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Spanish Riding School - blending the values of the past with the passion of the present.

When it comes to the most prestigious classical riding academies in the world and Austrian institutions in particular, there are few entities that would be able to rival the esteem and appreciation the Spanish Riding School in Vienna enjoys.

Named after the very Spanish horses that formed one of the bases of the Lipizzan breed and centrally situated between Josefs- and Michaelerplatz within the confines of the Hofburg, performances take place in the grandiose custom-made, light-flooded hall with horses mainly bred at the Piber Federal Stud in Western Styria, a place that most would be familiar with as it is also the area where the Styrian Oak, i.e. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was bred.

Originally informed by military traditions derived from the complexity of a firearms-dominated battlefield, the methodology used to train the horses was inspired by François Robichon de la Gueriniere in a bid to enable the horse itself to become a supreme athlete itself by taking it through three distinct, systematic training stages geared at teaching the stallions the basics as well as the ropes of the Haute Ecole, i.e. the perfectioning of straightness, contact, suppleness, collection, and impulsion, to produce improved gaits.

It is through the aforementioned commitment to detail and refinement that the horse will learn to perform the more difficult movements such as the pirouette, piaffe and passage along with one-temp-changes, culminating in the horses perfectioning the school’s signature jump, which is the closest thing I have witnessed to a Pegasus taking flight - a groomed Pegasus with its tail braided and clad with a gold-plated breastplate and a buckskin saddle at that.

The resulting unparalleled symbioses between horse and rider that is in equal parts informed by teamwork, mutual appreciation and collaboration at eye level between all stakeholders, including the recent and long overdue introduction of female riders, is something that we have yet to experience anywhere else that at this centre of excellence for classical equitation.

Needless to say that the riders, who are decked out in traditional uniforms that have been relatively unchanged for the last two-hundred years, have not only been carefully chosen but trained accordingly through a process that can take between nine to thirteen years to accomplish – talking of a lifetime commitment.

The guided tour of the Spanish Riding School offers an example par excellence to visit the most important areas of the historic institution as one of the intrinsically motivated, immensely knowledgeable and engaging guides will shed light on the history, equestrian traditions, one of the most beautiful riding halls on this earthround and, of course, all facets related to the Lipizzaner stallions.

No matter what if you are a horse aficionado or not, if you find yourself holding court in Austria, experiencing the unique approach the Spanish Riding School ( ) pursues close to five hundred years into its existence is not something you’d want to miss out on.


Words AW.

Photo courtesy of the Spanish Riding School Vienna.


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