Vladislovas Pliateris and their cousin Emilija Pliateryte in the 1831 uprising, Didjadvaris became the center of the leaders of the revolt. The manor’s forges were used to make weapons and several hundred horses were bred for the rebels to ride into battle.

In 1967, a stud farm was established in the area to breed and rear Ristunas and to organize the traditional Sartai horse races. “The Sartai Stud was able to boast of its high breeding value: the herd was made up of Russian Orlovas and Russian Ristunas, and each year their offspring were evaluated and only mares of elite class were selected for breeding. Later, to improve the performance of these Ristons at the racetrack, purebred American Riston stallions were introduced for breeding. During the years of the stud’s existence, over 700 breeding horses were sold to Lithuanian and foreign buyers.

Today, the most important task of the stud farm is to preserve Lithuanian horse breeds, and about 210 large horses of the žemaitukus breed are bred in this branch of the Lithuanian Stud Farm. There are also several Ristun horses, which take part in Ristun horse competitions.

The Sartai Horse Races have a long tradition, with the first one believed to have been held on the ice of Lake Sartai in the 19th century. Legend has it that a wicked gentleman living in Dusetos wanted to steal a beautiful bride from a serf boy, so he offered the boy a horse race on the ice of the lake. The gentleman chose his most agile horses, and the boy raced an old mare he had come to town with. I don’t know what it was like there, but the guy won. The gentleman had a terrible heart attack and ordered the winner to be flogged, but the ice broke under the gentleman’s feet and the depth swallowed him up, along with the sled and the horses.


Since 1905, the Sartai Horse Race has been held annually, and in 1955 it was declared a republican race. Today, due to poor meteorological conditions and the safety of the participants, the event is usually not organized on the ice of Lake Sartai, but at the nearby Dusetai Racecourse. Tens of thousands of spectators from various Lithuanian cities attend this winter festival.